Thursday, July 14, 2011


Be sure to check Donna's blog as she gets more pictures posted. They can be clicked on and made larger so you can actually SEE something! :-) Thanks, Donna! ~LL

Martin Autrey

"Livin' the dream! Alaskaaaaah!" as David said repeatedly as we spent the week of July 3-9 together at the Big Sky Charter and Fishcamp on the Kenai River in Sterling, Alaska. My parents, their four children and spouses and three granddaughters.

This was to celebrate with Dad for his 80th birthday coming up this year. Eighty! And yet, even at 79 years old, we fished with him on the river and on the ocean for days on end, and had a lot of fun. Yep, Dad's a go-er! But we already knew that. Dad's birthday is in December, but it's hard to fish for salmon and halibut in Alaska in December. July seemed the better option. Thanks, Donna, for making such great arrangements for us all!!

Here are some photos and narration. Enjoy!

Clockwise from top left: Mike and David. The inside and outside of the "Hacienda of Happy Jose" where we stayed. Playing Horse shoes.

What a great area! Kenai Penninsula and the Kenai river are just gorgeous. The river is of glacier water and is so blue and . . . indescribably beautiful! And my pictures don't do it justice. We stayed in two cabins. The Hawaiian Hut was the other one. Our cabin had the food and a better equipped kitchen and a big picnic table on the porch, so we ate meals all together most days. It was so green everywhere, too. Above is the scene from our camp overlooking the river, me standing near the river (no mosquito bites!), Mike helping in the office or Lodge. They were cleaning clams--over 300--when we got there and checked in, so he just dug right in and helped. Robert in the kitchen. Small, but more than adequate supplies for us to have yummy meals. The last picture on the bottom right is the river again, with a boat motoring down. There was very little traffic in our area of the river. Few boats, few kayaks, few seaplanes coming and going.

Below: Grandma Autrey with the three girls who were lucky enough to come with their folks. The view of just sittin' around the campfire--right off our front porch! Minnow-dipping in the shallows of the river. Back-side of Grandma and the girls. The girls modeling the chic river fashion--waders! Lower left: Dad and Rob.

Below, clockwise from top left: Girls with minnows. Sittin' 'round the campfire. Rob's family with Mom and Dad on the porch. Silhouette of Donna Fishing from shore. Rob giving his daughter instructions on casting. She got REALLY good at it and caught on right away. Lower left: Mike wading in the river to retrieve a snag. That I cast. Nice of him, huh? He got wet over the waders and came in with wet everything. That is one FAST river and very cold. You'd likely die if you fell in, and Mike was right at the edge of the shallow area. Just beyond him is a very deep channel.

I was VERY impressed with the wildflowers all over. Daisies were my favorites, although there were many varieties. The iris is just one that was near the fishing boat launch. Day one of fishing garnered a nice catch that we ate that night. King Salmon. We had a fellow on our boat with me and Mike and Donna who caught a 42 lb King Salmon. Mike's was considerably smaller (in spite of what the photo may make you think). And yes, Donna in the red coat is [pretending to] kiss her fish. The guide really DID kiss the fish. And so did Donna's daughter later that evening! Ick. We all had wonderful fishing guides who took great care of us. They are very knowledgeable and competent and tolerated our weird sense of humor. Like my "HEEEEERE, FISHY, FISHY, FISHY, FISHY, FISHY!!!!!!!" call along the river. Truly. Must have worked. I caught my limit.
Below, clockwise from left. Bait. It's salmon eggs that have been treated. Bald eagles near river edge as we were passing in the boat. One adult, two youngsters, a couple of seagulls (there were millions of those birds!!) and a magpie. This was the grassy area. We learned all the river area names: Eagle Rock, The Crossing, Mud Flats, The Island, The Bridge, Beaver Landing, etc. Fun stuff.
On Wednesday the 6th, all but David (who took a sight-seeing flight instead) went on the Kenai Fjords Glacier Tour. Lovely Tour boat that held 150. Mom and Dad, top left. "Marathon Mt" in background with a bald eagle perched on a harbor post in foreground. Ice bergs of varying degrees of soil content. They do move a lot of earth. Bottom right, skipping rocks on Fox Island after our dinner break. Lower left, Touching a piece of iceberg that was netted and brought aboard.

Below, top left going clockwise: The pinnacles. Approaching the Glacier. Me and Mike on deck enjoying the sunshine and the views. A view on our drive to Seward to catch the boat. Bottom center is PEOPLE approaching the glacier on the black sandy beach area. They were close to it--close enough to touch it. They are very tiny because that glacier is very VERY big!! The captain told us the numbers, but I don't remember. It's big. It's noisy, active and we watched as it creaked and cracked and popped noisily and dropped chunks into the sea. Amazing and spectacular.

One of the days, Rob his family and others went to town and visited a gold-panning operation. Who should they see there but Karl Malone! [Utah Jazz fans may remember him;o)...] So Rob had his picture taken with the big guy. Rob's not much shorter, you will note. Center top picture below is the biggest King Salmon caught by our fishing group--by DAD! 46 pounds. My 40 pounder is pictured right below. Quite a feat for inexperienced me, considering our boat was stuck on a gravel bar in the middle of the river while I was trying to reel the monster in! We put on quite a show for everyone nearby, from what I hear. But I wouldn't know. My eyes never left the rod or the line. I guess it paid off, as I didn't lose it in all the hubbub of rocking, pushing, jumping, shouting, splashing, shoving, etc. trying to get the 20 foot boat un-stuck from the gravel bar and back on the river. The boat propellers needed a little filing after THAT fiasco!
Another catch of the day was a pair of sunglasses. They are pictured on the nose of the big fish. And the pink stuff in the tray are salmon eggs, harvested from one of the female salmon caught. They treat them and use them for bait. That's only one HALF of the eggs she had!

We went Halibut fishing from the ocean off of Homer on Friday the 8th. THAT was exciting! The launch was interesting and original--via tractor! We all caught halibut. Dad's was the biggest. The fish must have known it was his birthday or something. Some of us brought up a ray-like animal called a skate from the bottom. They are tiring, but no good to keep, so it is a lot of wasted effort. Our captain was great. His crew member tried hard, but had a bit of a potty mouth AND he let Donna's big one get away right as she reeled it up to the boat. The weather was great and we were out for hours, but it didn't seem like it. They motored us out to sea for about 1 hour. We fished on glassy-smooth seas. We motored back in and it was late and cold. The captain let his crew drive (sail? motor?) back to the harbor and the captain stayed out on the freezing deck and fileted the fish all out for us on the ride back. We didn't get back to camp until 10 pm or so and were so tired! And COLD!! Some of us had worn tennis shoes that were soaked on the wet deck.


Then we had to get up early the next morning for our last day on the river. We took two girls this time, as Donna had her limit and someone else sat out. I don't have pictures of that posted yet. They may come later. The gals (except 1) took a float trip to see wildlife. It was a fun raft experience. I have seen enough bald eagles now to last me the rest of my life. They are beautiful and elegant and I love them. But I will not need to attend any more "Eagle Watch" days sponsored by the fish and game people.

Mike and I and Rob's family left for the airport on Sunday morning. We'd planned to spend the night in Provo with them when we returned from Anchorage, but since it was only 9 pm, we just drove on home. Our 50 lb box of salmon and halibut was still frozen solid when we got it to our freezer at 12:15 a.m. on Monday. Good thing I had Monday off from work!

This picture below was one I took on my way to bed the last night there. It was midnight. No special was just that light at 11:57 pm. Cool.

What a fun trip! Thanks, family, for a great time!!

{Things I didn't include: the food, the wildlife we DID see, the lack of mosquitos, the fishing techniques we learned about, the limits and regulations of the industry there, Homer, Soldotna, the attire on our rafting trip, rapids, water clarity, the tilting accommodations, the host, the young hired help, the guides, the outhouse, the temperatures and weather, my new knowledge about winter time ice floods, aluminum docks and what they do, tractor "docking" of our boat, massive tides....and more. Sorry the pictures are small. If you REALLY need to see them, I can help. I have them all organized by days on and am more than willing to share.}


Katie and Casey said...

OH how fun! And yes you need to make the pictures LARGER. Wish we could have made it. Love and miss you guys!

Hali said...

What a trip! Glad you had a good time :-)

Suzanne said...

Those are some HUGE fish! Looks like such a great time. So nice you got to do that together. FYI - when you click on the photos they don't get much bigger. :(

Linda Liebhardt said...

I know the pictures are tiny, and I'm sorry. But look on York and you can see them MUCH bigger. Ask me how. Or check Donna's blog and she'll have many of the same ones posted, I'm sure. And she'll make them bigger:-)