Monthly Archives: June 2018

Bear Walking

It is wise to never limit any one of your senses when hiking in Alaska.

This comic reminds me of a time I went for a walk with my dog after a miserable day at work. I was not far from town, but my mind was focused on the terrible day I had, and not on the trail.

My dog and I came around a corner, and spooked a large bull moose. It should never have happened, there was plenty of opportunity for me to spot the moose long before I did, but I wasn’t paying attention. The moose lowered his massive rack, and charged directly at me. I was within mere feet of that mighty bull, when my yellow lab charged the moose, barking up a storm. The bull turned his charge, and my dog sauntered over to a bush to lay down his scent. His job was done, disaster adverted, it was time for more important things.

The entire event lasted only seconds. The bull stood by the forest edge, giving me the stink-eye. My heart was pounding through my jacket, and my Labrador wanted to know why we were flushing moose and not grouse.

It was a lesson I never forgot. If you can’t keep your mind on the trail, stay home and burn your dinner instead.

Comic credit: Nuggets by Jamie Smith


Brewing on Cleveland


Mount Cleveland from Concord Point; Photo credit: AVO/USGS/John Lyons photographer

Lava flow was seen in the crater of Mount Cleveland this week, about 80 meters across. With lava flowing over the active vent, the odds of an explosion to clear that vent has increased substantially. With that in mind, the warning level on Cleveland was raised to Orange.


Great Sitkin Volcano on 17 June 2018; Photo credit: AVO/Alaska Airlines Captain Dave Clum

Great Sitkin Volcano, also on the Aleutian Chain, which had a minor eruption on June 10th, is still smoking. AVO has Great Sitkin’s warning level at Yellow.


Methane Pocket

While working on a job a while back, I suddenly was aware of the sound of running water. Almost like the sound of a fountain. Interior Alaska had a lot of snow over the winter, so there was standing water everywhere, but moving water had me curious, so I went off towards the sound.

I came to a water hole that only fills up after break up. By the end of June it would probably be dried up. But now, it was full, and in the middle of the large puddle, was a water fountain. Initially, the stream of water went up 3-4 feet above the surface of the puddle. By the time I decided to hike back to my truck to get my phone, it had dropped down to 5-6 inches. From the time I heard the water, to the time the puddle stopped percolating, was a good 90 minutes.

A pocket of methane below the service had suddenly found a way up to sunlight, and the release put on a good show. These pockets are being released all across the Arctic, and I live in a hot bed of that activity.


Kenai River Kings


Salmon fishing the Kenai River

The salmon reports continue to be bad. Alaska Fish & Game shut down king salmon fishing on the famed Kenai River. It had been down to catch & release on the Kenai, but now even that is closed. The latest closure has the entire river shut down for the remainder of June, at that time the lower portion of the Kenai would open, but the upper river would remain closed.

An extremely poor return of adult kings to the river prompted the closing. As of 17 June, only 2182 kings had swam past the Fish & Game’s sonar counter.

This is the second major closing of salmon fisheries in as many weeks.


The Kenai River


Happy Summer Solstice

The view from the ridge at midnight, on a hike to Tolovana Hot Springs, over the Solstice.

This was either the 1am sunset, or the 3am sunrise, as seen from the hot springs.


Return of the Bear Cam


Brooks Falls Griz, Photo credit: Katmai National P&P

The Katmai Bear Cam, which overlooks Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park & Preserve, is back up and running.
Thanks to the folks at the NPS and explore.org for the cam. Just prior to posting, I took a quick view, and there were no bears to be seen yet. Hopefully, there will actually be salmon down there for the bears.

Link to the cam below:

https://explore.org/livecams/brown-bears/brown-bear-salmon-cam-brooks-falls


Copper River Salmon


Salmon fishing the Copper River near Chitina, Alaska

Alaska’s famed Copper River is seeing a brutal return number of salmon so far this summer. The return is so low, that an emergency order closing the Chitina area to dipnetting was issued last week. Since statehood, Alaska has never closed the river to dipnetters.

This is a blow to Alaskans and their freezers.

During an average summer, 7000 Alaskans head to Chitina to dipnet the Copper River. 170,000 salmon are caught this way every year.

Until 2018.

Dipnetting is an Alaskan tradition, since only residents can get a license to dipnet. It’s how many fill their freezers with salmon for the year, and Interior Alaskans in particular, love making the drive to Chitina for this special personal use fishery.

This really is historic, and it has a lot of people on edge. Biologists have pointed blame at “The Blob”, which was a large mass of unusually warm water that took up residence in the Gulf of Alaska from 2014 to 2016.

Commercial fisheries are also feeling the heat, as they saw the second lowest take in 50 years. The commercial fishery was shut down in May by the Alaska Fish & Game.

There is nothing easy about dipnetting The Copper. The river roars past the steep banks, forcing dipnetters to tie themselves off to rocks or trees to keep from being dragged into the deadly cold water. It’s a helluva workout, holding that huge net out into the flowing water, and if a king hits that net, hold on! It’s quite the experience, and you will sleep well at the end of a long day in the river.


The Chitina River, near Chitina, Alaska. Camera: Kodak 66; Film: Kodak T-Max 120

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Not to be outdone, the Ship Creek King Salmon Derby in Anchorage saw their worst year yet. The contest on Ship Creek has been held since 1993, and they had the smallest king ever win the derby at less than 29 pounds. Only 98 kings were entered into the derby total, when in past years they saw that number entered in a day. The winning angler still walked away with $4000 worth of gold & silver.

Needless to say, the price of salmon will be going up.