Traveling to Alaska? Some things you should know and do…
I’ll never forget my first day in Alaska due to the sheer beauty. We arrived in Anchorage after two flights and 3000 miles later, bright-eyed and ready for adventure. My bride to be and I were going to be spending the summer at Denali National Park working as seasonal rangers for the National Park Service. We grabbed our bags and took a cab to the hotel near the train station where we would be spending the night. After checking in and depositing our bags in the room, we decided to take a walk and try to locate some place to dine. Since we were traveling all day, we had mixed up our schedules and we were hungry, even though back in those days, airlines served everyone food.
We strolled down the street looking for something to eat. The air was cool, the skies mostly cloudy but we weren’t deterred in the least. We were in Alaska, the Great Land! As we wandered about we began to notice that we were on our own. I mean, literally on our own. There was nobody else walking around in the area that we could see. Stores were closed, lights were off. We could not locate an open restaurant in a 2-3 block radius of the hotel. Something was off. About then, one of us looked at our watch and realized it was almost 11 pm! Our first day in Alaska…was actually night. The land of the midnight sun. I had never really thought about it until then. However, with the northern hemisphere tilted towards the sun during the summer months, the farthest most north regions of the earth experience many more hours of daylight than the continental United States. We returned to the hotel, a bit hungry, but in awe of Alaska already.
Now, over 25 years later, Alaska still holds that same charm for me that it did on my first day/night. Here are a few things I have learned along the way – some by personal experience and some through guests I have fished with.
1. If you make plans to do something – do it!
Rain or shine, light or dark. Alaska is dynamic. Summer brings long days, green grass and a variety of plant life virtually growing and blooming in front of your eyes. And fish! Migrating back upstream…. wonderful, wonderful fish! But along with all this comes a variety of weather. Do not let the weather determine your plans. Get out and enjoy your day. However, you should always be prepared!
2. Be Prepared!
I’ll say it again. The hard thing about Alaska is knowing just what to be prepared for. Alaska receives most of its visitors between mid-May and mid-September. In fact, many tourist facilities only operate during these times. Be prepared for…
Average summer temperatures in Alaska can vary depending on where you are going. The best preparation for varying temperatures is to dress in layers. Most commonly, a base layer, a mid-layer, and a warmer exterior layer if necessary. Here are the average temperatures for common destinations in Alaska during the summer months:
Anchorage mid 50’s to low 70’s
Fairbanks mid 50’s to mid 70’s
Nome mid 40’s to mid 60’s
Juneau mid 40’s to mid 60’s
Dillingham mid 30’s to low 60’s
Kenai low 40’s to mid 60’s
Denali mid 30’s to low 60’s
I can honestly say that I have been snowed on in every month in Alaska. Since most of Alaska’s visitors arrive in the summer months, it is unlikely you’ll be dealing with snow. Although, due to the unpredictable nature of Alaskan weather you should always be prepared for rain. In most cases you will be much better prepared for rain with both lightweight rain gear, something you can throw in a day pack in case of a shower, and heavyweight rain gear for those all day constant rains. I have yet to cancel a summer fishing trip due to a rainy day, but anything is possible. A good Kenai River fly fishing guide will usually have an extra rain jacket in the boat. I would rather be prepared with rain gear and not need it, than be several miles upriver getting rained on without any rain gear.
3. Do your homework!
Determine your objectives for your trip. Ask the tough questions of your fishing guide. How much experience does he/she have? You want to have some kind of idea of what you are getting into when you venture out into the wilderness of Alaska, because it can be a very unpredictable place. You should ask questions like: How long will you be out on the water? What are the provisions for bathroom facilities? Again, a good guide will ask you many questions and explain all of this to you. They are out to please. A guide’s primary objective, beyond your safety, is to help you meet your expectations for your great Alaskan fishing adventure. Communication is extremely important, because that’s a guides job, to guide and inform you. My favorite tourist question ever: “When do they let the bears out?”
If you measure your life in experiences you’ve had and challenges overcome, then there is no place like Alaska. Don’t delay. Make plans to visit and fish Alaska today.
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