Road Trip to the Kenai Peninsula
This was the first day of a five-day, father-son fishing trip to south-central Alaska. Jason and I had to scramble to assemble all gear and personal items needed for the next series of adventures, but by noon we had returned my rented packraft, deposited Taiga with the dog-sitter, and were on our way south on the Parks Highway to the Kenai Peninsula. We made a quick stop near Mystery Creek #170 to see how stream flow had responded to recent heavy rains. What had been a tranquil, crystal clear stream a week earlier was now a raging torrent of reddish-brown water. We could not have worked there under these conditions.
Time passed quickly as we enjoyed beautiful scenery along the Parks Highway and listened to a great 1997 book on tape entitled “Into Thin Air” by climber/author Jon Krakauer – chronicling the Mount Everest disaster a few years earlier. The hardships, dangers, and tragedies experienced by people involved in that ill-fated expedition struck close to home while moving through the shadow of Denali, especially after trekking through the Clearwater Mountains for the past few days and experiencing less intense but nonetheless heart-pounding wilderness dangers firsthand.
On this, my first venture south of Cantwell on the Parks Highway, I became aware of the increasing height and diversity of tree species as we approached the Pacific Ocean – the source of moisture and moderate temperature needed to sustain greater biodiversity. Upon entering the Mat-Su Valley (where the Matanuska and Susitna river valleys converge on Cook Inlet), I was surprised to spend at least 10 minutes driving through the modern, prosperous, and sprawling municipality of Wasilla, Alaska, which most of us had been led to believe was the quaint little rural hometown of a former mayor and governor turned vice-presidential candidate. Numerous big box stores and corporate headquarter offices revealed the true nature of Wasilla. Anchorage was a bit of a surprise too, mainly because there was no striking evidence to the casual observer of the effects of any past seismic events on buildings, roads, or bridges. It was just another modern American port city surrounded by the beautiful snow-capped peaks of the Chugach Mountains.
Because we were burning daylight, we passed quickly through Anchorage and ate on the road as we proceeded down the Seward Highway around the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet, which was at low tide. Some adventurous young people were kite surfing off rocky cliffs against the backdrop of a splendid ocean sunset.
Darkness descended as we approached Cooper’s Landing along the Kenai River, but I could see that it was a beautiful area, with a dense forest of tall trees and numerous luxury lodges catering to wealthy fly fishermen who travel here to pursue trophy trout and salmon in the Kenai and Russian rivers. We reached the Troutfitter’s Lodge at 11:00 p.m. and eventually found our “Swan Sanctuary” cabin downhill from the fly shop – a luxurious housekeeping “cottage” built with large logs and fully appointed with woodsy furniture and décor. We prepared for a quick departure in the morning and hit the sack by midnight.
Railroad along the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet
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