Posted by Jeff Arrington
Southeast Alaska is one of the most beautiful areas in the state by far.
I've had the opportunity to visit several times and I'm always Stoked to
go back. It seems to always stay the same, quiet and untouched by the
madness of the lower 48.
Map from the Wiki
When it comes to my AK trips, all you need are the basics. A couple changes of clothes, set of sheets etc. Just the real necessities. My first experience, I brought WAY too much stuff! The place where I stay is a cabin on the coast of the Icy Straits in Excursion Inlet Alaska, just off the Lynn Canal about 50 miles from Glacier Bay. The Icy Straits are the passage the Cruise ships take to get to Glacier Bay National Park, the place made famous by John Muir the explorer.
I've been a fisherman since childhood, growing up in Utah and spending a lot of time in the outdoors of Summit County. I fished a lot on the Weber River, just below Rockport Reservoir. It's an awesome catch and release river for German Brown trout.
I try to time the Alaska trips for August because the fishing options are best then. I've been here in June to try and catch the King Salmon run but got skunked. You never know exactly when the runs will be. In August you will find Great Salmon fishing with the Silver Salmon, Pink and Chum running sometime during the first part of the month. And Halibut fishing is always really good. Besides the fishing, Alaska with a camera can't be beat. The photographic opportunities are endless. Sometimes the light can be challenging as it's cloudy and rainy most of the time but hey, it's Alaska! I rock the Canon 7D just because of trips like this being it is a rugged body and will take some serious abuse. (believe me I've put it to the test) I pack light so I can bring back fish, and everything I bring as far as camera gear goes in one backpack. I sport the Dakine Sequence backpack because of the awesome protection it provides. It's a little on the heavy side, but worth the safety of your stuff.
I had a smooth flight leaving from Boise, Idaho. Flew out of Boise because the flights were cheap, and totally got profiled by the TSA after they X-rayed the Hell out of me. Must be the hair. Had a quick stop in Seattle, then on to Juneau. This time, I took another short 20 minute flight to the airport in Gustavas as that is where I was being picked up for the boat ride to my home away from home. It's a smooth 30 minute ride by boat to the cabin. They've built a sweet new dock at Gustavus with Ferry access and a road for trucks and taxi service to pick you, or cargo up and to get people over to Bartlett Cove. And then maybe on to Glacier Bay National Park.
The cabin was built in the late 90's from a log kit purchased in Idaho, and then shipped to the location. Everything comes into this area by boat because of the remoteness and if you don't have something you need you get it from Juneau, Gustavus or Hoonah. It's a comfy three bedroom place with a nice sitting/dining room just off the kitchen. The best part is the covered porch that spans the front of the place with lots of chairs for reading, relaxing and conversation. Late at night you can watch the Cruise ships headed up the strait to Glacier Bay. On a clear day you can see the Fairweather Mountain Range where some of Jeremy Jones' movie "Deeper" was filmed.
We had some Bears hanging around the place this year, but they can be avoided if your careful. I got this shot from the front porch of the cabin.
One of the perfect situations with this spot is the fish camp next door called Doc Warner's. It's a "self guided" fish camp that is really a unique experience for the patrons. They help us out a ton with fish processing and storage. (they have a walk-in freezer) If you've ever considered a fishing trip to Alaska, or just want to try something different from what you've already experienced, you should definitely check out Doc's place.
There are tons of things to do around Excursion Inlet, as long as you have a boat. Just across the Icy strait, about 45 minutes by boat is the town of Hoonah. Over the years we've watched the place change from a small fishing community (which it still is) to a regular stop for the Cruise ships. They have built a nice docking area where the cruisers can buy gifts and local art as well as get something to eat or take a trip down the "longest zip-line in the World." (I did the zip-line, it's worth it for sure!) There's a hardware store and grocery next to each other if you need supplies. A nice docking area for your boat, and such.
The Salmon fishing was epic. The Silver's were running as were the Pink's. They are schooled up this time of year and when you see them on the finder you better get ready for some fun! I put a little time-lapse together from some pics I got with a GoPro off the back of the boat.
There is a stretch we call the "home front" that is good and productive, but we had to dodge the Seiners quite a bit this year. Hey, they have to eat too. They were leap-frogging each other down the coast, so we just stayed outside of them and did really well.
The Halibut fishing was a little slow, and we had to work at it pretty hard but there's nothing better than fresh Alaska Halibut. We where on a drift one day up the inlet, as the tide was slack, and heard a large rock slide somewhere above us in the Chilkat Range. Kinda spooky. I find it interesting how some spots you come to rely on fail to produce and others are good. That's one of the reasons I love this stuff, always a challenge.
Up the inlet from the cabin is an Ocean Beauty fish processing plant. If you need fuel or propane, this is the place. This time of year they are pretty busy with all the Seiners bringing in there catch for processing. It's fun to poke around the place, being there is a lot of history surrounding it. During World War II it was a prisoner of war camp. There are lots of old buildings that are still in use as quarters for the workers and such. I've flown into their airport a couple of times from Juneau (it's a dirt road with lights) to get to the cabin.
Just at the end of the airstrip is a road that takes you to Lake Neva. It's about a 2 mile hike to the lake, but well worth the effort. You have rain forest on both sides of the road with lots of side trails going in to the forest or down to the river coming from the lake. It's a great place to spend an afternoon for sure. At the base of the Chilkat Mountain Range, Lake Neva is one of the lakes in the area where the Salmon go to spawn. At the outlet, the Alaska Fish and Game have a fish counting station that looks like a small one room neoprene house built over the water.
I spoke with one of the managers who told me they have under water cameras that take pictures of the Salmon as they enter the lake from the river. At the time of our conversation there were 6,938 spawning fish in Lake Neva.
Southeast Alaska is an amazing place to experience wildlife. On a daily basis you can experience Whales, Sea Lions, Sea Otters, Bears, Eagles and other Birds.
It ends too soon
This year we were the last flight out of Gustavus for the season as we left to come home. I'm always sad to leave, but I know I'll be back because once you experience Alaska you can't stay away. That's it for this year but I'm sure we saved lots of things to do and experience next time. Seriously, It's ALASKA!
I Love this place.