Ninilchik was a good place to go for a walk this weekend, at least -- that was the conclusion that many visitors who toted rods and reels or clam guns and buckets were likely to be heard saying on Sunday.
Thermometers hovered at comfortable temperatures for the final weekend of May and a blue plaster ceiling hung overhead, pock marked by floating white clouds.
In campgrounds, the smell of woodsmoke and barbecues soaked the air. A generator or two could be heard purring in the background, largely drowned out by the sounds of conversation, laughter and chirping birds.
Anglers were trying their luck on the Ninilchik River and Deep Creek. Each opened for the first time this season on Saturday.
The tea colored Ninilchik was flowing easily within its banks. Looking up and downstream from the Sterling Highway, anglers could be seen at nearly every bend flogging the water, though there was plenty of elbow room to be had.
A few kings had been reported as moving through; anglers said only a few had actually been landed on Sunday.
Todd Kim, 35, and Zach Jackson, 12, of Anchorage, were fishing at a bend just upstream of the highway bridge around noon.
Kim said they came down on Thursday to stay ahead of the traffic rush pushing out of the city on Friday.
He said that he'd hooked into a steelhead, and foul hooked two kings, kicking them back as a result, but that was the extent of the action they'd personally seen over the weekend.
Across town, Deep Creek was living up to its name.
The river was about the color of an iced coffee, running fast, furiously and, yes, deep.
Enar Andersson, 11, of Anchorage, was doing some practice casts, throwing a pink pixee into the roiling muddy water with his grandfather just below the highway bridge.
The two were waiting for the tide to move back in and hopefully push another shot of fish through.
Andersson said he's never caught a king, but was hoping maybe by the end of the weekend that would change.
One of the nice things about the Ninilchik area is that if the fish aren't biting, you can usually go dig up a few clams at the area beaches.
Clammers this weekend, however, were finding they had to work extra hard for anything sizeable.
That didn't stop the crowds from making their way down to the waterline.
From afar, the beach at Deep Creek looked like a typical summer oceanside scene.
Cars packed the dusty gravel lot while throngs of silhouettes could be seen spread out under the towering sandy bluffs.
But despite the warm weather, revealing beach outfits were nowhere in sight; clamming is, after all, dirty work.
Veronica Morgan and Levi Herrell along were taking Koby, 3, and Braylon, 5, on their first clam digging adventure.
"We won't be having clam chowder tonight," Herrell said. They'd only found small clams. "I wanted to show the boys what clamming was all about and get away from city life for the weekend."
Famished clammers and anglers had only to make a short drive or walk to the Ninilchik Fairgrounds for blueberry or buttermilk pancakes with eggs, bacon or sausage on the side.
Ninilchik Emergency Services was hosting their annual pancake breakfast fundraiser Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
The event is the organization's biggest moneymaker of the year, according to Madeline Thompson, who was running the show for the weekend.
Thompson has been volunteering at the event for the past eight years, but said it takes about 60 people to pull it off.
This year was a bit slower than it has been in years past, she said.
"The fishing's slow and the clams are small, but they're loving the weather," she said. "We're still having people coming in but it's definitely down from last year."
The breakfast is ongoing today at the fairgrounds from 7 a.m. to noon. The cost is $9 for adults, $5 for children 5 to 12 years old. Children under 5 are free.
Dante Petri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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