“Mom, is that Grandpa across the road?”
“Well Missy, he’s not really your grandpa because he is a human and you are a moose, but we all call him grandpa Jon because he and grandma Jan are so nice to us and let us eat in their park.”
“Can I go talk to him?”
“He won’t hurt you, but you be careful on the road. The people who live up the road drive very fast and they don’t pay much attention to who else happens to be on it”
“I’ll be careful!”
“Grandpa, I’m Missy. I was born in your yard several weeks ago. Mom was laying between your house and the kitchen. The mosquitoes were terrible and it was late. She knew it was time for me to come out so she went to your place where she would be safe to have me. I don’t know if you remember her, but she and her brother stayed there two years ago when they were yearlings and she slept in your yard. Uncle Spike Jr. was so onery and he tried to eat your flowers and tomatoes. Anyway, she had me and cleaned me all up, then when I got up to eat the first time something started blowing out hot air from the side of your house. It scared me so bad that mom took me over into the other park where it was quiet. So we have just been wandering around and I’m learning to eat all the good green things along with mom’s milk.”
“Did you get to see Uncle Spike, Jr. when he came into your park this summer? He is getting so big now! His horns were just starting to come out, but he is hoping that he will have paddles this year. He said that last year he just had a couple of spikes with one fork in each of them so he didn’t look so great. Mom didn’t like him around very much and she was afraid he would hurt me, but he didn’t. He was very nice to me and I really liked him.”
“I hope you got to see my crazy cousins, Amos and Andy. They were over at your place after we had that big rain where it created big water puddles in your driveway. They started out trying to decide if they wanted to go swimming in the puddles. Amos was kind of scared to get in them, but Andy convinced him that they weren’t too deep, by sticking his foot into the upper end of it. They are so silly, the pools were only a couple of inches deep. So anyway, they finally got up enough
nerve to try going out in the middle of the puddle. Then they started stomping around and splashing just like a couple of kids!
And as usual, they started creating such a racket that they got Aunt Maddie’s attention. She had been eating the fireweed along the bank on the other side of the cleaning table and she yelled at them to quit splashing and getting themselves all muddy.
She kept yelling at them until they finally gave up and got out of the water. They came back by the cleaning table and got lost in the fireweed and raspberry bushes which were taller than they were.
I will say we had a lot of fun this summer playing in the woods between the RV Park and the Johnson Lake.
Sockeye (Red) Fishing, Part 1.
When Jan and I arrived in Kansas City, we were picked up by the Post boys and their mom for the trip back to our house in Lawrence. That evening we went to dinner at our local brewery and restaurant. Shown here from the left are Jerod, the bridegroom to be from Lincoln, NE, next is PFC Jake, a marine on leave from California, Jordan just arrived from Sambir, Ukraine where he teaches English in a local college with the Peace Corp. Next to him is granddaughter, Miranda Stromgren and her friend, Nicki and then daughter Debbie, mom to the three young men. The boys hadn’t been together for over 2 years so you can imagine the wild time had by all.
Now Jan and I had just spent over two months in Alaska where the daytime temperatures rarely reached 75 degrees. The airport temperature when we arrived was 96 degrees with 95 % humidity. By Friday, the temperature topped out at 106 and that night it rained! Fortunately, it didn’t rain until after the wedding rehearsal dinner was completed. The dinner was held in Todd and Karen’s backyard under a tent canopy. There were 130 people at the dinner and everyone had a great time. Here we are with Jan’s siblings, Donna, Skip, Phillip and granddaughter, Miranda with Nicky.
Their late afternoon wedding was held in the Central United Methodist Church in downtown Lawrence. It had been a rainy type of day with the temperature in the mid-80’s. It was very nice and comfortable for the wedding. The church is small and overflowing with guests and we all enjoyed the young couple getting married.
Liberty Hall used to be the Opera House in Lawrence and was built in the late 1800’s after Quantrill’s raiders destroyed most of the town before the start of the civil war. It is now a theater and a special event building often used for wedding receptions. Here is a photo of Jan’s grand kids and great granddaughter at Liberty Hall during the reception after the wedding. The bride and groom, Kristina and Jerod are in the center with Jan on their left, Miranda on her left and then best man Jordan. On their right is Nicole with our great granddaughter Elise, next is Niclole’s husband, Tyler. In the back row, from the left is Caleb, Travis, Jake, Marissa, Zack and Brandon. Kristina graduated from Kansas University and thus the choice of Lawrence for the wedding where many of her friends still are there. It is also about half way between her parents and family who live in the Dallas, TX area and the Post family who live in the Scottsbluff, NE area. Plus it is our home.
The reception was delicious, the party was fun, the wedding cake beautiful and the groom’s cake interesting. Just why is the Jayhawk tromping all over the front of the cake with Cornhusker in the background? Is there some significance to the cake? Does this imply that the rivalry is over and it’s symbolic of the two sides getting together? OR is this someone’s idea of a JOKE! Shame on you grandma!
SOCKEYE (RED) FISHING, PART 2
Just so you understand how the Red fishing works, the fish enter the river, adjust to the fresh water instead of salt water and then work their way up the rivers to the lakes where they spawn. They do not stay in one place more than a few hours while they rest out of the current. If the river does not have a lake, the Reds do not enter the river. That is why the Anchor river, the Ninilchik river, Deep Creek and Crooked Creek do not have Red salmon in them. That is not true of the King, Silvers and Pink salmon. They all spawn in the rivers and creeks, therefore they can be found in all the peninsula rivers and streams when they come back to spawn. Once the Reds acclimate to fresh water, they no longer eat until they spawn and die. Therefore, it doesn’t do any good to fish with bait or lures. The only way to catch them is by snagging them. F&G insist that to be sporting you have to use a fly and you have to snag them in the mouth to keep them. This is the only species of animal that you can wound (like ripping out the their guts by snagging them in the belly with a hook) and then are required to release the animal. ? Wouldn’t it make more sense to be forced to keep the ones that are wounded up to your limit and release the ones you hook in the mouth that aren’t damaged? Well, I’m not F&G! ——-
On Friday, they had 12 fish in about a half hour then went to pick up Cheri from the airport, took her to get her license then to the river to catch her six. Next day was the same, Ryan was busy tying hooks to keep Cheri fishing.
They both caught their limits while Cary was catching his. Six fish for the both of them is a hunk of fish. The Kenai Reds average between 8 and 12 pounds so six of the can weigh up to 50 pounds. We try to fillet them in the river before we leave as that leaves the scraps in the river to feed the smolt (young salmon), trout and other river species. Otherwise, we have to carry out the full weight, then clean them at home and return the heads, guts, bodies, etc. to the river. We are not allowed to dump the scraps into the dumpsters due to the smell plus the scraps provide food for the river fish.
Cheri in the meantime has another one on her line and is about to get it to the bank. She is good at catching the Reds and can match any of us when the fish are in the river. When she catches a fish and gets it on the bank, she has a great time dispatching the flopping fish with her pink wacker. Note also that she has a pink fly-pole and I made special hooks for her with pink yarn on them. I truly expect that she will have pink chest waders next year when she comes!!!!! GIRLS LIKE TO FISH TOO!
She can certainly hold her own when it comes to fishing as noted with the stringer of fish that she caught.
Once the fillets are back to the park, we cut the tail section off to later vacuum pack for freezing. Then we skin the front section and carefully cut out the series of bones that run along the spine. This will be later used for canning as the bones dissolve when they are pressure cooked. The rest of the meat above the bones and above the gut bones are then stripped into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Those slices are then marinated for about 24 hours in a brown sugar and salt mixture, then placed on a screened tray for smoking. The slices are sprinkled with spices depending on what favors are wanted and how much hot spices are used. They are then smoked for approximately 8 to 10 hours, turning the trays every two hours.
Jan and I arrived back in Anchorage at 10:45 pm on the 21st and waiting for us were Todd, Zack and Cody. After getting the van, GRACE out of the parking area, we waited until midnight for the arrival of Craig, Caleb and Brandon. It was a long trip back home, THANK YOU TODD FOR DRIVING!
It becomes somewhat of a problem when we have a large number of people here red fishing because we have limited spaces to fish on the Kenai. So we have to split up and fish different places to allow everyone to fish.
The first thing on the agenda was to get fishing licenses and gear ready for fishing and their afternoon Halibut charter (I will cover that in the next section). Unfortunately, by the 21st F&G had released all the commercial netters to harvest as many of the remaining Reds as possible out of the Cook Inlet. That reduced the number of fish coming into the river down to about 10,00 to 15,000 a day and limited the ability to catch the limit. We still had a good time fishing.
Jan and Zack both quickly caught Reds. Note that his is sure a lot bigger than hers!
Zack immediately got the knack of fishing for Reds. He limited out the first day he went fishing. He seems to be a natural, just like his dad, Todd.
Craig, Caleb and Brandon got to go Red fishing on the second and third days they were here. The numbers of fish in the river had been reduced significantly by then so it became much more difficult to catch them plus all three weren’t used to snagging fish and it took time to become adapt to it. They were finally able to find some fish on the third day and were able to catch some to take home with them.
The fish quickly reduced in numbers after three days and it took a lot longer to legally hook and keep them. We still did manage to catch several each day. Although we were limited by the total number we caught this year due to us losing a week during the season, we were able to catch enough to provide fillets and jerky to everyone. Thanks to Cary and Ryan catching lots of fish while they were in and for keeping the smoker going and making most of the jerky for us. Cody did manage to find out how to make jerky while he was here too.
Along with catching and cleaning the Red salmon, also comes the processing it for the freezer. We have some professional vacuum machines which vacuum all the air out of the packages of fish and then seals the edges to help keep the meat fresh in the freezer.
Here Cody and Cary are preparing the packages while Zack is sealing them. Although the jerky has been smoked and dried, we still package them in small serving packages to keep them fresh too.
That however isn’t the last step. The final processing comes with the canning of the bony sections of the salmon. Since the bones dissolve during the pressure cooking process, this is the optimum way to utilize that portion of the salmon. We don’t waste any part of the meat of the salmon as you can see.
Jan took the photo of Sally and I after the cans have been packed with the salmon although she packed as many as we did.
The next step is to heat the cans to 160 degrees to prepare them for sealing with the can lids. While I am cleaning the can edges and placing on the lids, Tom Wilson (Carolina Tom) is sealing the lid to the can with the help of a hand crank. The next step in the process is the pressure cooking of the cans to cook and seal the salmon meat. We can cook 24 cans at a time in each of our pressure cookers. We cook them for 90 minutes at a minimum of 10 psi.
When cleaning buckets are lined across the porch railing it signals that the Red season is over, the cleaning and process is done and it is time to enjoy the delicious Red salmon. We probably enjoy eating the canned salmon either in salmon patties, salmon salad or salmon chowder as much at the fresh frozen salmon. We share our bounty with our entire family in the lower 48.
However, there is one final fishing trip that we all enjoy almost as much as the entire Red season. That is our annual trip to the Russian River Ferry to fish for the Reds before they spawn in the Kenai Lake. By this time, they have matured to their red and green shades that make them so beautiful, but are still as feisty and fun as when they were first in the river. By then the meat is beginning to turn to a light pink and becomes somewhat mushy. Some people also think that the meat becomes stronger flavored, but we haven’t noticed that. However, we come here to catch and release enjoying the sport of fighting these strong, swift salmon and then let them get back to what brought them all the up the Kenai river. We met with our good friends from Texas/Oregon, Randi and Ken Ferguson for a day of fishing for fun. Of course, Ken had to show us all up and catch the most fish. They had stayed with in the park this past summer for over a month and we had a great time with them. So when they left and stopped at the Russian River Campground for a few days fishing, we decided to meet them there.
Generally after the end of July when most of the Red fishing frenzy is over, the Russian River Ferry is not very crowded so you can have a lot of fun fishing.
So this ends the 2013 RED FISHING SEASON!
We had a couple of brothers that stayed with us for a few days in June that just couldn’t say enough good things about the halibut charter service that they had used twice while here. The name of the service was Key-O’s Guide Service out of Ninilchik. They had great luck fishing with them both times.
So when Craig and the boys came up, we decided to try them out.
They have what is called a ‘6 pack’ aluminum boat called ‘Hunter’. 6 pack means that they can only take 6 people to fish on each trip. Since they already had one passenger for the trip, we sent Cody and Cary with Craig and the boys for an afternoon trip on the 22nd.
That turned out to be a great choice for the halibut trip. They actually drove down to Anchor Point to launch the boat for the fishing trip and went out into the Cook Inlet toward Mt. Iliamna. It was a beautiful day, sunny and calm. The fishing was great, each of them caught their limit of two. The smallest one was over 25 pounds and most were in the 25 to 50 pound range.
Cody caught the biggest one weighing in at 114 pounds. It took him between 20 and 30 minutes to land it in the boat.
Cary caught the next biggest one weighing in at 70 pounds.
And Brandon caught the next biggest weighing in at 50 pounds. All together they had over 400 pounds of salmon to be processed plus having a wonderful halibut fishing experience in Alaska. All of them commented on how great the Captain and the Deckhand were. When they got back to the launch area, all of the halibut had been filleted and bagged ready for them to take home.
Craig, Caleb and Brandon were busy after they got back packing, vacuum and sealing the cleaned halibut for freezing. They had over 125 pounds of cleaned and packaged when they were finished.
Two days later, we were able to get Todd and Zack on a charter with the same service and they had the same Captain and Deckhand. They too had a great time and caught their limit of halibut. The weather wasn’t as good with choppy seas and windy, thus making more difficult to keep their baits on the bottom. Thus this trip wasn’t as successful at the first had been. Although everyone caught their limit of fish, the fish were smaller only weighing in the 20 to 30 pound range. Todd and Zack were happy with their catch.
AROUND THE PARK
We had a beautiful summer! Most of the days were sunny and warm which the flowers loved. Everyone has commented how beautiful the flowers have been all summer, especially the marigold baskets that Kyra and Craig sent for mother’s day. The fireweed grew the tallest and had the longest lasting flowers that I ever remembered and they were everywhere. As you drove down the road to Homer or up to Anchorage, there were fields of vibrant pink fireweed.
The garden did well also with all the sunshine and the help of the heat cables. We actually had more cucumbers that we could eat and they were wonderful. Plus our tomatoes started ripening in mid-August, so we have been able to have fresh tomatoes for the past several weeks. We do love to have a tomato, cucumber and onion salad in Ranch dressing, Um! We also had potatoes (although they didn’t produce as well as I thought they should), lettuce, herbs, dill, green onions and spinach. As usual, we grew more that we ever used.
Our guests helped us out this summer by doing some of the physical work around the park. Zack is using his huge muscles to load gravel into the wheel barrow and add gravel along the walkways that had become thin. Ryan and Todd are helping him by leveling out the gravel as he hauls it into the thin spots.
While Jan and I were in Kansas for the wedding, Ryan and Cary replaced some dry rotted wood sheeting and the roofing on the fish shack down at the far end of the park. Later after things slowed down and the fishing was done, I tacked down the edges of the roofing so the wind wouldn’t tear it off again during the winter. Evidently, we had a strong wind during the winter and it managed to blow the roofing off the east side of the roof. It even blew some of it up in the pine tree next to the shack.
At the last of July, my sister Sally decided that she wanted to move her 5th Wheel into the park rather than to leave it in the park at the river. So Richard Pierce agreed to haul it out to the park for her. He backed it into space #7 and the boys helped to block it up permanently. So now she will be a permanent member of our park family, but will still continue helping out the food bank and the church in Soldotna as well and visiting all her friends there. We appreciate her being here because she sometimes gives us a break to be away from the park for awhile.
Our evening ritual includes cocktail time where the group gets together to share the day’s events and to relax. Pictured from the left are Craig, Brandon, Cheri, Ryan, Cody (seated), Zack and Todd. The Flemings, Vickie and Bob who are campers in the park have joined us also and then Cary is added next to Cody with Cheri and Zack with me with my back to the camera.
Jan and I had been wanting to visit the small port town of Seldovia for several years. With Sally moving into the park, it gave us the opportunity to get away for a couple of days. Seldovia is across Kachemack Bay from the port of Homer. We decided to take a tour boat over from Homer to Seldovia partially because they gave a local tour of the bay and mainly because it was the only way to get there on the Tuesday that we had a night’s reservation!
The tour turned out to be interesting. We left Homer at 10:30 in the morning and our first stop was at a really ugly outcropping of rock covered with seagulls and their leavings (Gull Island, duh!). However, a surprise on the other side of it were several kayaks watching a beluga whale. It was a rare sight and a surprise for the boat Captain also since beluga have become an endangered species and there are not many of them in the Cook Inlet
Back into town we walk down the main business area. There is a grocery store, a restaurant (we had a wonderful lunch) and a bar (they had Tangueray!). There are several curio shops around the town and a fairly large Indian facility. We had a couple of T&T’s at the bar while we were waiting to catch the 4pm boat back to Homer.
HOPE YOU ENJOYED READING ABOUT OUR SUMMER IN ALASKA AS MUCH AS WE ENJOYED DOING IT! HOPE TO SEE YOU AGAIN NEXT YEAR
JON & JAN PYLE