How we even landed on a beach in Clam Gulch to hang with two proud Eskimos, one from the north and one from the south central part of Alaska is a story that began five years ago in Nome. Kimi and I picked Nome from a map of Alaska as a destination for spring break. When most people were packing bathing suits and shorts, we packed x-country skis and snow pants, and headed north. We knew nothing about Nome except that it was on the water and Alaska airlines flew there. Perfect criteria for a vacation!
The town was crowded and full of life when we arrived. Little did we know that The All Alaska Sweepstakes, a 404 mile dogsled race that occurs every 25 years, was about to start. That meant no available seats at the pizza place that night! That's when I noticed a woman waving at us. I checked behind me, positive I was blocking one of her friends from joining the party, but there was only a wall. I pointed questioningly at myself and Kimi. She nodded, waved us to her table, and invited us to sit with her and her friends. Folks, we were about to meet Josie Stiles, our first and favorite Alaskan friend.
On our current trip, as it turned out, the way things sometimes do, Josie happened to arrive on the Kenai Peninsula from Nome at about the same time we arrived from Portland. She would be camping with a friend for a few days on Clam Gulch, a beach on the way to Homer where we were headed. Could we stop by and could we pick up a 12 pack of Beck's? Yes and yes!
In a few hours on a beach along the Cook Inlet thick with fog and Alaska rain, we dripped with laughter and fun more than we dripped with raindrops. From unexpectedly cleaning two halibut in a small freshwater stream to staying warm from a coal-driven fire (the coal came off the beach) and eagles flying overhead, Josie and her amazing friend, Donna, gave us yet another unforgettable time in Alaska.
See for yourself!
Carrying wood from across the fresh water and COLD stream to the fire
About to get toasty!
A couple of fishermen caught two halibut and asked us to clean them.
Donna is up for the job, but not before bargaining for some of the catch
Doesn't get much fresher than this.
Mmm, tasty halibut tacos cooked by Chef Josie
Clam Gulch, AK - a beautiful place made better by two beautiful women - thanks Josie & Donna!
Update: In rereading and thinking about this post, I realized I missed some sort of essence about our time on Clam Gulch. The essence of standing in the rain around a campfire with friends, new and old, amazed it can all get so right; of watching a Yupik woman clean fish, the knife guided by a culture and old traditions; of beginning to understand how the Inupiaq know their land intimately, and can start a fire from wet driftwood and coal that comes from the sand; and finally, the essence of the question - are we really here - needing to be asked over and over again because the answer is nearly unbelievable.
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Location:Clam Gulch, Alaska