By Luke Kosko | Coastal Carolina University
All throughout my life, I’ve had an affinity for the outdoors. Whether I was outside playing with friends or on a family road trip, I constantly found myself observing the nearby foliage, climbing a big tree or admiring the passing hills and mountains through the window of my parent’s car. That’s why when my grandfather offered to take me on a fishing trip to Alaska, for two weeks, during the summer, after my freshman year of high school, I jumped at the opportunity.
Many days and nights were spent preparing for the trip. My mother took me to a sporting goods store to buy new clothes and a knife, and when I wasn’t at school or helping with chores, I spent day in and day out researching all the places in, and facts about Alaska that a person could know. I remember sitting up at night, pondering and envisioning myself in the mountains and forests of the grand state.
I remember coming out of a large tunnel and being met with what were the most grand mountains and intensely beautiful forests I had ever seen.
Finally, after my months of preparation, the day before our flight arrived. I packed my duffel bag full of all the clothes I needed for the two weeks, along with my shiny new hunting knife and a few books and magazines to occupy myself on the airplane. I tried to go to sleep at an early hour that night knowing that our flight left at 4:00 a.m. but I couldn’t contain my excitement for the trip I had been dreaming about for so long, so I stayed awake. My grandfather came to wake me up at 2:30 a.m. but to his surprise I was already at the door ready to leave.
We drove to the airport with a few of my uncles who were also joining us on the trip, checked through TSA, boarded the plane and took off. I tried to force myself to stay awake during the fourteen-hour flight because I didn’t want to miss the moment we flew over Alaska, but due to the previous night’s restlessness I couldn’t help but to fall asleep. Thankfully I woke up an hour before we landed in Anchorage, but to my disappointment we were above the clouds. When we landed the only sights I was greeted by were the airport and the busy city. From the airport though, we still had a three-hour drive to Soldotna, a small town close to the Kenai river where we would be staying, fishing and spending most of our time in Alaska. I knew that although the flight was boring and full of sleep, the drive would be amazing because we would be traveling through the mountains and heart of the Alaskan wilderness.
My prediction was correct. I remember coming out of a large tunnel and being met with what were the most grand mountains and intensely beautiful forests I had ever seen. The Alaskan mountains were nothing like the Smoky mountains I was already so fond of. They stretched up for miles with grand peaks topped with snow. I remember sitting in awe as I stared out of the car window at the vast expanse of evergreen trees and water trickling down the mountain’s edges. It was as if I had stepped into a story book and was traveling through and area only fit for giants to live. I was truly in heaven as I gazed upon beautiful, blue, passing lakes and rivers that I could only imagine were filled with plump fish and bears trying to snag them as they swam by. I dreamed for so long to see sights such as this and my dreams had finally come true.
As the sun came up, I saw heavy rays glistening off of the most beautiful river I had ever been on, and fish jumping out of the water teasing my mind at the thought of catching one.
After the drive, we arrived to where we would be staying, a small cabin next to a large forest only a walk from the Kenai river where we would be fishing. We all got settled in and prepped our fishing gear for the next day. We would have another early start the next morning because we wanted to catch the sunrise coming over the river. We had dinner and got ready to sleep, but something felt off to me. Was it the cabin? No. Was it being in a strange state I had never been to before? No. Then it hit me! Even though it was 10:00 p.m. the sun was still up!
What a curious land I thought as I fell asleep. The next morning we were up and ready to finally fish! I gathered my rod, waders and a heavy supply of lead weights, and began the walk to the river with my grandfather and uncles.
During the walk I wasn’t able to see much because it was still dark outside, but as we approached the river, the sun began to rise. “Perfectly timed” I thought to myself. As the sun came up, I saw heavy rays glistening off of the most beautiful river I had ever been on, and fish jumping out of the water teasing my mind at the thought of catching one. The smell of the brackish water and the sound of the rapid stream caused me to be filled with a type of nostalgia that triggered memories that didn’t exist. I looked out on that river and despite being in such a foreign place, I felt at home.
I yanked back the line and set my hook, all while screaming for my grandfather to come help me.
The first nibble off my hook came to me as a shock. “Do I have something on my line already?” I thought to myself as I slowly teased the line floating down the river’s stream. To my disappointment though, the only thing I had managed to snag… was a rock. I cut my line and tied on a new fly and began flicking my rod once again in hopes I would catch one of the salmon that were migrating that time of year.
Two days went by and I still hadn’t caught a single fish, all while my uncles and grandfather were thriving with their mass amount of catches. I said to myself, “Well, even if I don’t catch anything, at least I still get to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells.” but I had spoken too soon. A hard tug, nothing like the little tugs I felt getting caught on the rocks, pulled my line.
This was it, this was my moment. I yanked back the line and set my hook, all while screaming for my grandfather to come help me. I wrestled what felt like a 20 pound beast and tried to get the salmon tired. Finally, after a minute and a half, I managed to drag the fish close enough for my grandfather to fix a net around its large body. “My first salmon” I thought to myself, a true milestone for any aspiring fisherman. We pulled out the salmon and I held him up as my uncle took a photo to capture the rich memory.
Later that day I also managed to catch a large rainbow trout, and instead of taking it to get packaged with the rest of the salmon, we all decided that it would be dinner for that night. The funny part was, that was my first trout as well. “Get the camera ready, Uncle Mike!” I shouted, as I stood there with fish in hand.
Later in the evening while dinner (my trout) was cooking, I took some time to go out and venture into the woods behind the cabin. I found sticks and whittled them into points and took photos of all the tall trees and nature I could see. “What a magnificent place.” I thought to myself as I snapped a photo of some birds.
The two weeks went by faster than I had expected and on our last day, we had a long drive back to the Anchorage airport. On our way I had my grandfather stop by the Russian River, another popular fishing spot, that was beautiful and completely enveloped in magnificent trees. I went in hopes that I could maybe catch a glimpse of a bear, but unfortunately, I didn’t see any.
After we left the river however, I saw plenty of moose on the road, taking their time as they slowly walked without a care in the world. “Such funny creatures” I said to my grandfather as we all laughed at the sight.
We got to the airport with no time to spare and took off immediately. I watched out the airplane window as Anchorage got smaller and smaller, and we were graciously welcomed by the clouds once again. As we flew, I sat and pondered on the past two weeks and thought about the once-in-a-lifetime trip I had just experienced. I fell asleep to the sound of the airplane’s hum, knowing that Alaska would hold memories for me that would last beyond a lifetime.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.