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Soul Renewal 2014 Trip report May 29 -June 14, 2014

PA
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Soul Renewal 2014 Trip report May 29 -June 14, 2014

Trip Report May 29 - June 14, 2014

This is my first trip report, so bear with me.

Who -- My Brother (47) & I (44)

SOUL RENEWAL 2014

After our last trip to AK in 2012, we thought about going back in 2013. Our business was really picking up and then Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast. In PA it wasn’t quite as bad of a storm as for the folks in NJ. We had no damage to any structures, but we had a door blow off a pole barn during the storm while we were inside it. We went to move the door to try & save the building and it’s contents. Just at that time a gust of wind blew through and ripped the big garage door out of our hands. I was unhurt, but my brother had his shoulder dislocated, rotator cuff torn badly, and when that happened, it sheared a piece of bone off his shoulder. So, he had major shoulder surgery. Alaska was the last thing on our minds. We are self-employed so with him being out for a while, it was going to be a rough slug.

As he got healthy we began discussing our possible final trip to AK in 2014. We decided in August 2013 we were going back in June again. Our business had us working 7 days a week with no down time. Even though my brother spent some of 2012 & 2013 with his injuries, he missed 3 days of work. The day he went to the hospital, the day of his surgery, and the next day. After that he was in and answering the phone and on desk duty. What a trooper. Over the last two years combined, we may have taken a total of 10 days off. It was getting to be a grind. We needed to get away. We were worn down. Well, enough of the rambling, here is our trip report.

May 29th -- left at 3am for the 2 ½ hour drive to Newark Liberty Airport. Weather was finally good for this drive. The three previous times it rained on the way there. Flights were smooth. We arrived at Ted Stevens Intl Airport approximately 1:30pm AK time. Called ABC Motorhomes and they quickly picked us up and had us to the rental lot. Our steed for this trip would be a 2014 Coachman Freelander 30ft rv with 3900 miles on it. The only problem we had was that when we went to start the coach to leave the main battery was dead. Turns out someone left the front interior light on. So after waiting a little for a new battery to be installed we were on our way. We stopped at the new Brown Jug warehouse on the Old Seward and got 6 growlers filled with mostly Alaskan craft brew. They have a great selection of beers on tap and a very reasonable fill price of $8-12 on most beers. We then stopped at a friend’s house to pick up our fishing gear we sent up earlier. A few more stops and we finally made it to one of our favorite state campgrounds -- South Rolly Lake outside of Willow. We rolled in about 8pm AK time (MIDNIGHT BACK HOME!!) Drank a beer and relaxed from the trip and just inhaled Alaska.

May 30th -- Stayed at South Rolly today. On and off rain. No big deal. Wanted to pike fish but the canoe rental wasn’t open for a long time. So we walked around the campground and again, just enjoyed where we were.

May 31st -- Drove up to Byer's Lake Campground. This is a nice little place. Too bad it rained & rained. Thank goodness we had rain gear along. Took a hike, then made a fire, and again, enjoyed our surroundings.

June 1st -- Headed to Denali. Stopped at the 49th state Brewing co for growler refills. Seems like a nice place, but OUCH on the fills. Buying beer right at the brewery I didn't expect to see $16-35 fills. Way overpriced but the staff was super friendly. But still, OUCH!

Headed in to Teklanika Campground. I couldn't believe how empty the campground was. We got a site right along the river bank. Maybe 10 campers here at that time. Took a quick hike. Some rain

June 2nd -- got on 1st bus of the morning. Mike Dyas was the bus driver. Very dry & monotone, BUT very passionate & knowledgeable. Great driver. Not looking like a nice day. It was raining and snowing. We did see a sow with 2 year-old cubs. Next we saw a sow with 2 TINY cubs (looked just bigger than a porcupine). Another lone grizzly. Then I spied a far off grizzly going into a draw. Another passenger yelled “Moose!” It was a cow and small calf. We heard later that the calf was killed that day. Saw more caribou, sheep. I think the total was 10 bears. At Eielson, you couldn’t see 10 feet in front of you. We had met a man & his uncle taking a bucket list trip. We told them to take the late bus tomorrow. They stayed at Eielson to hike.

June 3rd -- Hiked in the morning around TEK area. Caught the last Eielson bus. Moose, boo, sheep, and bears. Saw 7 bears. The 2 guys we told to take this bus hopped on it with us. Only maybe 8 people on bus. Plenty of room to move. Good thing we took this bus. The mountain was out in all it’s glory. What a difference a day makes. Saw a fox on way to Eielson. It was camping out in the parking lot for the night when we left. Hd a driver named Glenn. Didn’t have a mic on and only talked with the girl sitting behind him that was a waitress at his favorite watering hole. Boring and sad for the folks taking their only ride into the park

June 4th -- late bus again. No bears but a lot of other sightings. Another moose & calf this time in Igloo. Mountain was maybe half out and it was windier back there today. Had Rex as a driver and he was great. Very into what he was doing and liked to talk.

Some people on the buses would say to us “how did you guys see that {insert animal here}???” We look out for game at home & we’re used to it. We also look the entire time on the buses. Some people just stare straight ahead and never even look around. Amazing!

June 5th -- Headed out this morning for a long drive. The construction above Healy was brutal. We had a long wait for the pilot car. Poor guy holding the stop sign was bending and stretching and laying his head on the pole he was holding onto. It’s gonna be a loooong summer for him. It rained hard for a while on the way up to Fairbanks. Lots of construction going on. Stopped at Sportsman Warehouse for Therma-cell butane cartridges and new Binos. The old binos broke from shipping evidently. Stopped at the Fairbanks Brown Jug for more growler refills. Again, $8-12. Rained even harder. Then we headed for Donnelly Creek SRS campground below Delta. It was a long drive but we love this little campground. It only has about 13 sites but the view across the Big Delta River is awesome. Only 2 other campers here tonight. We love the Richardson Hwy. Not much traffic and nice views.

June 6th -- HAPPY BDAY TO ME!! We headed down to our reservation for a trial permit at the Gulkana River Preserve (Formerly Gulkana River RV park). We had taken guided fishing from here our 3 previous times in AK but now they stopped that and are trying to lease the river-front sites. We were alone here most of the time. Bob, Paul, & Kristian, the owners, are great guys. If you are looking to purchase/99 year lease a site along a neat river, this is the place. 2013 breakup really changed the Gulkana. The usual productive hole at the Preserve was completely gone. Covered in tons of gravel and silt. We fished the afternoon and evening and all we did was snag and tie on gear. At least there was NO RAIN.

June 7th -- Second day fishing. Again, snagged a lot, tied on a lot of gear and went through bait but no fish. That’s why they call it fishing and not catching. Still better than being at work. What beautiful surroundings.

June 8th -- Headed towards Valdez. We stayed at the Valdez Glacier Campground. This is a nice wooded campground just outside town. I could never stay right in town on a gravel lot right against someone else. To each their own. Walked around town a bit and headed back to campground. Saw quite a few eagles here. Outhouses were terrible. Someone needs to take charge here. Last time we stayed here they were bad too. Back then one even had no door on it. At least they replaced those with new ones, but someone needs to clean!

June 9th -- Up early & took ferry to Whittier. Yes, it’s expensive but we didn’t feel like driving the Glenn and it was also a wildlife/far-off glacier tour substitute. We saw many, many otters, and many orcas. We only saw 1 big whale though. We stayed on the upper deck the entire cruise. I am amazed how some just go inside and never even look for wildlife or scenery. Nice day for a boat ride, only spritzed getting into Whittier.

Feeling refreshed, we decided to head for Kassick’s Brewery in Nikiski. It was a drive, but we love this little brewery tucked away in the spruce. Reasonable fills ($10-16). Dealt right with Mrs Kassick. Great folks & great beers. We then headed out to Captain Cook State Park for the night.

Captain Cook Discovery campground is nice, but the outhouses needed cleaned. Last time we stayed here the host did a great job of cleaning the privy’s. This host needs to lean how to do that. Mosquitos were terrible. I’m a new, big believing convert to therma-cells. They work well.

June 10th -- We decided this morning to run down to Anchor Point to relive some old memories. Boy are we glad we did. What a beautiful day for a drive. We stopped at the Crooked Creek SRS along the Kasiloff River to check on the fishing. We had stayed at the Crooked Creek Campground in 2008 & 09. Fishing looked slow. It didn’t inspire us to gear up for reds as our king stamp had expired. We decided to stop at Jersey Subs on the way out. They are building a new building for their shop. At least they don’t use the old van anymore. The subs were good but at $13.75 each, I thought it to be expensive even for Alaska. On the way down to Anchor Point, you could see across the inlet to the mountains and volcanoes. We hadn’t been to Anchor Point since our trip in 2008. So, we went in to the Halibut Campground at the beach. This is a nice, small state campground. It filled up in the evening. Slidehole campground had 1 rig in it. With the Anchor River being severely restricted (& then closed) it was really empty down there. We took a good walk along the beach and watched dozens of eagles fly overhead all night. Then we took the time to start packing things and getting ready for the end.

June 11th -- drove up to Soldotna and mailed dirty clothes, fishing gear, and some empty growlers back home. We weren’t sure where we were going today, but decided to stay in Centennial Park in Soldotna. Another nice campground and with the Kenai being closed to King fishing, it was fairly empty. Got another nice riverfront site.

June 12th -- heading back up towards Anchorage. We stayed at the newly reopened Bird Creek SRS campground. They did a nice job here but it was too open for my liking. I liked the old Bird Creek. More rain did the night in.

June 13th -- Did the quick jog back to Anchorage and dropped the RV at ABC and picked up a rental car for the last day. Ran up to Eklutna tailrace and watched some folks catching fish. Drove up to Palmer and then back to Anchorage. We had time before we could check in at the Alex Hotel in Spenard so we watched float & bush planes over at Lake Hood. In the evening we met with our cousin and her husband (who were didn’t hook up with our last 3 trips so it was about time), and another friend & her husband for a meal at the Snow Goose. It was good & reasonably priced. Back to the Alex to rest for the flight home.

I took a lot of crap on this trip because I was praying for some rain before we left:

1) for the folks up there with the fires & dry conditions &

2) we have a fire every night when we’re camping & it’s how we cook supper.

I just didn’t think we’d have that much rain.

All-in-all, what a great, relaxing, trip. We bought a lot of bundles of wood, some great craft brew, and had a great time. I know we didn’t pack our days with a lot of activities, but we’ve been there before. This trip was about renewing the soul, getting back to nature, and just plain old relaxation.

I hope this report isn’t too long for you all out there and thanks for reading this if you made it this far.

Healy, Alaska
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for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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1. Re: Soul Renewal 2014 Trip report May 29 -June 14, 2014

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your trip report - your keen observations of people and what you enjoyed. Thanks for making it so personal - I really enjoy that aspect . . . hope you feel restored! I am heading to the Kenai in a few weeks myself - we usually camp in Soldotna at Centennial Park or in Ninilchik at the state overlook - it is time for me to chill and have no cares and I can't wait! :)

Bridgewater
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2. Re: Soul Renewal 2014 Trip report May 29 -June 14, 2014

Love Love Loved your trip report.

Had to google what a growler was and a thermacell. Considering I'm on my 3rd can of bug spray and it's only June, I have to look into that Thermacell. (Dogs use the OFF Clip-ons but I need something stronger).

My type of vacation!

PA
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3. Re: Soul Renewal 2014 Trip report May 29 -June 14, 2014

Thanks for the great responses. Yes I do feel restored. Amazing what some down time will do in one of the most beautiful places in the world

Healy, Alaska
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4. Re: Soul Renewal 2014 Trip report May 29 -June 14, 2014

I couldn't agree more! There are a few spots for me in Alaska, but I also love Hawaii for that too - when winter is just too long! :)

Anchorage, Alaska
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5. Re: Soul Renewal 2014 Trip report May 29 -June 14, 2014

Fun report. Tks

Ocala, Florida, USA
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6. Re: Soul Renewal 2014 Trip report May 29 -June 14, 2014

Great report, thanks!

Duluth, Minnesota
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7. Re: Soul Renewal 2014 Trip report May 29 -June 14, 2014

Your report isn't long SS, it's "detailed"!)

Obviously from the title of your review pounding the fish wasn't the purpose of your trip , but I can tell you have probably done so in the past :)

Couple questions for you ; I assume you were hoping for kings on the Gulkana ? Have you hit them there that early in the past ? I've never been over there, but considered it this year so I did some reading on both the Gulkana and the Klutina. From what I could find, our timeframe (a week after you) was early to head there. Although there has been good action at the Klutina early this year. Just trying to get a handle on the timing of those rivers.

Also, are you mailing gear up and back as a convienence, or have you run the numbers and find it cheaper? Mailing a rod tube? How long?(mine is 7'2" and the airlines take it under the sporting goods rule, I would think it would be cost prohibitive to mail it . And you have someone there to receive packages, I don't, and don't know what alternatives there might be.

Always interesting to see how others handle these things :)

Edited: 24 June 2014, 18:47
PA
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8. Re: Soul Renewal 2014 Trip report May 29 -June 14, 2014

MnMan, We've fished the Gulkana early every time we've been up there. We are always told we are too early for the main runs. While this is true, we've had some success. In 2008, we took a guided float trip. We had a few hookups but no fish. It was also our guide's first time on the river for the season. I did manage a really nice king later at the Kasilof on my 5th cast! In 2009, we were there at about the same time, 1st week of June, and, again, were told we were early. We took another float trip out of the Gulkana River Rv park & preserve. THis time, our guide, Joe Lang, had floated the river the night before with his family. He knew there were kings in the river. He was right. We had multiple kings landed throughout the day. We each kept our limit of 1. Joe was fantastic. In 2012, we took another float and, again the new guide hadn't been on the river for the season yet. He was convinced there were no fish in the river. We floated by many holes that were usually productive, but he kept saying, no fish & the water's too high. So we finish the trip skunked. We then proceeded to fish from the Preserve's bank. We had multiple hookups and I landed a dandy king and my brother caught a beautiful Sockeye (using eggs no less). This year the Preserve no longer offered guided trips. We didn't hit anything, but heard of kings & reds being caught.

The gulkana is really suited to a float trip. It's hard to find any bank spots. The fishing does pick up later in June for kings and heavy for reds in July.

As for sending gear up, our suitcases were maxed out for 2 weeks of camping. We didn't want to hit a laundry and probably wouldn't be near one for any length of time. Alaska Air used to allow rods as sporting equipment but now it's another checked bag. We did check our rod tube instead of sending it up. The gear box we sent had our waders & shoes, tackle box, extra reels, life preservers, & a spotting scope.

PA
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9. Re: Soul Renewal 2014 Trip report May 29 -June 14, 2014

I forgot to add (I can't seem to edit my posts), as for cost effective? It probably isn't. I got so tied up the month before going, I couldn't use the USPS. I had to use UPS to get the package there quicker. I sent the box back home USPS for 1/3 the cost. It just got here yesterday.

Duluth, Minnesota
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10. Re: Soul Renewal 2014 Trip report May 29 -June 14, 2014

SS; I just flew AlaskaAir to AK from Minneapolis, and they counted my rod tube (7.2" hardside) and my heavy tackle bag as one sporting goods item, like I believed they were suppossed to. I think I read it on their baggage info page as well, but that could have been a year ago, so they could have changed it, but that's how it was for me. Oh, and my flights were Delta flights, but booked thru AK air, that could be the difference too.

Great info on the Gulkana, a river I don't hear (or know) much about. Thanks:)

Edited: 27 June 2014, 02:59