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 Carol and Dick Stewart are full-time RVers from California and have been on the road for over 7 years in a 40 foot Fortravel Unihome. They are very good friends and you probably recognize their names because we have included articles from them in our old newsletter and in our book, Movin' On. They are spending the summer of 2001 touring Alaska for the second time. 
 Our Kenai Adventure---Part 1
By Carol & Dick Stewart
So we are at the mouth of the Kenai River, the river that sports the largest salmon ever caught in fresh water.  And believe me, most of the world is here trying to catch the next biggest fish.  Anglers stood, up to last week, shoulder to shoulder, hoping for the big one or at least enough fish to get them through the winter.  It is just as much a frenzy as it is for the salmon to go up the river to spawn and die; the fishermen on shore and in little 3-4 man float boats are so close to each other that this is often called "combat fishing" or "orchestrated fishing" or "synchronized fishing,"  License plates are from all over the country, and many folks have flown into Anchorage and then rent a motor home to come down here for a week or so.  Many get their daily and season limit within a week, and the over load is given to non fishing tourists like us just so they can keep fishing.  Once the fish hit fresh water they do not feed, but their hormones are raging and so are the fish.  They will bite at a lure as though they are angry at the disturbance, rather like road rage, only this is river rage. A fisherman must hook a fish; sometimes a hook will grab a fish on the fin or tail; these fish must be returned to the river.  Only natives may gaff a fish; and only natives may net fish.  And that's what we have been watching from our campsite perched about 100 feet high on a bluff overlooking the river's entrance to the ocean. 

The natives use a dip net; that is a hoop about one yard round or square with a light nylon net on a pole about 20 long.  From dawn (now 5:30 ) to dark (now 10:30), they come in two's and three's (usually man and woman with a child or two, or father and a son or two, or two men) caring the net on a pole, and a blue picnic cooler, the largest size available.  Some carry the box between them; others have fancy riggings with wheels on one end, some use a hand truck to wheel the box out to the shore.  These wheels are helpful when leaving the shore to bring out the heavy box loaded with cleaned fish.   They do not bring ice; the cool (50-60 degrees) air keeps the fish until arriving home.  We see only small bags or coolers with lunches in them, but this is not picnic time.  This is work, and there's no stopping for fun.  One fisherman, wearing warm under clothing, and a complete body suit with waders, goes into the water usually waist to chest deep, and stands with the net under water totally extended from the fisherman.  The partner waits on shore to help bring in the fish and clean it.  They seem to catch a fish about every half hour.  We cannot tell whether they actually aim the net to catch the fish, or it is just blind luck.  We think it is blind luck. But about six hours later, they drag out the cooler full, some anyway, or leave with just a fish or two.  Some tent camp all night; some come at dawn; others in the late afternoon.  But there is a constant parade of vehicles, usually a big van, new truck, or a large SUV; these folks are not poor; they are just adding to their freezer found dinners.  They will add the fish to their moose catch for the year.  This is serious work and we marvel as they stand in gusting winds, cold arctic water, and only sunlight, no sunshine, to continue this activity.  It seems it is like the fish; it's in their genes. 

And so this is Kenai. Big tides; fast food, tackle everywhere, full campgrounds where there is fishing.  Ours changes each day with "look and see" tourists.  Most of the folks in this campground do not fish.  And we are losing daylight--5 minutes a day.  We're spoiled with so much daylight; it makes for friendly places and doing much more than sleeping.  Now I said day light, not to be confused with sunshine.  The sun only shines intermittently for 5 minutes or so, just to encourage us, but it does not shine long nor often. 

The sun was out for this area's holiday called Progress Days.  How they ever came up with that, I don't know, but there was a parade that lasted for 1 hour, 45 minutes.  There were the usual fire trucks and kiddie schools, but this town has horses and the largest and oldest entry of all-- dashounds, known as the travelin' weenies. They had come from as far as Anchorage and there were at least 50 of them.  What a hoot! 

Speaking of Anchorage, we enjoyed this very busy, very torn up (with road construction) town with it's museums, a native center that is rather posed Disney style, but informative, some fine foods, an evening show, and of course shopping to replenish the refrig and other household products. We are tourist shopped out; tee shirts have no appeal, and fireweed jelly is just one more item to drag home. But Anchorage is quick to serve the shopper; tourists come with their film to be printed, and bush folks fly in to shop, have their goods shrink wrapped and air dropped for 20 per cent of purchase price. Way to go Wal-Mart, K Mart, and everyone else. There is a rather sparse and plain Nordstrom's and a JC Penny that has heavy sweaters and jackets. These stores are downtown in the 5th Aveune mall along with about 15 other tourist stores. 

Even the book store sells only a few books beyond the usual Alaska titles. We are getting pretty good at knowing which ones these are, and we are reading like fury about bush pilots, where should the capitol be (oh, yes, folks it is still an open question, rather like Canada's Quebec), and stories of bush homesteaders. Some are self published, but they are the best souvenir for the buck. 

We will return to this city and the local best large grocery, Fred Meyers, when we turn back from Homer, and stock up on low items to get us to Whitehorse.  We will not return to Fairbanks; it is off the beaten southeastern path.