Halloween 1987 - My husband and his chief were out deer hunting. They had been watching a Kodiak bear walking up on a ridge, they were very aware of it but not worried because of the distance. Well Jimmy spotted a really sweet buck. He gets down, using a fell tree as a resting point to just watch, line up his sight and prepare. Suddenly he hears his Chief... "Jim" (in a whispered sort of urgency). Jim waves over his head at his Chief like "I see the deer, shush!" Again the Chief "JIM!" With that Jim turns to look over his shoulder. Ruh-Roh Scooby! There was the bear, on the trail, right in between Chief & Jim. They both raise their guns and realize when they miss, they are going to shoot each other. The bear stands up on his hind legs and gives quite the growl/roar they give. Then he drops down and he is shaing his head back & forth, snorting, he starts a small charge towards my husband. Once again the gun goes up... the bear stops, stands up again, growls, drops, turns and runs straight up the side of this mountain! We were going to a costume party that night... Jim came home and said "I need a shower and clean underwear!" He said that was probably the most scared he had ever been in his life! The strength of watching that bear run up the hill was just unbelievable to him!
My own personal experience, we were getting ready to transfer. I went up to the top of Pillar Mountain, it is driveable to get up there so I was in my car. I wanted to get some pictures off the top of Pillar, looking down at town. I was standing on the running board of my car, leaning on the roof as a tripod of sorts. As I was snapping some pictures I heard something behind me. I glance over my shoulder, I see a cow. OK, back to pictu......... Cows don't sit! (picture a dog, sitting) SLLLLLLLOWLY I turn back and look... maybe about 25 yards away, there is a Kodiak bear sitting there. I'm not sure how but without even touching the ground I slipped in the car, threw it in gear and FLEW off the side of the mountain! Of course the first question out of Jim's mouth... "Did you get a picture of the bear!!" Umm, no honey, I was more worried about being mauled and our 17 month old son seeing that as he was strapped in his car seat in the back of the car! Geez Louise!
We saw a few others at a more controlled distance when hiking. I am fairly certain a few saw us at much closer distance but they chose to remain anonymous to us, thank you very much! We lived in a part of Kodiak called Bells Flats, it was out past the base, towards where the paved road used to end. Where our house was, on the Russian River, we had bears and bald eagles all the time. We had a pretty large deck with a dog house. I would sit outside on the dog house, reading a book, just watching the bears on the ridge across from us or the eagles flying around. one time a bald eagle landed right on the deck railing just 2 feet away from me. That was just so amazing to me!!!
Fishing was 2nd to none. My son was born in February 89. In March of 89 the Exxon Valdez ran aground. We were living on Kodiak at the time. Because of the oil spill they closed a lot of the commercial fisheries. So that summer almost every salmon was reaching shore. I had a blast fishing with Colin right there with me. He wasn't doing much fishing, he was only a few months old but I like to think it was that time together that gave him his mad fishing skills!
When Colin was 3 we moved back to Alaska, this time to Valdez. When he was 6 he caught all 5 species of salmon in one year. The king he caught was a white king. He was fishing on a friends boat and at first they thought it was a silver, they took a closer look and he had a white king! That was pretty impressive. He also caught the first silver of the season and he actually had his picture in the paper and we mounted his fish for him. He caught it 100% by himself. Cast, land, reel in... all on one of those goofy Snoopy poles.
So fishing, hiking, hunting, I didn't even touch on our amazing camping trips... anywhere in Alaska is a fabulous. I know a lot of people tend to think cold, dark, miserable, depressing, isolated... I won't lie, it can be! But if you aren't happy, you can feel the same thing in midtown Manhattan. Enjoy, explore, soak it all in no matter where you go! Every station, good or bad, will be memorable if you make it that way!