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Fishing in Alaska

Fishing in Alaska
via Alaska Airlines First Class
July 2016
This trip is so unlike city girl Mrs. SFO777.  Some 8 months ago after a few drinks, Mrs. SFO777 decided that she wanted to go fishing in Alaska.  Say what??
Forget that in our 22 years together, we have never gone fishing and she has never even hinted about wanting to go fishing.   Add in the fact that her idea of camping is a hotel without room service and this is a most bizarre and uncharacteristic trip.
 
The funniest part of our planning was when she read the fine print earlier in the week and found out that we may need to be ready at 3am to meet our fishing guide.  OMG.  This is the woman that says no flights before noon.  She couldn't understand why we have to go so early and not 10am, until SFO777Jr explained that the fishies go to sleep when the temps warm up. OK, this is going to be a hoot.
 
When we were living in Denver, we had booked a United nonstop to Anchorage.  Now in Orange County, we are off to John Wayne for our Alaska flights to Seattle and Anchorage.  Our new OC driver picked us up at 1:45p and we were at the SNA Alaska counter at 2:10p.   
 

With only a couple of folks in front of us in the PreCheck line, we were thru in no time and at the Admirals Club a few minutes later.  Small but pleasant lounge with a very friendly staff.

At around T-45 we headed down to Gate 6 where boarding was just about to start. 
 
Santa Ana-Seattle
Alaska 509
737-800
3:55p-6:15p
July 12, 2016
Lunch
 
One step on this plane and I remember why I don't fly Alaska a lot.   Yikes, what a crappy old plane this sucker is.
Tight pitch at only 36" which is the worst F cabin in North America.  
 
 
And the bulkhead, the only row with a pair of seats when I booked.  Wow, can they get the seats any closer to the wall?
 

No PDB but there was a bottle of water at each seat.  

Hedge Trimmer??

Pleasant cabin crew provided excellent service given what they have to work with.  Good luck with that VX acquisition because those VX customers will run for the hills when they get a load of this cabin and Alaska food.  Today's meal was a choice of tortellini with eggplant, or not.  Eggplant?  Really?  A couple of bites and that was it for me. Yuck.  And I thought AA meals were bad.  

And the only edible part of the meal, the Dancing Deer Lemon Square.

Passing by Lake Tahoe, another place we once called home.

Gogo worked, off and on.    Please, take me back to United or even American.

At least there was power.

Yep, that's pretty tight.

Approaching Seattle.

And to the N terminal.  In an amazing stroke of luck, we arrived at N14 and our flight to Anchorage is departing from adjacent N16.   A quick visit to the small-ish N Terminal Board Room.

Nice plane and baggage cart spotting.

Rather weak food offerings.

Not wanting to chance another AS meal, we headed for what appeared to be the lesser of the food evils, the Seahawks 12 Club.

Pepperoni flatbread was pretty weak.

As were their "signature" pulled pork sliders.

Seattle-Anchorage
Alaska 99
737-800
7:50p-10:15p
July 12, 2016
Dinner
 

Same old plane, same old cabin.  Except this one featured the filthiest windows I have ever seen on any plane.  Yeah, let's clean the inside windows with a dirty rag.

 

In contrast to the great SNA-SEA crew, this crew was pretty useless.  

And then there was the meal service.  No description at all from our grouchy FA.  I'm guessing chicken.  Strange presentation though.

I rearrange the tray.  Unfortunately, it didn't help.  Other than round 2 of the Dancing Deer Sweet Lemon Square, this meal was disgusting.  Fortunately we had eaten in Seattle and I took the meal for the photo op.

Nice pics on descent to Anchorage.

10:30pm in Anchorage looks like 7:30p in the lower 48.

We picked up our Avis SUV and headed for the airport Courtyard, a short 5 minute drive. 

Pretty basic room with mandatory for summer in Alaska black-out curtains.  Oops, sorry for the mess.

For our first morning in Alaska, I had booked a private sightseeing flight to Denali and Mt. McKinley, the highest mountain in North America.  After doing a little research, I decided on Sound Aviation, a two person one plane family operation owned by Bill and Beth Marsan.  Bill has been flying in Alaska for nearly 20 years, the last 8 with their own plane and company.  They operate air taxi service to remote communities and take visitors on tours of the state.    We arrived at downtown Merritt Field at 8am on a gorgeous morning for flying.  Beth is a character, using a scooter to guide us from the gate to their tarmac area.   Then she doubles are the ground crew cleaning windows before the flight.

Ready to go.

Lots of cool boneyard relics around the field.

Then taxiing across the field...

... to fuel up.

After takeoff, we headed north for the 45 minute flight to Mt. McKinley, climbing to 12,000 feet.

Simply spectacular scenery.

After some 30 minutes of awe inspring scenery flying around and by mountains, peaks and glaciers, we headed back to Anchorage.

Descending to 100-300' on our return.

Wow, what a great experience with amazing scenery and a great pilot.    I highly recommend Bill and Beth, and Sound Aviation.   

Since we were up early today and hadn't had breakfast, we headed out for an early lunch at Humpy's, an Anchorage institution.  
They open at 11am and there were already a few people lined up waiting to get in.
 

Fun atmosphere and great food.

My halibut sliders were delicious.

Then on the road for the pretty 2.5 hour drive down the Kenai Peninsula to Soldotna.

To our home for the next 4 nights, a Kenai River Loft owned by Bob's Cabins.  
   

 

After we settled in, we head off to dinner at St. Elias, the supposed best restaurant in town.  Great beer but not so sure about the food.

Carbs anyone??

And back to the cabin where Mrs. SFO and I headed to bed while SFO777Jr headed down to the dock to fish... until midnight.   Hey, it was still light.

And away we go!  We caught a break today as we were spared a 3am wake up.  We were scheduled to meet our charter captain at much more-civilized-for-fishing 6am and at relatively close Anchor Point.   This translated into only a 4:30am wake up call and a 5:15am departure from our cabin.   Cool low lying valley fog on the drive south.

Mrs. SFO777 heading from the parking lot to the launch.

But first, a little detour to the luxurious boat launch restrooms.  LOL.

And our boat for today, Alaska Gamecatcher and captain Eric.  Pretty cool way to launch using a tractor.

About an hour later we were some 25 miles offshore with spectacular scenery all around.    

Time to get ready as our deckhand Josh preps the bait.

SFO777Jr reeling in his 60 lb. halibut.

And Mrs. SFO777 proudly next to her 55 pounder.

The morning's catch, ranging from 50 lbs. to 70 lbs.   

Josh filleting our halibut on the way back to shore.

Great orca show on the way.

And the launch tractor bringing us in.

From Anchor Point, we headed down The Sterling Highway to a nice rest stop and viewing area near Homer.

Back at the cabin after a long day, we enjoyed happy hour and then some of the morning's catch.  Amazing.

Another early morning as we left the cabin at 6:10a for our 6:30a rendez-vous with our guide Ben at the Tesoro station north of Soldotna.

Mountain woman Mrs. SFO777 checking out provisions.  LOL.

We headed out for the 20 minute drive to beautiful Skilak Lake and the mouth of the Kenai.

Bundled up for the 15 minute cruise out to the river.

Our wonderful guide Ben.

A happy fisherman with her 1st salmon of the day!

We caught our 3 per person limit by around 10:30am and then head to shore where Ben filleted the salmon. 

Salmon eggs from just one salmon... apparently more than a million eggs from each.

Seagulls waiting for lunch.

And going crazy when anything is thrown their way.

Stopping for a little BBQ on the way back to the cabin.

Another early morning and we are off on a 45 minute drive to Alaska West Air and our fly out fishing experience, or so we thought.  We arrived at 6:20am and 3+ hours later we were still there as weather at our destination had socked in the lake.

Killing time.

Hip waders for everyone.  Mrs. SFO777 is not so sure about this one.

Nothing to do but wait and explore the area.  SFO777Jr and I headed down to the sea plane dock.

Our plane.

Yikes, not sure Mrs. SFO777 is going to like this.  

LOL, that looks comfortable.

Back at the base, the four of us conferenced about what to do.  While the pilot anticipated that we would be able to maybe take off within an hour, we decided to bag the trip, mostly because we had no control over our return.  We would be stuck there for 6 hours once we got there, like it or not.   We'd already been up fpr 5 hours.  So... we headed back towards Soldotna but satisfied Mrs. SFO777's McDonalds fix, or at least tried to.  The Kenai McDonald's was quite possibly the worst Micky D's in the world.  45 minutes for food to appear after order.

Mrs. SFO777 spent the afternoon relaxing in the cabin while SFO777Jr and (hopefully) future Mrs. SFO777Jr headed out for trout fly fishing.     Our last night, we decided to go Mexican!

Senor Pancho's is a great family owned restaurant with the most colorful decor we've seen in a long time.

The food was really good, although they don't have liquor license.  Oh well.

OMG, what a treat to not have to get up at 4am!    With 1:50p and 2:25p flights, we left our cabin at just before 9am.

After check-in, we headed for the Alaska Board Room.

A nice selection of Alaska beers.

Great plane spotting with lots of 747 cargo planes stopping at ANC for refueling.

Anchorage-LAX
AS 142
737-900
2:25p-8:45p
July 17, 2016
Seats 2AC
 

The good news is that this 5+ hour flight has enhanced service compared to shorter SEA-ANC inbound flight... for what it's worth.  

Pleasant FA Chad although dinner service took a painfully slow two hours.  
Menu sighting, although in an apparent cost saving move, only one menu was handed out per two seats. 

With no IFE, Alaska hands out digi-players, $10 in Economy, free in First.

Arugula salad with grilled pear salad was OK although Mrs. SFO777 was not impressed and only took a few bites.

Choice of chicken or cod. Cod? Really?  I guess that halibut and salmon were too expensive for AS' catering budget. We both went with the chicken unaware that chicken was nearly entirely chicken thighs. There was so little breast meat that one breast was more than enough for for the entire cabin. Strange institutional taste to the chicken. The creamed spinach was mostly thin cream. And Mrs. SFO777 insisted that the tasteless mashed potatoes were powdered.

Dessert? Wow, AS went all out. A single bite cupcake and a single strawberry. The mini-cupcake was excellent but seriously??  One tiny bite is not dessert.

Then there was the annoying constant parade of Y pax to the F lavatory despite a useless announcement about "F lavs for F pax only". On time arrival was the best part of the flight as Mrs. SFO777 provided her usual unfiltered opinion... " What a piece of **** airline with crap food" and "I never want to fly this airline again. Ever." Yikes.

Two days after we got home, our 80 lbs shipment of halibut and salmon arrived!!

Mrs. SFO777 served the amazing halibut the first night.

And delicious salmon cakes the next.

Looks like we'll be having lots of halibut and salmon this year!   Thanks for following along on this report.