Thursday, July 14, 2005


Dip-Net fishing on the Kenai River

It was 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning (07/12) when Ryan Stokes and I were to meet Scott "Roscoe" Lesko and Dara Bryan to caravan down to Soldotna and fish the mouth of the Kenai River for Sockeye salmon. The night before at dinner Scott outlined the plan; we would meet bright and early in the morning in order to make it to the river by the time the tide comes in, bringing the fish in with it, and catch as close to our limit as possible, then head back to Anchorage. A simple, yet smart plan. If things went well and the salmon were really running it wouldn't take long for us to pull in the high number of fish that each of us was permited to catch. Every one of us were permited 25 fish for ourselves, equalling a 100 salmon right off the bat, but both Scott and Dara have multiple members in their respective households, which allowed them to net more fish than Stokes and I. Aside from the 25 salmon that the angler himself is allowed, by law each additional memeber of his household is entitled to 10 more fish a piece. Counting the extra 4 familly members that were not on board the boat brought the total combined number of Sockeyes (reds) that all of us in the boat were legally able to catch and keep to 140 salmon! With winter on its way everyone was eager to fill their freezer with the absolute best eating salmon that Alaska has to offer and anxious to get on the river. If things weren't as fruitful as Scott forecasted and they weren't able to meet their combined limit of 90 salmon by the time Stokes and I had to leave, he and Dara would stay and fish the evening tide for more. Ryan had to be back in town by 4:30 that afternoon, in order to make it to work on time, and I had plans that night as well. It takes about 3 hours to drive to Soldotna from Anchorage but if we left by 7 a.m. we would have at least a couple of hours to troll and net the river with plenty of time for us to drive back to town and make our ingagements.

In the wee hours of dawn we headed out of Anchorage, southbound on the Seward Highway, after getting coffee and meeting up with Roscoe and Dara. It was before 7 a.m. and shaping up to be another glorous morning. The drive along Turnagain Arm down the familiar strech of highway was no less magnificent than the day that I first saw it. The early morning sunlight flooded the sky and brightened the mountains as we drove all the way down to the mouth of the Kenai River. Many of the well-known sites along the Seward as well as the Sterling Highway helped the hours and miles to pass by relatively quick. When we got to Soldotna the once sunny, cerulean blue sky was now completly gone and a high, grey cloud cover thick with rain moved in to replace it. After a stop to get our permits and food for the day we headed to the river to slay some salmon!

Once we were to the river it was right to business. The coolers were situated to handle the salmon and the nets were assembled with everyone ready to fish. Soon after the boat launched we headed straight for the "honey hole," a spot that has proven itself lucky for everyone during trips past. It took no time for us to arrive to the fishing spot and, wasting no haste, immediatly put the nets in the murky water and began trolling the river.

Dip-netting is a pretty easy way to catch fish. Basically it's a giant, hand-held, bag-shaped net supported on all sides by a ridgid frame with a long pole at the end. To fish with it you place the net into the water, as close to the bottom of the river as possible, to catch the salmon as they come in from the ocean and begin running up stream to spawn. It takes a little bit to figure out proper pole positioning but it doesn't take long before you get the hang of how it works. The system for catching fish is pretty straight forward as well. Once you get a fish you pull the net out of the water and into the boat. One guy untangles and frees the fish as you hang on to the net. It's gills are removed and both tips of the tail fin are cut off, to meet Fish and Game regulations, then put into a cooler of water to bleed to death. After the fish is bled it is then cleaned with water and put into another cooler filled with ice to keep the fish flesh fresh and cool. The whole process happens rather rapidly and the fish are killed as quickly as possible.

The first couple of runs were a little slow, catching only a few reds over two or three trips, down and up the river. It only took a few more turns, however, for the trolling to get more exciting and soon we were pulling them in left and right, sometimes with two in a net at a time. Several runs yeided more than 6 salmon each turn with every fish wieghing over 10 lbs. Ryan caught a 35 lbs King (Chinook) salmon during one of the last trolls we made before having to head in and start driving back to Anchorage. At 1:30 p.m. the four of us caught 25 Sockeye's and 1 King. Roscoe and Dara decided to stay and fish the evening tide for more and by the end of the day caught another 43 more reds and another couple of huge King salmon. We caught enough fish for each one involved and then some. The trip provided enough salmon to supply everyone as well as their famillies with food for the long winter that's waiting just around the corner.


The Zen of Anchorage and some Bicycle Maintence

(07/06 - 07/13) The past week around Anchorage has been fun and exciting. Since arriving in town last Wednesday evening I've been visiting and hanging out with friends, watching the Tour de France, riding the single speed around and camping as well as going out on the town. The weather has been fantastic with most days being sunny, clear and warm. Temperatures hover around 73 dgrees during the day with a slight breeze coming in from the Cook Inlet to the west, while the calm nights get much cooler, going down to around 60. The summer air of the city bustles with warm energy through out the day and intensifies as the bright sunny skies fade to night. Away for over 4 weeks it feels good to be among a familiar town with all of it's memorable places and faces. There are so many things relating to the bike tour to do and so many people to see that an entire week has slipped by seemingly with a blink of an eye.

While I'm here, among the many other tasks to complete, I will address some of the different bike issues that developed during the first leg of the tour. My drive train is shot. The combination of weather, miles of abuse and age has worn away at all of my bikes drive train components, rendering them almost useless. Along the last 65 miles to Anchorage I could't keep a gear anywhere in the cassette while in my middle ring without it slipping under the force of even modest peddaling. So, in order to recticfy the problem, my chain, cassette, rear derailure, as well as both big and middle rings will need to be replaced. Luckily I can fix everything with one stop at the Bicycle Shop while I'm in town, but how does this happen? Well...

Your chain stretchs while using it to power your bicycle. Under load from pedaling the chain, its links spread out and over time become exaggerated. Torque from cranking the chain around the chain rings and running it over the pulleys of the rear derailleur for hundreds of thousands of strokes causes wear as well, further hindering drive train performance. Over time this action creates a 'mushroom' effect over the teeth of the chain rings, leaving burrs in the metal while also wearing away at the plastic pulleys of the rear derailleur, causing them to 'point' and lose the ablity to hold a straight chain line. Combine this amalgamation of problems with road grime--a mixture of sandy/silty soil, wet weather and a well lubricated chain that creates a thick grity paste-- and the effect is intensified. It acts like coarse sandpaper, devouring all metal or plastic rolling parts of your drive train as you mash and pull the cranks around in constant circles. Now add to this mess a 100+ lbs/fully loaded, on and off road bike that just finished a 1,155 mile tour to 3 years of previous use along with my patented "I'll get to it tomorrow" approach to bike maintence and its time for a tune up!

This is an unavoidable bit of bicycle maintence. It will have to be done before leaving Anchorage in order to make it down the Kenai Pennesula and the rest South Central Alaska as well as through the Yukon and Canada and it won't be for the last time. Drive trail maintence is a regular occuring issue that will need attenetion several more times over the next few years of the tour. Since all the afore mentoned drive train parts (chain, cassette, chain rings and rear derailleur pulleys) wear out together they all need to be replaced at the same time. If you were to replace only the chain or just the cassette the gear slipping issue would still be there because it's only part of the problem.

Other things require attenetion as well. My saddle needs to be replaced, the tires need to be rotated and the handlebars could be re-wraped, but replacing the drive train takes top priority. Without it I doubt that could leave. Actually, it's a chore that I enjoy and is a pretty easy procedure. The sensation you get from completing the job is very gratifying as well and the satisfaction of knowing that you are avoiding a potential mechanical problem down the road is reassuring also. But besides all of that, the bike will run like an elephant on steroids after it's done!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


From Denali Village to Anchorage

I spent some time in Denali Village, updating the site and uploading things to Molly, before starting down the road towards Anchorage. On Saturday evening (07/02) after eating at The Denali Salmon Bake and saying goodbye to Mike and Denise, two of the 'Bake's' friendly bartenders, I started making my way towards Anchorage. I stopped in Cantwell and slept that night then pushed on 95 miles the next day to Trapper Creek. The sites along the ride were becoming more familiar as I rode along the 'Parks' and into more well-known territory. A slight mechanical problem with my saddle made for a late night repair but I was able to fix the problem while in Trapper Creek and, with a place to rest my sit bones, I pushed on the next morning toward Big Lake then on over to Anchorage.

On Monday, the Fourth-of-July, I made it to Big Lake and met up with my buddy Jason Hahn to spend a couple of days hanging out before showing up in Anchorage. The day's ride was pretty irritating. The weather was spectacular and there wasn't a single mosquito to spoil the ride, but the traffic was horrible. A lot of folks were traveling to and from their weekend destinations, making the ride along the Parks Highway from Trapper Creek to Big Lake pretty hairy. RVs, tour buses and trucks pulling boat trailers, one after the other, flooded the roads and made the highway as well as the way around the lake seem like a ride through a congested, busy city.

After riding 63 miles down the 'Park's' and then 15 miles around the lake, I arrived at Jason's and immediately jumped in the lake to cool down. Upon settling in and after being introduced to some of his friends, I gradually began to loosen up from the day's often scary ride. Big Lake, having seen a lot of action over the last few days, was pretty peaceful. The summer residents were making their way back to Anchorage after a long holiday weekend, leaving behind a placid, tranquil setting in which to realx. Some fireworks appeared in the now fairly dark night sky and occassionally a boat would cut across the still water, but mostly the lake was void of activity. We all drank beer, ate, and talked about recent experiences until the sky began to show evidence that morning was on its way, then called it a night.

Tuesday morning (07/05) was just as glorious as the previous day. The weather was cool in the shade and hot in the sun, with big white cotton-ball like clouds dotting the azure blue sky, providing perfect weather for a day on the lake. We swam and boated almost all day and Jason tried to teach me a 'barrel roll' in a river kayak after he learned how to wake board. Another a full day down, we feasted again on a huge dinner that night and talked until it was time to sleep.

It was around 10 a.m. when I got up on Wednesday (07/06). Jason had to be at work at the Covenant House earlier that morning and he left me alone to finish sleeping until fully rested. I started off for Anchorage, just over 65 miles away, around noon. Anxious to return to a familiar place I made very few stops along the way and hauled-ass to make it to town. A flat tire caused an unexpected stop but it was minor and took only a few minutes to repair. The sky kept threatening rain but no rain ever fell and I rolled into town dry and thirsty around 7 p.m. then headed to Humpy's for a pint and to see some friends.