When are we going to get discovered? It's a question that inevitably and periodically creeps into the mind of every Kenai Peninsula resident.
Maybe it comes while enjoying freshly cooked red salmon removed from the river just hours earlier. Maybe it comes while transfixed by an idyllic stream meandering its way through the enchanted area that is Lost Lake. Or maybe it comes during a brief break on the ski trails, taking time to bask in the incredible peace and solitude of winter.
But the feeling is inevitable. It's identical to the one anglers get when they hit on a good color and tackle, slamming fish, while everybody else is flogging the water in vain. We're in on a good secret here on the peninsula. When is everybody, beyond the June and July fishing crowd, going to figure it out?
My latest wonderings on this topic were spurred by a recent conversation with a longtime peninsula resident. He pointed to the fall catalog of The Territory Ahead, a ritzy clothing outfitter based in Santa Barbara, Calif.
It's a catalog where the so-inclined can obtain items like $49 low-idle sweatpants "for the low-speed pursuit of nothing in particular. " There's also the $188 Robe to Recovery, which we're assured is the ideal garb for catching up on back issues of The New Yorker.
Since the catalog was started in 1989, The Territory Ahead has traveled to exotic locales suitable for photographing its clothing. The setting for this year's fall catalog is the Kenai Peninsula, billed by the outfitter as "one place where one can sample most of the best of Alaska, and do it in a few weeks."
The catalog elicits the type of panic that creeps up Mike Piazza's spine when he's anywhere near Roger Clemens. Suddenly, the peninsula is the next trendy thing for $49.50-after-hours-sweatpants-wearing yuppies who have "clearly lost touch with the joy of lost time."
I can manage passing a recreational vehicle on the highway or a little elbow from an Anchorage angler now and again, but if I ever get to the top of Skyline Trail and find someone kicking back in a Robe to Recovery, my days on the trail are over.
Heading up there again would be like eating a type of food that had made you ill a week earlier or picking up relations with an old flame that had dumped you a few years ago.
But arriving in my mailbox just in time to allay fears of a Robe to Recovery incident was the Oct. 30, 2000, issue of the widely circulated magazine Sports Illustrated.
In the Scorecard section, the magazine devotes three pages to the Kenai Central High School football team. The article, titled "Huddling in the Cold," will have dotcommers scrambling to travelocity.com to scrap their peninsula travel plans.
In the piece, we're informed in the second sentence that by Thanksgiving, daylight on the peninsula will be down to five hours. (On Nov. 23, the sun will rise at 9:29 a.m. and set at 4:15 p.m., yielding 6 hours, 46 minutes of daylight.)
We also learn in the first paragraph that by the end of September, "subzero windchills start to wreak havoc on freshly shaven faces." (The mistake here is obvious. How many faces on the peninsula, minus the women, are clean-shaven? Oh yeah, and the average September temperature in Kenai is 46 degrees.)
The final blow comes in just the second paragraph, when I was horrified to read "snow conceals gridirons eight months of the year." (At this point, I smacked down the magazine, which I take as a bastion of truth except when it's picking the Red Sox to win the World Series, and told a co-worker that I was moving. He calmed me with a chart of average snow depth in Kenai, showing snow usually comes in late October and is gone by early May.)
The article also says the king on the peninsula is sport -- meaning fishing (yep), hunting (OK) and trapping (pesky house mice, maybe?). Sports, with the exception of basketball (Alaska League baseball, anyone?), is an afterthought.
What's going on here is clear. The New York editors of the magazine had a preconceived image of small-town Alaska football and wanted a story to confirm it.
SI freelance photographer Rich Frishman told the Anchorage Daily News he was sent here to show how the Kenai Peninsula and Alaska are different from the Lower 48. Except he ran into a problem with Kenai's dreadfully normal fall foliage.
"Shooting here, you could think you were in Wisconsin or Minnesota," Frishman told the Daily News.
The editors didn't want a story that showed the peninsula as an area with modern conveniences and a winter comparable to that of the northernmost Lower 48.
They wanted to amaze readers with a team cobbling out a football existence in cold, dark, snowy Alaska where more kids are interested in trapping marmots than trap blocking.
And I, from the bottom of my Robe to Recovery-fearing heart, thank them.
Jeff Helminiak covers sports for the Peninsula Clarion. Write to him at email@example.com.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.