I’m not a waves on the beach or sun on the sand kind of girl, I’m a wildflowers in the breeze and snowy mountain peaks kind of soul and adventure is always forefront in my mind.
Cooper Landing, Alaska: population 289. I’ve always lived in a small town in a house surrounded by forest, but all of that time still doesn’t compare to the two summers I have called the minuscule town of Cooper Landing my home. Residing in a town that boasts a total of 289 people has given me endless possibilities to get out and experience the raw, natural side of this Earth! While in Alaska my primary priority is my job at the Eagle Landing Resort as the “maid” for lack of a better term. However I have also been able to rack up quite the abundance of unforgettable experiences in my off time and I’d love nothing more than to share them with the rest of the blogging world! If nothing else I hope that some of these experiences will encourage you to venture out and see more of the world, especially Alaska!
All experiences aside my most favorite part of traveling to this state is the lovely scenery. It is so different from anywhere else I’ve been and it never ceases to amaze me. I can honestly say that I leave a piece of my heart among the mountains every time I return to Michigan. I’m convinced that that it’s impossible for me to go that long without returning to the kind of terrain that with one look can humble your very existence! When my eyes aren’t glued to the peak-speckled skyline, they’re fixed on the Fireweed that grows in abundance here! Fireweed is without a doubt one of my absolute favorite plants! It has gorgeous purple flowers and the leaves on it turn a dark red color. I have taken countless pictures of this gorgeous flower and even purchased seeds from a local grocery store so that I can try my hand at raising some fireweed back in Michigan. One of my favorite pictures is one I took next to a fireweed plant that is about a head taller than me. This is my aunt’s least favorite picture because one of the old wives tales in Alaska is that the snow will be as tall as the fireweed the following winter.
The animals that call Alaska home also seem so unique to me. I have lost track of the number of eagles I see here; at least every few days there will be an eagle or two perched on the pine trees that line the river bank by our dock. I know I’m supposed to be grateful for this, but I’m actually pretty bummed that I didn’t experience any bear run-in’s this year. The last time I stayed my Aunt, my friend Jeremy and I parked in a pull off and walked to the edge of the small cliff to look for bear. We were lucky enough to spot a Sow with two cubs right below us playing in the river. However our luck turned right about the time the three bears decided to climb the cliff to where we stood. We were able to make it to our car before the bears reached us, but our motor blew up and we couldn’t go anywhere, the mother bear was probably about 100 feet in front of us and we were all so scared! The closest hair-raising animal experience I had this summer was with a Momma moose and her twin calves. One day this July, while I was folding laundry in the garage I heard my aunt yelling at her dog in the driveway, I began to head out the garage door to see what the commotion was about, but came one step short of being plowed down by a galloping baby moose. I couldn’t believe how close I was to being trampled and secondly couldn’t believe that something that large could be referred to using the term “baby”! We watched the young moose run through the resort before finally swimming across the river. A few short hours later I was walking the trails to the next cabin I had to clean, the cabin furthest back in the woods to be more specific, and halfway to the cabin I came face to face with a full grown momma moose! She was humongous! A little bigger than a very large Clydesdale horse would be my guess. I was pretty scared because I have heard more than a few news stories of individuals being trampled to death by angry moose. By the way if you ever come across a moose in your travels you can avoid death by stomping moose by moving behind a tree. The moose are unable to make that tight of a turn so all you have to do is continue to circle the tree until the moose gives up on the chase and tah-dah you’re home free! Anyways, we left the momma alone and went back to work, but a little later another baby moose ran through camp calling to its mother. It ran down the drive and stopped directly in front of my cabin, which was great for pictures. Shortly after we saw the mother moose again, this time joined by both of her little ones! It was such an eventful day, but the best part was seeing that their little moose family was back together and making their way deeper into the woods.
I was super happy for the moose to get back to their happy lives unharmed, but I’m sorry to say that I did not contribute to making the same peace a reality for Alaska’s salmon! Ok, I’m not that sorry because I can finally cross fly-fishing in Alaska off my bucket list! The day after the river opened for fishing this season my friends Jason and Tyg, both of whom are fishing guides in Cooper Landing, took my boss, Barb, and I out for a full day of fly-fishing! It was incredible! We spent seven hours on the river and left with a total of seven fish, two of them were caught by yours truly! We saw eight eagles while we were out and even snuck some trout fishing in there between salmon holes. It was such a fun experience and I did not realize how much you have to fight to land a Sockeye (Red Salmon), the first fish I caught I hooked and landed myself, but the second one was hooked by Jason and I just reeled it in. Fly-fishing on the Russian River is certainly something I would do again given the chance and I would encourage anyone visiting the state to take the time to fish a little too!
The nice thing about my job is that not only does it give me the opportunity to enjoy all these wonderful animals and the surrounding nature every day, but it also gives me the chance to meet people from all over the world!
Around Memorial Day a couple, Al and Beatrice, stayed for a few days and were both so sweet that we invited them to join us for dinner one night! We chatted about their lives, past travels, future endeavors, etc. and were quite surprised when one of their travel retellings ended in a show and tell of the printed pictures they happened to have in their coat pocket. We thought that was an odd thing to carry in your coat pocket, but were even more surprised to find that they were pictures from the couple’s trip to a resort in Jamaica called Hedonism. If you’ve followed the link you can imagine why I was slightly taken aback at the sight of their pictures, if you didn’t click the hyperlink then just know that it is one of the top nudist resorts in Jamaica and even the photos were quite “clothing optional”. Nevertheless Al and Beatrice were some of the sweetest and most down to earth people I met all summer, they shared some inspiring stories with me that I will never forget! Another inspiring couple I met this summer was the Jacobs! I got the opportunity to drive them to the local liquor store and while we talked in the car I learned that they currently live in the states, but moved here just three years ago all the way from South Africa! The woman had been offered a new position in the states with her job and like a truly admirable adventurer she took it! They packed up and moved to America and now travel all over the United States and Canada! I thought that was so cool and it really motivated me to continue to work towards my dreams of traveling the world!
On the other hand some of the guests here this summer are people I consider old friends, I very much anticipated the visit of my two friends Dan and Colby this summer! Both, Dan and Colby are people I met the last time I was in Alaska and who I will always call my good friends! I was also excited for the arrival of my boss’s good friends Bob and Judy; I met them during my last summer here and was so excited to see them again because honestly they are just a hoot and a half! This year Bob stayed at Eagle Landing twice, the first time he brought his grandson Cody and we talked him into jumping into the river! This is always good fun because the Kenai River is flowing with glacial waters that will seriously freeze your tush! The funniest part of the whole ordeal was after he jumped a guide floated by and shouted to Cody “You’re not impressing any ladies any time soon!”
Later in the summer I continued my tradition of jumping in the Kenai by joining a group of men that drunkenly decided to take a little Kenai dip! We tested the river that day and it was a balmy 38 degrees when we jumped in, which shockingly felt warmer than the last time I took the plunge!
I was rather excited to experience certain events that I did not have the opportunity to enjoy on my last trip. For example the annual Regatta Boat Race this June. This is a fun little competition among the local fishing guides to see who can row their boat down the river from one point to another the fastest, it’s meant as an exercise to get the guides in quick shape for the season. All of the participants started at our dock and most, if not all, of Cooper Landing came down for a cookout hosted by Eagle Landing this year! It was really nice to meet so many new people and cheer on my friend Jason, as he competed in the race. I also had the pleasure of hiking the Russian River trail to the Russian River falls. Once you reach the falls you can watch the salmon fight against the stream as they try to make their way back up the falls to their birth place where they will spawn and die. It is a truly incredible feat and crazy to watch the vast amount of fish that try so hard complete the journey!
I still can’t believe that I only have three short days left to soak up the beauty of this place! I plan to make the most of them and will miss this Last Frontier dearly when I leave. I seriously hope that in this lifetime everyone finds a place that makes their heart smile and their soul feel at ease, just as Alaska does for me, but you won’t ever find it from the cushion of your couch! Get out and explore!