Awesome: Awe inspiring. In a word Alaska is awesome. I have just finished up a four month season guiding in the Bristol Bay area of Alaska and even after four years fishing the same watersheds, after countless flights into small streams, hundreds of bears, salmon, eagles, pike, and those famous rainbows, I am still inspired.
It’s the type of country that you can’t ignore. It pervades every aspect of your senses. Overwhelms the mind, stops you in your tracks and all you can do is stare. In the morning, driving up a river through the mist and sun sometimes all I could do is laugh and laugh.
If you haven’t been there you need to go. You need to see it for yourself, see the rivers running red with sockeye. Watch the fight, the life and death struggle for survival. For those four short months before the country is once again gripped by snow and ice every plant and animal tries to get what it needs to survive. Feel the wind whip lake Iliamna into a pounding ocean. Feel the dew collected on your boat in the morning. Shove feet into frozen wading boots after the first frost. Laugh at friends, faces stained purple, for greedily eating blueberries handfuls at a time. Watch the seasons change.
In June bushes start to bud out and you’ll see the Arctic Tern arrive fresh from Antarctica. They raise their chicks on gravel bars and small islands; feed on millions of salmon smolt heading for the ocean, and then, a month and a half later, leave for Antarctica. In July you stand amazed watching many millions of bright silver Sockeye push up the Kvichak, the Alagnack, the Neknek, the Nushagak; they are headed for the exact same stretch of gravel bottom they were born in. From the air the fish are a dark band as far up and down the river as you can see. August brings the spawn and every anglers rainbow filled dreams come true. You will see what happens when so many salmon are spawning eggs visibly roll down the river, and bears are too fat from salmon to take interest in those strange upright animals waving sticks at the river. September brings death and decay. The spawning salmon complete their life cycle and die. Yet even in death there is life here. Young bears, too inexperienced to catch salmon on their own, now feast on the dead and rotting carcasses. Trout, after gorging on eggs, sit in slow water and around weed beds eating salmon flesh rolling along the bottom. This is what you will see and it is awesome.
Alaska is special, unique, irreplaceable. Alaska is a natural treasure worth more than any amount of precious metals. Yet this area of Alaska is threatened. Pebble mine, a proposed project to dig a hole miles across and thousands of feet deep all in the quest for gold, sits at the head of two pristine watersheds. News of the mineral finds have attracted greed and new claims have sprung up on nearby streams like the Kaskanak, a tributary to the Kvichak river.
For our children to have the chance to stand in awe of natures awesome power these mines must not be allowed to continue. Some environments are too precious and too fragile for such invasive consumption. Once these mines are built the Bristol Bay area will never be the same.
After spending time in Alaska enjoying the beauty, the unspoiled wilderness, pristine waters, thundering storms and tranquil sunrises I can think of no better superlative to encompass what Alaska is than awesome. And sometimes what is awesome needs a little protection from us.
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