In my July 2018 column, I described my first halibut-fishing adventure, in which I thought I had caught the biggest fish in the ocean. (It turned out to be the bottom of the ocean).
So, when I went to Alaska this summer, I hoped for a sequel—one that included more fish and less bottom-of-the-ocean.
However, it wasn’t meant to be. While I didn’t come back from Alaska with a fish—catching a halibut remains on my bucket list—I do have a story.
The morning I had set aside for fishing dawned bright and early—as in 4 a.m. early—and with Kansas-force winds.
The chilly breeze made the sea choppy, and the water appeared rough, even from shore. That same wind made canoeing to our fishing boats a nearly 45-minute task.
Once everyone was on board, we began the journey across the bay to our fishing spot. The wake of the boat in front of us, combined with the choppy waters, made for an unnerving ride. The swells only grew larger the farther we got from shore, and about a mile in, 3-foot waves crashed around us. Our boat rocked and swayed like a beach ball over each crest.
At that point, our captain decided to turn around. There was no way he would let down an anchor in those rough waters. Despite my disappointment, I relished the thought of getting off the choppy sea. I have a healthy respect for the ocean, and it certainly wasn’t treating us any too kind that morning.
When we neared shore, we could not maneuver the boats close enough to the beach, so we took off our shoes and socks, rolled up our pants and jumped into the chilly Alaskan water and waded back to the beach without ever letting down a line.
Since I don’t have a fish story to report, I’ll conclude with a hiking story. Mount Roberts is one of the more accessible mountains in Juneau, located downtown and popular with tourists who take a tram to a lookout point above the city. Forgoing the tram option, some friends, family and I chose to hike up Mount Roberts on a trail that gained nearly 1,800 feet of elevation in 2 miles. There wasn’t really a flat portion of the trail—every 5½ feet, we gained a foot of elevation—and I found myself focusing on my very next step as I climbed over tree roots and around rocks. Looking ahead sometimes felt overwhelming with the height yet to climb, and looking back didn’t get me very far either. I likely would have tripped. It was best to focus my attention on my very next step and enjoy the beautiful scenery around me.
Climbing with purpose and a destination in mind gave me courage to keep going when the trail was steep, and the sense of accomplishment I felt upon reaching the tram station was indescribable. We hiked a little farther to a lookout point with a cross, from which we could see downtown Juneau, the cruise ships at the docks below and on down the channel as far as the airport. The views were breathtaking.
When we returned to the tram station, we each made $10 worth of purchases in the gift shop, allowing us a “free” ride down the mountain on the tram.
I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I’d definitely do it again. Maybe I’ll go again next year, and take another stab at fishing, too.