The pink and gold streaks of sunlight peeked through the tent where Brant Myers and his little family restlessly slept. Tent sleeping, especially in a 40 degree Alaskan summer, is not for the soft. Brant and his wife had hoped that this trip would be the release they longed for, after months of hard work, school, and non-stop busyness.
Sixteen-year-old Joanna lay curled up under 3 heavy blankets, a frown on her face even in sleep. She had been very troubled lately, with boy issues, friend issues, and just life in general.
Little Sam, only seven, was also snuggled and shivering in his sleeping bag. The normally cheerful lad had experienced more gloomy days than usual, especially since his beloved pet ferret had died.
The entire family was tired. They were cold, too, but that was just because of their location. Brant and Emily had decided two months ago that a complete break away from all of their normalcy was needed, and this trip to Alaska had amazingly presented itself just that same day. Brant’s great-uncle was a native Alaskan Inuit, tracing his lineage all the way back to when Alaska was simply a frozen wilderness with a few hunters and many, many animals.
Now, at the invitation and suggestion of Uncle Tillo, Brant had taken his family on a camping and fishing trip to Selena, a quiet wilderness “town” in central Alaska. No one was more excited about this vacation than Brant. He loved fishing, but over the past few years of corporate ladder climbing, had not been out for more than 3 or 4 times to fish even in the local lakes. Fishing had been put aside for hard, mindless electronics.
Brant opened his eyes, wide awake all of a sudden. His heart thumped faster as he realized it was time to start the day. No computers for him! He threw off the sleeping bag cover, sat up, and stepped out of the tent, making an effort to do so noisily. The family needed to be a part of this great moment. Sunrise in Alaskan wilderness! The sun was just barely peeking over the pine trees as the tent flaps opened. Everything was bathed in pink. Brant stretched and smiled. It was already a good day.
An hour later, after much sleepy dressing, preparing, and eating canned beans, the whole family had made their way down to the river and loaded into four sleek red kayaks to begin fishing. Sam and Joanna were already transformed from grumpy tired kids to excited adventurers. Emily laughed often as she helped her family get ready for a new start. Brant was quiet, but also very happy, and everyone knew it.
The kayaks swished through the water noiselessly. Fishing poles pointed to the sky in their holders. Tackle boxes bobbed atop the backs of the kayaks, lashed safely until needed. Brant’s GPS directed him toward the dark group of trees on the far end of the river, where the salmon seemed to be grouping. With a few easy strokes of the paddle, Brant turned the kayak in that direction.
The GPS knew where the fish were, but soon, it was not needed. Everyone could see silver and pink flashes in the water near the shoreline, where hundreds of salmon had bunched as they swam towards their birthplace. Many times the water burst as an excited fish leaped up to catch a bug, or to simply jump for joy. Brant’s heart raced as he prepared his line.
Salmon fishing could be tricky, because Salmon swim upwards, catching their food as they near the surface of the water. For the hook to actually stay in a salmon’s mouth, the fisherman had to jerk quickly as soon as the fishing pole showed no bend at the tip, indicating the bait had been taken. It was basically the opposite of any other kind of fishing. Brant had learned this secret from his dad and uncles, and he was a master at salmon fishing. After only a few minutes, his line’s tension ceased, and he knew a salmon had swallowed the octopus meat on the hook. With a swift sideways jerk, Brant hooked the fish, then hung on tightly, knowing the fight he was entering.
Thirty pounds of energy thrashed back and forth on the end of the hook, but the man in the red kayak hung on, letting a little line out every few moments, to keep it from breaking. As Brant played with catching the large salmon, his family cheered, and his mind went back to the early days of what Alaska must have been like.
Brave Inuit men paddled kayaks unlike the modern plastic boats of the 21st Century. Theirs were hand carved from the wood of the plentiful trees nearby. These men were not out on vacation, but hunting for food that would feed their families all year. Each man was quiet, grim, and calculating as he moved his kayak through the crystal water. They were called by many names relative to the tasks they had to perform: boat maker, seal hunter, fish finder, game tracker. The Inuit were a strong, hard people, in a dangerous, cold land. They were very good at what they did, or else they did not survive. Many salmon would be caught on this trip, and no limits were imposed because no one was governing this brave group of wilderness survivors.
Back at his task, Brant shook his head to try to clear the thoughts away, and focus on bringing in the beautiful silver prize. His arms were beginning to ache as he reeled, then released line, bringing the fish slowly closer to the kayak. Finally, the line grew slightly limp, and the fish drew alongside the red boat. Brant used his net to scoop up the large fish, and with the help of a very eager family, got the fish into the holding bin behind him. The first catch of the day! This fish would feed the group of four for many days, just as salmon had fed Brant’s ancestors over the years. What a wonderful start to a historic vacation!