From July 12 2009

The Alaskan Adventure - Arctic Circle, Denali Park, Fishing Trip

Hello, our website is now up-to-date. Hopefully our photo gallery will be
current within the next few weeks.

Arctic Circle and Denali Park

Why would you want to be cold, wet, buried in dust clouds, ravaged by
mosquitoes, bombarded by semis, forced to ride on loose gravel roads that had
steep 5 mile climbs? The answer: you want to go where the sun never sets...the
Arctic Circle! When you are at 66 degrees north latitude the sun will never set
on the summer solstice, June 21. To ride my bike there was my dream and goal.
Mission accomplished.

June 7, we landed in Anchorage and headed to the Arctic Circle. I had invited
all of my crazy friends to join me for such an adventure and six took me up on
it (Frank Pollari, Paul and Kelsey Scanlon, Mark Pernitz, Jeff Freidhof and
Joanne Snow). They flew into Fairbanks for 8 days of cycling. Jacky and I
picked up the rental motor home in Anchorage and drove to Fairbanks to meet
them. Jacky was our support driver and our motor home chef. Originally we had
thought that tent camping would be the best way to go but sensibility won out,
hence the motor home. Just a word to the future travelers, when you have 8
people and 8 bikes and all their gear in a motor home, it is tight. I would say
sardine tight.

Early on we made rules for the motor home. 1) Do not use the inside toilet.
Nature is your friend. 2) Only a 2 minute shower. The water supply was
limited. 3) Close the door! The mosquitoes are quick to get in. 4) Keep your
belongings sorted out because 8 people and their stuff would get pretty messy.

Everyone got along great, and many, many hours of laughing and story telling
occurred. I was very happy how well things went. Jacky was our chef and every
snack and meal was superbly balanced and everyone thought we were on a luxury
cruise. I don't know how Jacky figured our nightly beer into the Food Guide
Pyramid but she did. Thank God for her dietitian magic.

The 215 miles along the Elliot and Dalton Highways to the Arctic Circle were
fantastic. The air was clean and it was serenely quiet. The terrain was much
hillier than we expected with some of the road grades at 10 or 11% and made of
loose gravel. Only when semi trucks passed us was it dusty. We made jokes
about the speed that we had to ride to keep the mosquitoes and black flies at
bay. We called it AMS - "anti mosquito speed". Going up Gobblers Knob was very
tough. The steep grades and gravel made it impossible to reach AMS. Kelsey
said she spent more energy swatting away the mosquitoes than pedaling. I had
to agree. The most fantastic part was reaching the Arctic Circle. I almost
cried with joy. I was standing over my bicycle at 66 degrees north latitude
with my wife and 6 very close friends. Priceless!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At this moment my goal was intact and now the group came up with different
options for the balance of our trip. The ideas of going north to Prudhoe Bay,
Coldfoot and Atigun Pass were all tossed around. We all agreed to continue
riding north to Coldfoot. Another 60 miles of the Dalton Highway was well
within everyone's physical being. Also, Coldfoot has the most northern bar in
North America. Prudhoe Bay, Barrow and Deadhorse are all much more remote and
would have taken more time than we had. We had a beer in this most northern bar
and all was good.

Prior to reaching Coldfoot we stopped for a break along a beautiful river. I
decided to fish for arctic grayling. The others rode on to Coldfoot and I
caught supper. I caught my limit of 5 grayling in about 2 hours. We grilled
them along with hamburgers in the truck parking lot in Coldfoot.

Because our time was short we decided to take the motor home back towards
Fairbanks. We rode to the Chena Hot Springs and ended our cycling adventure
portion with 356 miles in 6 days. Jeff and Joanne stayed in Fairbanks and flew
back to reality the next day. The rest of us headed to Denali National Park
which is also a wonderful place to visit. Our goals were to take the camper bus
back to Wonder Lake, possibly camp at the lake, do some biking and see wildlife.
Once we found out that the mosquitoes were even more vicious at Wonder Lake than
the Arctic Circle we decided sleeping in a tent was a bad idea. We took the
5:30 am camper bus the 90 miles back to Wonder Lake. The 5 hour bus ride showed
us grizzly bears, wolves, karibou, dahl sleep and lots of rabbits. While we
were at Eilson Visitor Center Mount McKinley unveiled itself. Mt. McKinley is
not the highest mountain at 20,600 ft but it is the tallest mountain with more
face showing than any other mountain in the world. Visitors have a 1 in 5
chance of seeing the mountain because the mountain makes its own weather.
During our 30 minute bus stop the clouds cleared and Mt. McKinley appeared right
before our eyes. What a treat. Some travelers have been to Denali 3 or 4 times
and have never seen the mountain.

On June 17, we put Frank, Mark, Kelsey and Paul on the airplane and bid them
adeau. Another chapter of friendship and adventure in the books. What great
friends that helped me reach my goal of cycling above the Arctic Circle.

Some of the funniest things that were said during our Arctic Circle trip
were...Jeff Freidhoff said that "we were going to drink beer until it got dark."
Okay, but it never gets dark at the Arctic Circle in June. Frank was relieving
himself and a mosquito landed on his private parts. He contemplated which would
hurt more, the mosquito bite or the slap to get it off. Jacky and I wanted to
celebrate our arrival at the Arctic Circle with a little matrimonial privilege.
I asked the other meembers of our team for 20 minutes of private time. Mark
Pernitz asked what I was going to do with the extra 18 minutes. But, probably
the funniest thing was watching people drive up in their car and jump out to get
a picture at the Arctic Circle sign. It would only take about 40 seconds and
everyone would start doing the mosquito dance. Great memories with fantastic


Fishing Trip with John and Molly

Our son, John, and his wife, Molly, joined us for 5 days to go salmon and
halibut fishing. Jacky will reiterate my total excitement when John and Molly
accepted our invitation for an Alaskan fishing trip.

John had just returned from Iraq, after serving two terms there as a US Marine.
We are so thankful he is home and safe. As a parent the burden was lifted from
our shoulders. Now our younger son, Ross, is training for deployment to
Afghanistan this fall. Our shoulders are starting to get heavy again.

We met Molly and John at the Anchorage airport with a 30ft motor home to go
fishing. After obtaining licenses, poles and hip waders we drove to Girdwood
and tried fishing for some grayling and dahles. We caught fish and it was a
good start to the fishing trip. We were all a little nervous when we saw the
bark of a 4 inch diameter tree riddled to pieces. The claw marks told us it
was a large bear so that we needed to be careful when we were landing fish.
When the bears hear the splashing they know it is dinner time.

We had heard the red salmon were running very hard in the Russian River so the
limit was raised to 6 fish per person per day from 3. The possession limit was
set at 12 per person. We were heading to the Russian River to get some red
salmon. None of us had really fished for salmon so we were watching other
fisherman and seeing what was working. It did not take John very long before he
was pulling in 7-8# salmons. By now we had 7 fish. I started the charcoal
grill and we grilled one fish for our lunch. At the end of the day we had 16
fish total. Not bad for some rookies from Iowa. (It was combat fishing which
means that you stand almost shoulder to shoulder with the other fisherman.)

The Russian River is very clear and it was very easy to see the fish just
swimming by. The water was very chilly and swift. Jacky and Molly were
challenged by the very strong current. At times the water would splash over the
top of our waders but it was okay. Molly being shorter in stature was
challenged the most. The water swept under her feet when she had a huge salmon
on. The fish got away and Molly went under. She was completely soaked and fit
to be tied. She took a break then and just clubbed the fish in the head when
John or I would bring one in. Molly was very good at clubbing, so watch out.

Next we headed south to Homer for our halibut charter. We went 25 miles out to
sea and anchored off a ledge. 200ft down were the halibut. Our captain made
sure we all caught fish right away. He would keep tossing back our catch. He
said we needed to catch bigger ones. Jacky thought that a 15-20 pounder was a
good size fish...biggest she had ever caught. When you are halibut fishing you
are allowed only 2 fish per day so you want to get big ones. With a halibut
fish they can weigh as much as 300 or 400 pounds. After catching and releasing
4 or 5 fish our arms were getting tired from dragging these fish in. You can
compare it to trying to pull up a wet carpet.

I was lucky and I landed a 100# fish. I groaned and moaned for about 15
minutes. Molly had the second largest fish of about 35#. After 6 hours of
non-stop pulling up wet rugs from the bottom of the ocean floor we had our limit
and it yielded 115# of halibut fillets. The tide was changing and John had a
fish on. He moaned and groaned for about 15 minutes. We all thought the fish
was huge. But, because of the super strong rip tide the fish was one of our
smallest of the day. The locals call them "chickens". John was a bit
embarassed. We kept reminding him of his moaning and groaning over a "chicken".

After Homer we went clamming for razor clams at Clam Gulch. At first we were a
little slow to get the clams. But, once we figured out how to do it, we had a
frantic team effort digging for clams. We made one more trip to the Russian
River and landed 8 more salmon. In total we caught 24 big red salmon and 8
halibut. They yielded 160# of filets and we gave away 8 salmon fish to Nina
Mann who supplied us with some fishing gear. John and Molly took 4 large
coolers back to Iowa and are enjoying fresh fish anytime now.

Nina Mann not only lent us equipment but she insisted on preparing a special
meal of Alaskan King Crab for John because of his service to our country.
Everyone in Alaska really appreciated the efforts of our soldiers.

I hope the fishing trip for John and Molly was as enjoyable for them as it was
for Jacky and I. We loved our shared time together.

Currently we are in Whitehorse, Canada and surviving the challenges of the
Yukon. Stay tuned for the next e-group.

Ward and Jacky