I’ve traveled around Alaska and have always loved it. From RVing from Seward in the south to Denali it was always full of adventure and wonder. When we first went to Alaska, there were five of us and we did all the things we’d always wanted to do. Fishing for halibut and salmon. See bears in Denali. And cook on the side of the road off the beaten path. We also took people with us and enjoyed polar bears in the Arctic and visited the indigenous peoples on the northern slopes of Alaska via www.XpeditionArctic.com. All of this has left an indelible mark on our lives and attitudes towards travel.
When my son said that he wanted to fish for himself and me for Father’s Day in Alaska for his 28th birthday, I was of course a little worried. We have already traveled together. As a family. In a group. But never alone together. Are we going to get along at all? Can we spend 5 or 6 days alone together and what are we going to talk about?
I was proud of the man he became and tried to be. He came with me and I thought we should do it. A “men’s journey” to the last frontier. And I wanted the fish. So I booked the trip in March and we left in early June.
We flew out of Tampa with a layover in Chicago. The planes were full. People were excited to be traveling again. And we were excited to go to Alaska to fish. Our adventure began.
We had a smooth flight and landed in Anchorage about an hour earlier than planned. Even though it was a 6 hour flight from Chicago, no food was served. We had a cracker. So we were hungry and tired as it would be around 1am on the east coast. After a quick snack, we were ready to go.
We went to pick up the car. I was glad we booked it so long ago. Rental cars are very expensive now, some costing well over $ 300 a day and becoming less and less available.
The person behind the Avis desk told me my car wouldn’t be ready in an hour (it was already 9pm) and I could upgrade right away to get a car. Since the upgrade was only another $ 60 I decided to do this, but I felt like it was just another way for Avis to get money out of their customers.
Anyway, we started and stayed at an Airbnb in Anchorage, about 5 minutes from the airport and a few minutes from the freeway. It was a nice house, but we struggled with it being light 24 hours a day and never getting dark. The blinds didn’t close completely, allowing light to come in all the time, but Anchorage was always a place to go in and out and not much more for me. We looked forward to getting out of town and venturing out into the wild, wildlife, and countryside.
The next day we would drive to Homer and be trapped in our vehicle together for about 6 hours. That is the real test. The real journey begins. Am I ready for this, I asked myself? As I found out later, he wondered the same thing.
Our way from Anchorage to Homer
What started with some trepidation on both sides was the 6 hour drive full of laughter, a moose lookout and generally a great time. I learned so much about my son. Although he lives about 3 miles away from us and we see him often, there were aspects of him that I wasn’t aware of. For example, he kept a diary of his past trips. He has gone to Alaska, France and Italy. And he brought this diary with him so that he can update it. Kati and I have diaries from all of our travels and it is really something special to look through them and remember what we did and what we encountered.
We both loved looking for moose and bears. Me as the driver and he as the navigator and main lookout. On the way there and back we didn’t see any bears, but 10 moose, including 4 small ones. It was really special and we had a great time exploring the smaller towns from Anchorage to Homer.
For anyone going to Homer, your GPS will take 4 hours, but it will take more than 5 or 5½. There is only one street and you will want to stop often. Give yourself a little more time with some construction sites. It’s about 100 miles longer than the drive to Seward, but well worth the trip.
There were many small towns with Russian influence. We stopped to check this out along with the beaches and of course to see moose. The trip took about 6 hours, but passed quickly. We talked, shared and solved almost all problems in the world and we enjoyed being together. All our fear was gone.
Homer is a fantastic city. The main area of fishing is the Homer Spit. A narrow piece of land that juts out into Kachemak Bay. With restaurants, cafes, tourist shops, campsites and the docks for your fishing trip, Homer Spit is a wonderful place to explore. After my son and I checked into our hotel in Homer, we made our way to Homer Spit to see where we would moor our boat for the next two days of fishing. We were a bit surprised about the people tent that was camping on the headland, as it was around 40 degrees at night with a maximum temperature of 55 and windy. But if you’re prepared, it’s an inexpensive way to enjoy Alaska and save some cash. Alaska can be expensive.
On the first day we had planned to go trophy fishing for halibut, but the weather didn’t cooperate. We still went fishing, but in stormy winds we could only go about 10 to 15 miles. It was a fishing trip we will never forget. The entire trail consisted of 6 to 8 foot waves and the boat kept falling on the water. Since it was so windy and rough, we had to stay in the little hut. All day fishing, the boat rocked back and forth and side to side. We pulled in some large ones, with one person on our boat snapping a 130 pound halibut and our largest being 65 pounds. I didn’t get that, my son did it, which made it even more exciting. Seeing him in a large fish about 50 inches long was as exciting for me as it was for him.
We both reached our limit and went ashore again. But before we returned, my son had to prove his manhood. There is a tradition in Alaska that when you catch your first halibut, you eat the fish-eye. Although not many people do this, my son decided to give it a try. Armed with some Jack Daniel’s whiskey to wash it down, it ate the eye and became a legend on the boat. It was a strange, disgusting, wonderful moment and then we started on our way back.
The return trip wasn’t much better but the captain did a great job. However, my spine and back felt it and I felt dizzy when I finally got up to get off the boat. Hopefully the next day will be better.
The second day it was better. And we caught great fish. Salmon, halibut, cod, rockfish, and flounder were all brought. In total we were able to send 110 lbs of fish back to Florida and had a great time together. It was difficult as we had been fishing quite a bit in shallow water the day before, we were now fishing in 220 feet of water with a 4 lb weight at the end of our line. It took some effort to haul in, and although the captain and his mate were great, they offered no help. After all, this was a trip for seasoned fishermen. We have to do this all the time. While that wasn’t true for us, we did and felt like a sense of achievement when we grabbed a large fish.
We loved being together. We laughed and joked and really got to know each other. In the end, although I didn’t think about it before we left, my son and I have more in common than I ever thought. He’s an adult and no longer the same when he was 19 or 20 years old. He has goals. He wants to do so much and has already done it. The world is a small place for him and I think he will enjoy traveling and exploring all his life.
Back to anchorage
The next day we left Anchorage at 8 p.m. So we woke up in the morning, had our coffee and went on our way. We took it slow as we drove north on the same road we came south on. There is only 1 street so you really can’t get lost. Again we enjoyed each other’s company, laughing, joking and looking for moose all the way. We remembered the last time we were in Alaska together, talked about the crew and other passengers on our two fishing trips, stopped, shopped, and had a great time together. We made our flights and got home safely.
Few Things To Know When Traveling To Alaska
- Prices are generally higher than the lower 48. You have a short season and need to make the most of it.
- Rental cars can be scarce. Book early.
- Grocery stores stay open longer in the summer, sometimes until midnight. We went shopping at a Safeway in Homer at 11:30 PM.
- Get your king salmon license online along with your fishing license before you set off. It’s easier and saves you time looking for a place to get your fishing license.
- Always add time to your driving. If your GPS says 4 hours, you think it will take 6. There are incredible landscapes and wildlife almost everywhere. You will want to stop. Take photos and enjoy your surroundings.
- Spend a little more and get accommodation with a kitchen. Cooking some of your meals yourself will save you money in the long run.
- Explore the small towns you normally pass through. Many of them are historic, with great views of the ocean, and there are beautiful lakes all over Alaska.
- Enjoy your time there. Make the best out of it. It really is a remarkable place.
Our last word
The last word from my trip with my son: I’m so glad I made it. I was so happy to be with him and we really had a great time. We’re already talking about what to do on his 30th birthday and where to go. I can not wait any longer.
And to all fathers, go somewhere with your son or sons and have some alone time. Really get to know each other. And for the mothers, do the same with your daughters. It was really one of the best experiences of my life.