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Tongass National Forest

Here, where tall cedars and spruce create a forest canopy so thick, the sun rarely reaches the ground, all five species of Pacific salmon charge upstream every summer and fall to spawn and nurture one of the most productive runs of ocean-going fish on the planet. The area is also home to trophy Sitka blacktail deer, moose, black bear and brown bear. The Tongass faces an uncertain future, one where the long-term sustainability of the people who live here depends on the fishery and its relationship with the land. [ Read Full Post ]

  • December 7, 2011

    Days 5-6: Exploring Alaska’s Tongass National Forest



    I met Arne Johnson owner of Bear Creek Outfitters  at his shop early the next morning. The shop was adjacent to the Juneau airport. It seemed odd at first with the juxtaposition of a flyfishing guide shop overlooking the tarmac of an airport rather than a river, but Bear Creek Outfitters specializes in fly-out, flyfishing adventures—so, really, it makes perfect sense.

    I was lucky enough to secure a spot on their morning trip, accompanying the Blake family (Jackie, Gary, and Jordan) and Peter Voss—all of whom were cruise ship passengers out for a day of flyfishing. We stepped into our waders, then were whisked off to the float plane docks.

    The floatplane is the best option for reaching the inaccessible wilderness of the Tongass, and these docks were busier than the main airport. We all climbed into the DeHaviland Beaver and taxied for takeoff. A 20-minute plane trip, and we were so far out in the wild that our guide Matt Boline unloaded a bucket from the plane full of supplies…just in case the plane could not get back and we need to spend the night. We were that far in the wilderness. He also unloaded a 12-gauge shotgun and explained about bears and what to do if we see one and what to do if one approaches. [ Read Full Post ]

  • December 1, 2011

    Days 3-4: Exploring Alaska’s Tongass National Forest



    The day after the hunt, I boarded the Fairweather, a high-speed catamaran run by the Alaska Marine Highway system (AMH) and one of the fastest in its fleet. In a scant four hours, I would travel the 150-plus miles to Juneau. Getting around the Tongass is very unique, with 656,000-plus square miles of islands and water, travelers must go either by air or boat. The AMH makes traveling this region simpler with stops in all the major ports. [ Read Full Post ]

  • November 30, 2011

    Days 1-2: Exploring Alaska’s Tongass National Forest



    It’s 7:00 a.m., and I’m on the only daily commercial flight from Seattle that lands on Mitkof Island in the fishing town of Petersburg, Alaska. As we make our final approach, the clouds and rain are so thick that I can barely see the ground, almost until the plane touches the tarmac. The visibility is about what I expected. After all, I just landed in one of largest temperate rainforests in the world.

    The airport terminal consists of a garage and a 1,600-square-foot building. Being an East Coast boy, this isn’t the kind of airport I’m used to, but it seems a fitting location to start my journey into the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest, in which Petersburg sits smack in the middle. [ Read Full Post ]