GAFA: Day 2
After yesterday’s 21 hour day that ended at 11:30 p.m Alaska time and 3:30 a.m. East Coast time, I expected to sleep in this morning. But at 4 a.m., after a good 4 1/2 hours sleep, my North Carolina body said “Hey! Wake the hell up. It’s 8 a.m.” I laid in bed for another hour, unable to go back to sleep, and finally got up a little after 5 a.m. Time changes are much easier to deal with on a motorcycle when they only come one time zone every 3-4 days.
John was also up early and we had a leisurely pre-breakfast snack of delicious pastry before heading into town for a big breakfast sandwich at Odies. Following our second breakfast, we went to a sporting goods store to pick up a couple items for tomorrow’s fishing trip and to the grocery store for lunch supplies and snacks to take with us on the water.
Following an uneventful shopping outing we headed to the meet-up point for tomorrow’s first fishing foray just to make sure we knew how to get there. The Kenia River had plenty of boats zooming both directions looking for the perfect fishing location, and fisher persons lined the shore on this the last day to catch the much sought after King (Chinook) Salmon. The boats usually carried four anglers and a guide, which is how we expect to fish tomorrow. We didn’t see anyone catch anything, but we only stayed for a few minutes.
One of the Soldotna locations I missed in my first two trips here was the local history museum, and, after reading several good reviews regarding the information provided by local volunteers, I wanted to make sure I visited the museum this trip. So John and I headed for the Soldotna Historical Society and Museum.
The first building we entered (there were six on the property) was the natural history building. Taxidermy specimens, native Alaskan artifacts, and historical artifacts lined the walls, hung from the ceilings and crowded the floors. All very interesting, but to my chagrin no local docent appeared to help explain and expand on Soldotna’s history. We enjoyed ourselves but were on our own to understand what we were seeing.
We wandered on to the next building and discovered that’s where we should have started because that’s where the museum volunteers were located. (There were no signs so we went to the first building we came to.) At the second building we met Carol, whose family had been in Soldotna since the early 1950s when they homesteaded 160 acres and laid claim to their small part of the Kenai Peninsula. Carol, an articulate political science major turned florist (now retired), imparted a wealth of information that educated us on the area history. She regaled us for more than 30 minutes, and John said as we left the museum grounds that her stories and explanations were the equivalent of a college history class. Carol, as it turns out, was the historical treasure I had come to the museum to find. Some parts of the Kenai Peninsula, she told us, have been inhabited for thousands of years. But Soldotna’s history really dates only from the post-WWII period when returning veterans were given a chance to easily claim 160 acres of Alaska land under relaxed homesteading rules. Carol clearly understood Soldotna’s place in the history of Alaska and the Kenai Peninsula and John and I both enjoyed our visit with her. Frankly, we were glad when several other visitors declined her offer to join our private history symposium.
There was one other stop in Soldotna I suggested we make today and that was the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. About a mile from the Museum we had just left, the modern Visitor Center promised to be another rich vein of local and natural history for us to mine. But just minutes after arriving, as I was reading exhibit text on various efforts to preserve and protect Alaska’s flora and fauna, I was surprised to learn that felt-soled waders are illegal when fishing in Alaska waters because gubmint experts determined the felted soles trap seeds and spawn of invasive species which can then be transferred to other waters. Surprised, that is, because before leaving North Carolina I proudly purchased a new set of waders WITH FELT SOLES which I had planned to launch on their inaugural wade tomorrow! After a brief conversation about the anti-felt law with one of the Center’s employees, John and I headed back to our lodging to determine a plan of action to remedy my potentially felonious fishing trip. My first thought (Plan A) was to just buy another pair of chest waders; that would easily allay my legal jeopardy. But no, that would be too easy.
At the chalet, I decided I would remove the felonious felt from the boot bottoms (Plan B). Easy-Peasy. Of course, if I had wanted the soles to remain attached as I waded through Alaska’s beautiful rivers, the glued-on felt would have no doubt washed away at the first drop of moisture and the first scrape along the rocky river bottom. But, these soles, naturally, had been attached months ago in secret Chinese workshop with military-grade, super-permanent, sub-atomic particle strength adhesive. They were not coming off. So… I decided to cut them off (Plan B, sub-part 1). No easy task, but after selecting the sharpest serrated knife in our kitchen’s Walmart-grade cutlery collection and sawing until I sweated profusely, I managed to remove the two felt-covered heel pieces and a felt sole and began sawing through the final felt. As I neared the finish of my soleful project, woe! I discovered I not only had sliced through the felt but had penetrated the crucial rubber skin of the boot itself and opened a critical, if not fatal, wound. Perhaps, I ruminated, I could dress the wound with a high-tech rubbery chemical compound purchased at a local hardware/sporting goods store and thus plug the offending gash. (Plan B sub-part 2). So we jumped into the POS Focus and off we went to the hardware/sporting emporium.
Of course the store didn’t have the exact compound I was looking for and, after I selected a tube of what would have been an inferior alternative and headed for the check out, John suggested looking at waders in the sporting goods half of the store. (Yes, careful reader, back to Plan A). The peak fishing season has passed and prices had been reduced by $50 on waders, so, for less than the price I paid for the new but now mortally wounded waders, I purchased a better pair which I will baptize tomorrow in the cold waters of the Kenai River as we seek our first salmon limit.
Today’s lesson: Always remember that Adventures are called Adventures for a reason. Nothing is ever easy.