Three buddies and I liked to sit in the den or out on the back porch and strategize for our next movie night or weekend excursion, while our wives would be in the kitchen carrying on with more meaningful conversations.
One of my three friends planted the idea of an ultimate guy trip to Alaska. Although it didn’t take much, his descriptions and reflections from a previous trip, cultivated this dream guy time adventure. This same friend would leverage the miles in his advantage account to generously make our dream a reality.
When we walked into the kitchen, one of the wives didn’t skip a beat and responded with, “What do you guys have cooked up this time?” It was a fair question because it seemed like we always had an answer with some conniving plan for guy time fun. “We are going to Alaska!” (Let me just testify that we all have amazing wives who hardly balked at all and extended their blessings for us to escape).
Camping chairs, tents, sleeping bags, fishing poles and the whole works some how figured out how to get into a suitcase or bag of some kind. It is fair to note that this was during the day when baggage restrictions were much looser and monitored even less.
We made our way to Anchorage, Alaska arriving late at night. We were fortunate to have a connection in the area that gave us access to a condo where we could sleep the first night. The bed was a welcomed sight after the late day and long flight. The next morning we made our way to the grocery store to somehow fill up the car even more with groceries and then started our drive towards Denali National Park.
After we crossed the first bridge over the river running along the road, the fishing desire began to grow. As we cross the next bridge, we noticed a pullout and the next thing you know the car is parked and we are wading in the water fishing for salmon.
A discovery for was learning that at this stage of a salmon’s life, they are swimming up stream to spawn and not eating. This means that you are trying to work your hook past the fish’s mouth and hoping to get lucky and hook it. I opted for a more unconventional approach of dragging the hook across the back of the fish and trying to snag them that way.
We concluded this part of our fishing endeavor and got back on the road towards our campground in Denali National Park. We reached the park, pitched our tent and started right into dinner preparations. Let me just say, it is good to have friends who know how to take a can of Spam and make something rather tasty.
The next morning we were up early to catch the bus into Denali towards the intended prize of Mount McKinley. We were greeted by caribou early in the trip which enhanced the anticipation and excitement of being in the country’s last true wilderness.
The majestic mountains escorted us all along the way. Grizzly bear, Timberwolves, mountain goats, and caribou added to the incredible scenery. Although you are allowed to get off at any point along the way, we stayed on the shuttle all the way to Eielson Visitor Center.
It was an amazing excursion with spectacular views all along the way. Unfortunately, the majestic Mount McKinley decided to remain hidden within the clouds. After spending time eating lunch at the visitor center we headed off on foot trekking into the mountains of Denali National Park.
Reminder (this is a guy trip – potty talk warning)
As we were hiking through the mountains Mother Nature called my name. We are above tree line and the next question is where? Unfortunately, you just had to grin and bear it. When the cameras came out, it was war. The rest of the trekking, who was going to capture who visiting mother nature. It did make for good laughs and planned blackmail.
We made our way to the top of one of the mountains. The other side was all kinds of loose shale rock. It was a lot of fun to make our way down the mountain with each step sliding three feet or so in the loose shale. Four grown men quickly became like kids as we played our way down the mountain laughing all the way.
We made our way back to the bus just in time, as it would be raining most of the rest of the day. Wet tents and campground area made preparing dinner a challenge, but we were hungry and tired. With rain in the forecast for the next day we decided to forego another night and made our way to Kenai Peninsula.
We hiked up to a mountain lake where we could go trout fishing. Only one of us caught a fish in this outing, but three of us questioned if the fish counted because of its size. Of course our friend the caught the fish deemed that it did. If you get the chance to be with us in person, ask about the “how to determine if it is a fish or not?”
Fishing was one of the main draws for this guy trip adventure. One of our planned highlights was a day trip out into the deeper waters for both salmon and halibut. This would call for an early morning rise to catch the boat before sunrise.
As the morning was approaching one of my buddies had to make a trip from the tent to go see Mother Nature. On his way back to the tents he says, “Um guys – I think I am seeing the northern lights.” The three of us in complete doubt replied back, “yah right” only to exit the tent to discover the aurora lights dancing across the sky.
And in a flash they were gone. I had the opportunity to see one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World all because of a bathroom break. Hard to put into words how intriguing this optical phenomenon really is in person.
We spent the day on the boat catching both salmon and halibut. The day was broken in half focusing on salmon at first and the transitioning into halibut later in the day. One of my buddies caught the first halibut and as he wrestled the fish in, he noted “Man this thing has got to be big.” As my other two buddies caught their halibuts ahead of me, I had the opportunity to listen to them highlight the challenge and how large their fish was going to be.
Each of theirs turned out a little smaller than the first. Of course heckling followed the catches after each person bellowed about the challenge. I made a note to myself that it didn’t matter how hard the challenge was to bring in the fish, I was not going to say a word while reeling in my fish.
We all caught our limit of both salmon and halibut and the captain started the trip back to the marina. Howe, a highlight for me was yet to come.
As we were approaching the passageway, the captain noticed a killer whale off in the distance. The boat stopped and we watched him swimming. The next thing we know he swam right towards us and right under the boat within just a few feet.
It was a close encounter of the perfect kind with one of nature’s most beautiful sea creatures. He came right up to us, said hello and swam away. As a wildlife enthusiast, I cherished this moment. I knew that seeing a killer whale this close is uncommon because their protection laws require boats to not approach them.
The boat team cleaned and packed up our fish. They were flash frozen and placed in dry ice for the trip home. We were quite a site with all of our luggage to start with, but when we added three boxes of frozen fish to the mix we became quite the motley crew.
My wife loves fish and bringing her home several pounds of fresh salmon and halibut made her day. As we enjoyed fish over the next several days, she said “You can go back to Alaska anytime as long as you bring me back fish like this.” Anybody want to go fishing in Alaska?
Well I just want to say “thank you” to my friend for the miles to make this happen for all of us, and a “thank you” to all the guys for making this a trip of a lifetime!