It's Memorial Day weekend, and here on the Kenai Peninsula, the kids are out of school, fish are in the rivers and it's time for us to get under way with our summer.
But before everyone hits the Peninsula's roads, trails, beaches and waterways, we ask that you take a moment to make sure you've taken the appropriate safety precautions. With the bright sun and pleasant weather, it's tempting to rush out to the next adventure. But midstream is not the time to find out that the life jackets are missing; miles from the trail head is not the place to discover that the first-aid kit has not been restocked.
And, most importantly, dealing with the increase in traffic is definitely not the time to lose your focus or your cool.
As anyone who has been here for a summer or two knows, the roads are about to get a lot busier. Not only has construction season ramped up, there are going to be more vehicles passing through, with visitors from all over the state and, indeed, the rest of the world coming to explore the Kenai Peninsula. Patience and courtesy will go a long way toward getting everyone safely to their destination.
That destination, for many, will be somewhere by the water, where we will be fishing for salmon, halibut, trout and anything else that will rise to a fly or strike a lure. If you're headed to one of the salmon openings on the southern Peninsula, combat fishing rules apply -- wear glasses to protect your eyes from flying hooks and sinkers, and be cautious along the bank. You know it will be crowded; if you go, make sure you're prepared to enjoy the environment, and show some courtesy to your fellow anglers.
If you're headed out on the water, make sure your boat and gear are in good working order. The Coast Guard Auxiliary is ready to help; they'll be conducting vessel safety checks today at River and Sea Marine from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. There were too many drowning deaths on the Peninsula last summer; let's try to avoid that heartache this year.
If you're camping for the weekend, be aware that the same conditions that make the weekend enjoyable for us have made the wildfire risk high. Camp cooking fires have not been banned, but the state Division of Forestry urges caution, and recommends that a fire not be ignited in dry, windy conditions.
If you're out in the wilderness, which on the Peninsula is just out your front door, be aware that Alaska's larger animals are out and about too, and they're likely to be more ornery than usual. Bears have awakened from their long winter nap and are hungry. Moose and caribou are entering their calving seasons and will be extra aggressive in protecting their young. Keep your distance -- a photo isn't worth a trip to the emergency room.
Lastly, if you are out on the roads, keep all of your attention focused on driving. Turn off the cell phone, don't worry about the radio or the MP3 player. The death toll on our roads over the past few years has been way too high.
And if you've been drinking, please, don't drive. There's sure to be plenty of celebrating this weekend, but the last thing we want is for it to end in tragedy.
In short: The holiday weekend should be a fun one. Taking a few moments to make sure you're prepared -- and prepared to be safe -- goes a long way toward ensuring it turns out that way.