Return to Civilization

In regards to my featured photo, I wanted to show the joy I experienced being at the end of the rainbow! A perfect rainbow was formed right over the lodge in the last week we were there. I’ve seen a lot of pretty rainbows at Yes Bay, but this one is the best. I just wanted ya’ll to see me experiencing it.

Well, I finally did it! The season is over, and I’ve returned from the bush. The way it worked out, I left three days earlier than expected due to our last couple of groups canceling. The coho run ended suddenly, and that along with really bad weather finished our season. At first, I was pretty annoyed at losing out on the extra pay I would have made. Also having to reschedule my flights and the extra money that would cost was another aggravation I wasn’t really keen on experiencing. After thinking about it though, I decided I was glad to leave early. I was just completely done with the whole thing. Instead of changing my flights around I opted to stay the extra three nights in Ketchikan and ease my way back into civilization. This really worked out well and I’m glad I did it.

Before we all made our escape, we had a wedding to attend. Captain Pack Rat and his lady Party Wolf were going to tie the knot out at the lodge. Everybody pitched in to make the hitching a success. My task was to clean and cook a whole bunch of Dungeness crab for the reception, so one last time I got the ‘ol crab pot out and boiled up a mess ‘o crab. We had the wedding down on the dock, and one of the office girls made a nice little wedding arch placed on our fish-hanging rack. Captain Snapper officiated the ceremony, and it was a great success. It was raining and cold that day, we were all in our raingear and Xtra Tough boots. I must say it was the most unique wedding I’ve ever attended! After the ceremony, we had really nice reception/final dinner with the crew. The boss gave us some great compliments on having a stellar season and said that he’d hire any of us back. It really made us all feel pretty good, and was a great way to end things.

The happy couple.

The next day was our departure day. I was initially supposed to head out by boat, but at the last minute I got bumped to the plane for which I was glad. All season long I had daydreamed what it would be like to finally leave, and when the moment came I was ecstatic! Climbing into the back seat and taking off was one of the finest moments of my life. It was a really nice plane ride into town, the weather was perfect and you could see for miles. The boss had left a little before us in the Water-Horse, transporting some of the crew and all our baggage. Trevor got down to about fifty feet over the water and we buzzed the boat on the way in, that was fun!

When we got back to town, Trevor took us around in the company van to run errands. I mailed off a box of gear at the post office and then a bunch of us got dropped at a hotel in town. We all made plans to meet up later that night at the local Moose Lodge for drinks and I checked myself in. It was absolutely decadent having a nice hotel room to myself, with a great view of Ketchikan harbor.

Nice view from my room. A bit noisy from the traffic however.

Fortunately, there was a dispensary right next door so I didn’t have to go far to get myself some smoke. Afterwards, I had a crazy appetite so I treated myself to a nice seafood platter at the best restaurant in town. It was an awesome first meal back in civilization! When I was finished eating, I met up with some crew members and we made the rounds of the bars downtown. At some point I made it to the Moose Lodge where almost everybody showed up and we got sauced! I don’t remember too much about the rest of the night but I know we all had a real good time. It was a great last hurrah with the crew.

Almost everyone flew out the next day, and I moved from the hotel to a nearby Airb&b I had rented out. The Airb&b was right on Ketchikan Creek about a quarter mile from downtown. Supposedly the writer Richard Bach had stayed there before, it was in a really cool 100 year old house. Being so close to the creek there was constant white noise which I really loved. It was ironic that my waterfall white noise app on my phone helped me sleep while at the lodge, and now I had the real life version! It worked out great as a base of operations the next three days I was in town. My co-worker Mary Ann was flying out the same day as me, so we hit the bars and hung out in the interm. The weather was pretty bad the whole time so I mostly stayed indoors. I did a bit of walking around checking out the sights though. I managed to make it to the town museum and check out the exhibits. I’ll never pass up a good museum!

A view of Ketchikan Creek from my Airb&b window.

The day finally arrived for my departure from Ketchikan, and I hopped on my flight bound for Anchorage. I had been really looking forward to seeing Bethan again, but a day before I left Ketchikan she told me she was sick! She didn’t know if she had COVID or not, but she didn’t want to spread whatever she had to me. I was really bummed about this development but decided to go anyway. I told her we’d just play it by ear, if she felt better we could get together. I figured that in the worst case scenario I’d just take it easy and rest up. I was still super exhausted from the season and laying around doing nothing sounded like a good time to me!

I arrived back into Anchorage and took an Uber to my Airb&b. It was in a pretty good spot close to a liquor store and good restaurants, so for the first couple of days I just laid in bed drinking whiskey and started to get caught up on all my shows I’d missed while out at the lodge. On the third day I had booked a night at the Historic Anchorage Hotel downtown. It’s known to be haunted and I got the room that was said to be the most haunted in the hotel. I love staying in haunted hotels so I was interested in seeing if I could experience any paranormal phenomena while I was there. Fortunately, Bethan wound up not having COVID and was feeling well enough to hang out. She wanted to see if any ghosts were around as well, so she came over and we had a nice reunion. She recommended we walk this trail that went from downtown to the shore of the Knik Arm that lies to the north of the city. We went and had a good little hike with some really pretty views. Everyone says that Anchorage is an ugly city, but the views around town are incredible I think.

Looking west/northwest towards the Knik Arm.

The Chugach Mountains to the south and east of the city are magnificent.

The Historic Anchorage Hotel. It’s one of the oldest buildings in Alaska, and one of the few to survive the destruction of downtown Anchorage back in the earthquake of ’64. This place has a lot of history (and ghosts).

We came back to the hotel and settled in, but no ghosts made an appearance that night unfortunately. It was still really cool to be in such an historic building, and the room was pretty nice as well. I definitely recommend the place. The next day was my last day in town, and I really wanted to hit up the museum before I left. After a seafood Benedict breakfast (I needed to get my Eggs Benedict fix after a long while without) we made our way to the museum. I was really impressed with it, it took around 3-4 hours to see everything. They had all kinds of cool exhibits and art. Bethan and I had fun playing on all the interactive exhibits meant for kids. There was even some live animals in there. I really connected with this little black rockfish that was hanging out in the tank with a king crab. I emailed the museum after my visit to see if the fish had a name but they never got back to me…so I guess I’ll refer to him as Blackie! They also had a snapping turtle in there for some reason and a nice tide pool tank. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the museum and I’m glad I got to check it out with such lovely company.

After the museum, Bethan suggested we go to this place called ‘The Crow’s Nest’. It’s at the top of The Hotel Captain Cook which is the tallest building in Anchorage I think. She warned that it was pretty pricey but the views were amazing. The hotel itself was set up like a sailing vessel with a lot of dark wood paneling and was sort of a tribute to Captain Cook himself. There were a lot of portraits around showing his travels around the Pacific. When I lived in Hawaii I actually went to the place where he was killed by the natives. It was a haunted place for sure. What a bad end he came to! Anyways, we went up to the restaurant and had some food and drinks. She was right, the views were incredible! It was a little pricey, but it was definitely worth it in my opinion.

After we were done eating and drinking, we tried to go to this native museum but it was closed unfortunately. It was getting dark, so at a lack of things to do we got some pizza and headed back to my Airb&b to hang out for a while. Unfortunately, when we got back to where I was staying, the lady of the house yelled at me for having guests (I guess there was a no-guest policy, I wound up getting my first negative Airb&b review because of it) so Bethan couldn’t stay. As it was late anyway and I had to get up early for my flight back to the lower 48 we said goodbye to each other. I hated we couldn’t have spent more time together, but sickness can really throw a monkey wrench into things. Oh well. We still had a real good time.

I really miss Alaska. Hopefully I can get a job doing deckhand stuff up there next season. I hope it works out. I thought I’d post a couple more videos from Alaska. One is of my first (and only) bear sighting. Needless to say I was excited about it. The other is of a school of salmon coming real close to me by the dock. Enjoy!

So I’ve been back in California for the past few days getting geared up for my next adventure. It’s been really difficult getting back into society down here. While it’s been great being reunited with The Beast, I just feel overwhelmed. All the traffic and people everywhere has me crazed. Also the whole society seems to be crumbling around me. When I left back in June things seemed to be getting better, but now it’s just chaos. I’ve not really had time to clear my head and think about what I just went through. This being the case, I’m heading out to the desert for peace and quiet in the desolation. I’ll name this upcoming expedition ‘Operation Desert Solitude’ I think. It’s gonna be a good one. I’ve invested a couple grand in truck repairs and gear so I’m ready to go.

In the morning I plan to go out to one of my favorite places, Laguna Mountain down in San Benito county. Since I’ve got a lot of new gear I want to have a familiar place to stay and test everything out before I head down south. I’m going to check out Anza Borrego, which is a huge park down close to the border, about an hour east of San Diego. I’ve long wanted to go exploring down there. After that I’ll probably head up to Joshua Tree and the Mojave National Preserve. After that, who knows? I’ll figure it out after I get down there. Anyways, really looking forward to getting off road and in the backcountry. It’s all I could think about when I was stuck up at the lodge. It’s going to be a great expedition, I can’t wait to be on the road!


On My Way Down to Ketchikan/Yes Bay

After I bid farewell to Bethan and Anchorage, I hopped on the plane and headed south. I flew Alaskan Airlines and they absolutely rock because they let me check my baggage for free! United Airlines charged me 80 bucks to do the same, so I was glad to save some money on that front. The flight stopped in Juneau, Petersburg and Wrangell, which was actually pretty cool as I got to see a lot of Alaska along the way. I had a window seat so I got to take in a lot of scenery during the course of the flight.

For the first couple of stops I had a couple of kids (brother and sister, probably twins) around 8 years old in the aisle and center seats. They were flying by themselves and I feared that they would be wild screaming brats the whole 6 hour flight. Amazingly, the kids were really well behaved and they only started to get crazy about a half hour out of their stop in Petersburg.

Unfortunately, when they got off a wild band of about 5 10-12 year old boys went completely berserk in the back of the plane where I was and kept hopping in and out of the vacant seats next to me. Their mom couldn’t control them and their dad was on some heavy pills or smack and was on the nod the whole time. At one point the dad spilled an entire cup of coffee on the floor and was staggering around trying to clean it up. It was so bad that even the stewardess was asking him if he was ok. It was absolute teeth-grinding chaos. I was so glad when the plane finally landed in Ketchikan.

I had heard horror stories about lost/damaged luggage on flights landing in Ketchikan, so upon my arrival I was very pleased to find that all my stuff made it there safely. As I was waiting at the baggage claim I heard people talking about making the ferry, and when I asked I discovered that the airport was on an island and the only way to get to town was by boat! I did a quick Google search and found that the ferry leaves on the hour and half hour, so as it was about ten till five I hustled out the door and followed the signs to the loading dock. Fortunately the ferry entrance was right outside the front of the airport so I didn’t have to lug my heavy duffel bag too far. I paid the 6 dollar toll and boarded the ferry right as they were about to pull away.

As I had an Airb&b booked for the night, when I got to the other side I pulled up Uber to look for a lift to get me there. I found out that both Uber and Lyft didn’t have any cars available. Ketchikan seems to be the only place I have been to in the country in the last 5 years or so where the old-fashioned taxi is still the king. I called up a local cab company and when they arrived I was informed that a 4 mile cab ride was going to set me back like 30 dollars. No wonder why ride-share companies aren’t present in Ketchikan, there is obviously a strong cab mafia in place there! As a former cabbie I’m kind of happy that the cab drivers there still have a strong presence and have kept out the rideshares, but my wallet wasn’t too happy about it!

My cab driver was a cool dude, he was actually from Houston and comes up to drive in Ketchikan during the summer season. He makes a whole lot of money doing this, it seems like I’m in the wrong business doing what I’m doing! My job pays peanuts compared to what he makes, but like all lucrative jobs you’ve got to be connected to score employment like that. It was nice to run into a fellow Southerner all the way up here in Alaska though!

I got dropped off at my Airb&b and met the lady who ran it. She was a real sweet lady who I judged to be Russian or Eastern European from her accent. The room and house were very comfortable and clean, it was a great place to stay. I really wanted to get down into town and start exploring, so after chatting with her for a while I walked down the hill to the bus stop and took the bus back into town. I was really wanting to get a cheeseburger so I found this place that served elk burgers, so of course I had to have one! After I ate I walked around and did a little bit of sight-seeing. I decided I really liked Ketchikan. It felt like a wild west frontier town, I felt right at home. It seemed like a place where anything could happen at anytime. Such a change from what I’m used to in the lower 48!

I was getting rather thirsty by this point so I decided to stop and grab some beers at the Arctic Bar. It was a pretty rowdy place for sure! They had a nice back patio overlooking the water in the back so I had some scenery to look at as I was enjoying my drinks. The familiar smell of good weed was everywhere, nice to know that they were herb-friendly. There was quite a mix of people milling about from bikers to fishermen to tourists, but everyone seemed mellow and the vibe was good. Then this one big Viking-looking dude started slamming around beer bottles and hollering, but no one seemed to pay him any mind. It was usual for a Monday night at this place I guess.

Later inside he was yelling across the bar at some hipster looking dudes and demanded that they speak to him in Italian for some reason. They were obviously American but he started to get unhinged when they wouldn’t go along with his request. I figured things were about to go sour so I paid my tab and headed out. I kind of wanted to see how the situation would play out but I was far too sober and tired to deal with such shenanigans. By this time it was getting close to 10 PM and I was scheduled to be picked up by my lodge at 8 the next morning, so I made my way back to my Airb&b.

After a good night’s sleep, I got a ride to the lodge office in town in one of the company vans. My new employer’s daughter picked me up and delivered me to the waiting floatplane after I made a last minute stop to grab my Alaskan fishing licence and an extra pair of boots. The office was right on the water, and the company floatplane was berthed right next to it. I met the pilot who happened to be the husband of the girl who picked me up. It’s a family-owned & operated business through and through. There was a grocery delivery going out with me, (2500 lbs worth) so my first official duty working for the lodge was to help load up the plane. After this was done, I loaded myself & my gear into the waiting plane and soon we were off!

It was so cool taking off on the water for the first time! The pilot, Trevor, was a really cool dude. He seemed to be my age or a little younger but was a very accomplished pilot. I think he told me he’s logged something like 14,000 flight hours in his career. That’s a lot of time in the air! I really enjoyed looking around at all the beautiful scenery as we made our way to the lodge. Trevor gave me a nice little rundown of what it was like to be a bush pilot in Alaska and what to expect at my destination. The lodge is about 50 miles to the north of Ketchikan and the flight took about 20-30 minutes. Finally, we reached the mouth of Yes Bay. Shortly thereafter, the lodge swung into view and we made a smooth landing. As we taxied to the dock the dock crew swung into action and got us parked. I leapt out of the plane, and there I was finally at long last. I had arrived at my home for the next 4 months.

So as of now I’ve been here a week and a half. I’ve got so much to write about, but I’ll have to leave that for next week’s post. My free time is very limited, and internet service is spotty so it’s been a challenge to upload my pictures and writings. Sometimes the internet lets me upload my blog and sometimes it doesn’t, it depends on the day. Suffice to say that life here is what I expected, but not what I expected at the same time. Living the lodge life out in the Alaskan bush is really extreme and is taking a lot to get used to. At times I love it and other times I wonder what in the hell was I thinking signing up for this? Anyways, I’ll leave it at that for now. Stay tuned for the lowdown next week on Tales of the Dogfish!