Now that summer is over, I find myself spending a lot of time thinking back on how I could have done things differently. I should have done more hiking. I should have gone camping more. I should have taken a road trip to Denali.
It seems like every summer I end up with a bunch of big plans that never quite pan out. Last summer, for example, some friends of mine and I were determined to take a big canoe trip down the Swanson River. But each weekend, things just
didn't quite come together. Either scheduling conflicts with work or a wedding or dipnetting always ended up thwarting our plans.
One time we even got as far as strapping two canoes to the top of a truck before we realized only two of us were actually free to go. That weekend, everyone kept asking us why we kept eating our meals out of a cooler.
It's not that I regret how my summer went. After all, I was either golfing or fishing pretty much every day between June and August. I was even fairly successful at both, although probably less than most people -- unless most people also lost two rods, 341 golf balls and broke five clubs.
The problem with summer in Alaska is that there's simply too many things to do, places to see and events to attend. Despite the fact that you're always doing something, it always seems like there's three more things that you miss.
I mean, I've lived here pretty much my entire life, and I've never even been to all the national parks on the Kenai Peninsula. Of Alaska's 10 largest cities, I've been to six. I've had friends come up for two weeks who saw more of Alaska than I've seen in two decades. (I have been to Barrow -- although I don't know if that really counts. After all, if you visit a place that you never actually see on account of darkness, were you really there?)
I've never seen sled dogs in Nome, Grizzlies in Katmai or a polar bear stalking prey on the Arctic Coast. Nor have I spied the spray of a humpback in Southeast or had my lungs filled with smoke in Fairbanks.
In short, I'm pretty much a homebody who believes anything worth doing or seeing in Alaska takes place on one small chunk of land that juts cockily out into the North Pacific.
Is this tendency to stick around my home base a bad thing?
Well, I guess there's two ways to look at that. On one hand, it shows I'm a fairly lazy individual content to spend the majority of my time within 15 miles of my favorite sandwich shop, rarely willing to travel even as far as Homer unless I know it's guaranteed that I won't have to stay there.
I suppose it also shows I'm a bit prejudiced against the rest of Alaska. I'm the first one to admit this. However, I don't suppose I should let my feelings for one large and unnecessarily ugly metropolitan area to the north keep me from enjoying the rest of the state.
On the other hand, I guess it also shows I'm pretty lucky to live in a place that has everything a guy could possibly want out of a summertime home.
Mountains, beaches, forests and golf courses are pretty much all I need to be happy, and these places all exist, well, literally in my back yard. In fact, of those 341 golf balls I lost this summer, at least half found their final resting place in the gully behind my house. The other half can be found in the tundra along the right side of the No. 15 fairway at the Kenai Golf Course.
As for the fishing, I'm sure there are other places around here to fish besides the Kenai River, but I honestly can't tell you where they are.
Every summer I make big plans to explore some mountain lakes for grayling or try my hand at killing some northern pike, but the lure of hooking into the largest salmon in the world always has me up at 3:30 in the morning trying to beat the crowds at the boat launch. Not that it does any good. The largest king salmon I caught this past summer could have passed for a nice coho -- had I landed it.
What's the point of all this? Well, other than pointing out how pathetic I am at my chosen pursuits, I don't really know. I guess I'm just bummed out about the fact that I didn't quite get out and explore Alaska as much as I would have liked to this summer.
And now that we're getting settled in for eight to 10 months of winter, I suppose I wish I had a few more days to waste.
Matt Tunseth is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.
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