Ask any fisherman to share a tale of a memorable place and you will surely get an answer. I discovered mine years ago in Alaska and I was so taken I took up a profession that would allow me to return. As a fishing book author and destination travel consultant, I now have assignments that bring me there every year. I’m quite lucky, and unlike the salmon that spawn and die way up in The Last Frontier, I get to return.
I am well familiar with those fish and their behavior is usually predictable. After years of casting out to them I’m also pretty good at enticing them to the bite. This simply is the by-product of what I do. Though I’m reasonably successful for an out of town angler, there is no way my skills can compare to those that live there. Some are so successful at what they do they are absolutely deserving of being remembered.
The persons who reside in Alaska are just as bitten as the fish that swim alongside them and that’s an earned compliment. Opinionated and driven, earnest and hard-working, they forge ahead on their quest to make their mark in their Great Land. Native born or not, once they take their stand at the Top of the World they look down at the rest of us in the Lower 48 with the satisfied smug of having done it their way. That’s how they are. Of them all, none are as recognized as taking the largest bite then that of the state’s most controversial legislator, the late senator, Ted Stevens.
Stevens was the longest serving senator in the history of the US Senate. For over 40 years he fought tirelessly for his home state and he delivered tax breaks and billions in federal money that assisted practically every Alaskan resident and business. Outspoken and at times unpopular, he championed everything from installing interior plumbing in remote villages, built new schools and clinics state-wide, redefined international offshore fishing limitations, and even constructed a controversial “bridge to nowhere “. Right or wrong, everyone seemed to have their opinion of him, but through it all he never stopped casting and he caught a bundle. On the 9th of August in 2010, the only thing that could have prevented him from limiting out did, and he lost his life in plane crash in route to go salmon fishing at a remote lodge just outside of Dillingham, Alaska.
I read of his death on the Internet the morning I was scheduled to fish for silver salmon on the Naknek River in King Salmon. He had gone down at 4:00 pm the day earlier. It was sad and shocking news. I was dismayed that he was gone, and I felt strange that it happened less than a hundred miles from where I currently was. Ted was on his way to do what I was about to, and he never even reached his fishery. That made me feel even more peculiar. I was going fishing and he wasn’t.
Over two decade’s worth of travel to Alaska has affected me. When you wind up in a state with American Indians and Alaska Natives owning almost 10% of the land and contributing to almost 16% of the population, the spiritualism of those cultures can rub off on you. I’m not sure if it’s the raven or the river, or the rock or the bear, but everything up there seems to have a reason for behaving like it does. First Native persons have told tales of this behavior for generations, and I have always been a listener and observer. Twenty two years worth of spirit in surroundings has not only rubbed off on me, it has rubbed in. As a result, I am now a believer of why things are.
Casting aside the senator’s demise, I went right ahead with my schedule of assessment. There was nothing unusual about my plans. I was alone in a boat with a guide, and we had coordinated our afternoon to return to the same area we had fished with a husband and wife team from several days prior. The river had been generously giving up silver salmon, there were plenty of them, and we knew exactly where to go. We anticipated everything to be just about the same in terms of time, tide, temperature and technique. It was just a half hour boat ride up a few miles of river, and to put it quite simply, I expected a limit catch. Aside from an eagle that soared endlessly in a circle with no fish in its talons, there was nothing different about our journey up the river except the gulls.
Glaucous-winged Gulls are migratory inhabitants of this region. They follow the fish, are opportunists for fish carcasses and spawned eggs, and generally speaking are the scavengers of the river. They clean everything up. They are not silent when they do this, and when you see them they are in flock, and when you hear them their arguments will bounce right off the water.
I did not see a one. I did not hear a one. For reasons unknown, they were unseen and silent. It was the same with the Sandhill Cranes. A few days back I had witnessed several breeding pairs involved in the synchronized duet of trumpeting their affections of coming to the nest. Now, they too, were gone.
By the time we reached our spot there were silver salmon showing and they were there by the dozens. They were rolling, boiling, and flashing. We were in the right place, with the right gear, and at the right time. Nothing could defer us from the knowledge of knowing what the water was about to give up, and at high noon in the synchronization of fisherman and guide, we began to cast.
It took only an hour for my perception of the way things were to change. Not only had we not caught a single fish, we hadn’t even enticed a single strike. I thought this was unusual considering all the fish around us. Another change was in the gulls. Though we couldn’t see them around the bend, we certainly could now hear them. The water carried their sounds and the birds were not arguing. To the contrary, they were cooing and crying and were creating the most mournful sounds I ever heard on a river.
They weren’t alone. The Sandhill Cranes now joined in. Their mating game had turned into the crying game as they perched alongside the river bank and wailed. Crying birds and unresponsive fish; I hadn’t witnessed anything like this in 22 years. Neither had the guide, and as we finished emptying out his arsenal of lures we were dumbfounded. We had fished for over several hours and had a half century of experience between us. Nothing would strike and there was not even a foul hook-up. Certainly there had to be a reason.
There was. I could see it in the fish that were now joined up by the hundreds. There were lines of them, so many that the water went into a congregation of living things as the river’s surface became almost black. These fish were not going to bite. Though they might reveal who they were, they were not about to give up their place in line. It was a processional for Ted Stevens and we were right on top of it. We were anchored on fish in a funeral and the only thing to be caught was the discovery of knowing it and the reverence of attending it.
It was the way things were. The senator had passed from their lives almost a full day earlier and there was still an hour to go in the commemoration of his leaving. I told the guide we could cast all we wanted and it wouldn’t make a difference. Nothing was going to wind up on the end of any line until the procession ended. We stopped fishing. We believed everything. The two of us had become guests to one of the most remarkable spiritual happenings anyone could ever recognize.
We waited that final hour for it all to come to an end. The Glaucous-winged Gulls returned to their arguments and the Sandhill Cranes returned to their mating games. The salmon returned to their ways as the silvers returned to the net. Even on the ride down river, the eagle circled overhead to reveal the prize that had returned to its talons.
Fishermen speak of memorable places and even greater catches. It is etched in memory and arises from the heart. It is when the angler recalls what was, and it is wondrous. I will always recall that day of the fish crying and how their spirits became rubbed in. It was when the silvers invited me to partake in their wake to honor one of the most historical state senators to ever cast a line who darn near caught everything.
Congratulations Ted. You out-fished all of us.
The bottom of my world fell out when my little daughters were taken illegally by their non-custodial father to Greece in 1994 . I had no money and no social standing and no family support at the time. But I had the community of Anchorage and the ear of the Senator Ted Stevens, and for that I will be forever grateful. From meeting with me in Washington DC to placing and fielding calls concerning legal matters, Senator Stevens was a fierce advocate. His staff was also incredible. Two years later, my daughters returned home. Two decades later, my entire family is still thankful.
It was a sunny Saturday in July 2005, when I suggested to Senator Ted we should take a nice walk on the US Forest Service Winner Creek Trail which starts near the Alyeska Prince Hotel. The trail is 3 miles long and goes through the Northernmost Rainforest.
Ted’s wife Catherine, Bob Persons from the Double Musky and a Capitol Security guard joined us. The trail goes about 2.5 miles to the Winner Creek and then we took a left turn walking towards the Glacier creek. There is a Hand operated Tram that crosses the Glacier Creek and from there the trail goes to the Crow Creek Gold mine. The trail was fairly slippery due to rain several days before.
Ted walked ahead of me on a steep section of the trail. Suddenly he slipped and fell down on the side of the trail towards the Winner Creek. I just managed to grab him by the collar of his jacket and pulled him back up on his feet. The first thing Ted said ” Chris you saved my ***.” We continued to the Glacier Creek Tram and Ted and I pulled ourselves across the Glacier creek to the other side. As we got to the end of the trail he looked at me and said. “Now I know why you took me on this Winner Creek trail walk. It has great scenery but the trail conditions are dangerous on some sections and need significant repair and upgrade so old people like me can enjoy it.”
About 3 months later the US Forest District Ranger Tim Charnon called me up and said he just received word from his Washington, DC office there was a $ 1 Million grant in their budget sponsored by Senator Ted for the maintenance and upgrade of the Winner Creek Trail. He sounded so pleased as they had tried to get funds for this trail work for years. Over the next two years the trail was substantially upgraded including long sections of boardwalk. It is now one off the most popular trails in the in the US Forest. Tim, the Forest Ranger said ” Chris you should take the Senator Ted on more walks.”
Chris is former CEO of Alyeska Resort and has been friends with Senator Ted for more than 40 years. Ted and Catherine came all the way to Tirol, Austria ( with 30 other Alaskans ) to attend Chris and Brigitte’s wedding in 2006.
“My father Duncan McLaren developed a deep and meaningful friendship with Ted while they worked together to develop Alaska’s energy independence with the pipeline. My dad was in aviation and worked to bring the good ol’ Hercs in to move the equipment and pipe. I have fond memories of those days as a young boy living in Fairbanks. Senator Stevens maintained a lasting and lifelong friendship with my family and never failed to stay in touch with us. He was the sort of human being that evokes respect and honor in all of those persons who’s lives he touched!”
I first met our dearest late Senator Stevens in Washington DC, as the first US Page from Alaska. I vividly remember his strength and his tone to help fellow Alaskans to grow and secure our State riches. These experiences helped form the logic, care, and understanding I carry today for Alaska. The words, “Diversifying our Alaskan economy,” have only recently echoed and gained force. But this rang true over 20 years ago with Senator Stevens.
I wish I could show our Senator one of his many wonderful Alaskan dreams become a reality, seafood baby food. I remember him saying to us students, “Find the problem and create a solution.” And that is what I set out to do, an all Alaskan owned, operated and sourced baby food manufacturing company named Bambinos Baby Food that addresses both Alaska’s economy concerns and the wellness of our children.
Obesity, allergies, quality nutrition, and little time is a common concern in many households across our nation. Bambinos is here to tackle these concerns and help parents with natural food options. Little ones love the flavors and parents have the convenience of healthy, fresh and pure ready made meals. Our products introduce Alaskan sustainable seafood like salmon and young halibut in children’s diet as early as 5 months of age. Our Alaskan sustainable seafood, Alaska grown veggies and are carefully formulated recipes address the above challenges by providing real nutritional needs at infant/ toddler stage. From the very beginning Bambinos has worked together with many of the best Alaskan allergists and predictions to ensure, “The Best All,” for a active growing little one.
Bambinos in many ways is revolutionizing the baby food industry: introducing a balanced meal with protein, veggies and grains in every spoonful, seafood baby meals, creating a frozen product in pouch that offers multiple portions that can cater to each child’s eating habits and lastly a frozen teething like popical (patent pending star shaped cube).
Little Maroudas family story. 🙂 My 6 year old took the frozen baby cubes and placed them on a blue placemat and said, “Look mama our state flag!” Smiling at his pure kindergartner heart I said, “Yes. The star guides us to health and fits perfectly in your little sister’s hands to smooth her gums too.”
Bambinos now ships direct to parents all over the US. Our “Hali Halibut” was announced this year’s Symphony of Seafood Grand Prize Winner, 1st in Retail and 2 People’s Choice for Anchorage and Juneau. We are working hard to create an All Star Alaskan national baby food band that parents can trust and Alaskans will be proud of.
Healthier choices for our children means for a stronger healthier future!
“Senator Ted Stevens came to Kodiak one beautiful summer day to officially launch the research vessel Oscar Dyson. Ted had been a close friend of Oscars and was instrumental in funding this important new ship. At the time Ted was President Pro Tem of the US Senate and because of that was accompanied by a body guard. After speaking to a large gathering and successfully launching the ship Ted and his bodyguard rushed to catch the Alaska Airlines jet to Anchorage. They approached the airline employee guarding the door. I had known her from a very early age and we had talked about state politics often. Clearly she knew I was her state senator. The body guard told her they would like to board early. She told him not at that time. He said to her that he was an armed body guard and the man standing next to him was Senator Stevens. She said, “Wait a minute, I know Senator Stevens and you’re not him.”
Clearly she knew me, a state senator, but not Ted, a US Senator. Later Ted and I talked about it and he joked about getting kicked off a plane because he wasn’t me and further kidded me by saying it was going to cost me millions and millions. Of course it didn’t and he continued to support projects throughout my district.“
“Many years ago, when Senator Stevens and his wife Ann, had an occasion to visit Nome, there were no hotel rooms available. Their visit must have coincided with a Republican Party gathering, because my folks were there. When my parents found out that Ted and Ann didn’t have a place to stay overnight, they invited them to spend the night at our house.
As a young child I remembered their visit. In appreciation, that Christmas the folks received a large package from the Stevens’s – in the package were seven beautiful little Story Book Dolls – one for me and each of my sisters. What a thrill it was for us to receive those dolls – I only regret that I don’t still have the doll that I received.”
“In all the grand accomplishments of Sen. Stevens, one probably won’t make it onto anyone’s radar screen, but I thought I’d let you know that one of Sen Stevens’ accomplishments in D.C. was to secure funds for agricultural research in Alaska.
I used some of those funds in a research project that started the first horticultural export from Alaska, peonies as cut flowers. More than 32,000 cut flowers were exported from Alaska in 2013, and the businesses keep growing. He certainly impacted even the tiniest corner of Alaska!”
“As I sit comfortably enjoying a lifetime of memories from my Petersburg home located here on North Nordic, or “Front Street” as the locals call it, I remember fondly the busy days of working with the Honorable Senator Ted Stevens. Located in my basement on the top shelf still sits remnants of the many election campaigns and rallies I helped organize as the Senator’s Petersburg coordinator in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. In a file cabinet beside rests memorabilia that include formal thank yous on behalf of the community of Petersburg for projects the Senator took special interest in as well as handwritten personal exchanges that reference our mutual respect and special friendship.
My time with Ted goes back to his political beginnings in Alaska. Upon meeting him for the first time I quickly joined his team and am proud to have worked beside him for he inspired me with his sincerity for Alaska and resolve for all Alaskans. Senator Stevens’ wisdom and patience when educating the public or gaining insight on particular issues never ceased to impress me.
The Senator’s friendship and personal interest in his fellow Alaskan was never more evident than when I was selected to travel to Washington, D.C. to represent our state as a member of the Petersburg Vocational Education Community Advisory Board to receive an honor on Alaska’s behalf. Amidst the chaos of the closing ceremony people were looking for me because Senator Ted was there to welcome me. The event coordinators were so impressed that Senator Ted Stevens came to see me.
Today as I sit in Petersburg surrounded by memories, I drift back to the excitement of the times and will forever be thankful to have crossed paths with Senator Ted Stevens. His leadership abilities promoted for the public good on behalf of Alaska by always putting Alaskans first and that I believe is the definition of a true statesman and a true friend.”
In fond remembrance,
“Alaskans have many reasons to respect their former Senator Ted Stevens (1923-2010), but as he was one of the first and most active supporters of the Healthy Athletes program, Special Olympics athletes all over the world have a particular reason to honor the former lawmaker. On July 28, the Movement’s athletes did just that as part of the first Ted Stevens Day in Alaska.
“Without Senator Stevens, we would not have the health-based movement that we have today. We remain grateful to him for his vision and we are proud to join in cheering for the day that celebrates his legacy,” said Timothy Shriver, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics Int’l.
During the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Anchorage, Alaska in 2001, he convened a special Senate Appropriations Committee Field Hearing on the health needs of people with intellectual disabilities. This would become a turning point in creating a policy and action agenda to address these issues.
Senator Stevens made sure that the successful but fledging Healthy Athletes program would get a boost by making the federal government a partner in the effort to improve the health of Special Olympics athletes and others with intellectual disabilities. The first federal resources in support of the program were realized in 2002. He continued his advocacy and support without a pause during his Senate career and was a co-sponsor of the Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act of 2004.
Each year going forward, the fourth Saturday in July will remain a day dedicated for Alaskans to remember Senator Stevens.”