LET’S GO SHOPPING!

More than a decade ago – long before the current reality TV craze we were chatting with our friends Audrey Bradshaw & Larry Csonka about maybe doing a show that might be called “So You Think You Want to Own a Fishing Lodge?”.  The idea was going to be for the show to let folks know what it really takes to make a remote wilderness lodge such as Alaska’s Anvik River Lodge happen.  One of the processes that would be high-lighted is the pre-season preparations of shipping and expediting supplies for the season.  Here’s a glimpse of this process from Blair’s point of view……………

Few things are sweeter than the taste of a cold beverage on the river. Out in the normal world most would drink it without considering what it took to get it there. On average every beer or soda you drink at the Anvik River Lodge is moved by us about a dozen times. It’s another task that we here on the Anvik river take part in every spring before coming up to the lodge. The loved and hated expediting season…

The Purchasing: I must admit that every year during this process I feel a little bad for the cashiers at Costco & Sam’s Club.  I feel bad for being the herd of people with fourteen, filled to the brim, flat-bed shopping carts in the checkout line. But like I try to tell people in line, “These groceries aren’t going to buy themselves”. Its what it takes to make a trip out to the Anvik River Lodge possible. You can never truly appreciate something until you’ve had to physically touch it and move it up to a dozen times. As we stand in the store and we’re staring a particular item – a thought always pops in our heads “Do we need it so bad that we want to move it 12 times?” – from the shelf to the cart – to the conveyor belt – back to the cart – to the truck – from the truck to the garage – into the packing box – to the crate – from the crate to the boat (up the river it goes to the lodge) – from the boat to the storage shelf at the lodge – from the shelf to the cooler – and finally to your hand.  Sometimes we can cut out a couple of steps and only have to handle things 9 times though.

When you’re at Alaska’s Anvik River Lodge keep in mind that everything here was brought by us. The little things like trash bags to band-aids we have to think about months in advance before we actually use them. There’s a lot to be said for experience and we’re going on our 22nd season of this process.  We create a master list of every possible thing we may need over the next five months and head to the stores to get it.

The Packing & Shipping: The devil is in the details with this process. We are always trying to make everything as efficient as possible. For instance, if we choose to ship certain items on the barge as opposed to bypass mail our packaging techniques and systems are different. I’ll address the barge shipment first before bypass mail just so everyone knows what we are talking about.

We try to send as much as possible on the barge, it’s a little slower than our bypass shipments but it is a bit less expensive. And on the barge we can ship non-mailable items such as boats, roofing materials, tractors, recumbent bikes, alcohol etc. Most items we ship on the barge are packed in crates that we build ourselves. The crates are made of either ¾” or ½” plywood cut to either 4’ or left at their original length. We do this so we can disassemble all the 2/4s and plywood, collect up the screws, and use it all on building projects at the lodge. That way we are making the most efficient use of every pound we ship out to Anvik. Even the pallets we have to scavenge, (which is getting much harder thanks to the DIY pallet project fad) we haul up to the lodge for projects.

After we build a crate we tight pack it with groceries and supplies. And I mean tight pack. We’ll send anywhere from five to fourteen of these crates out each season depending on projects at the lodge for the year. Prior to shipping we silicon the seams, wrap them in plastic to keep the contents from getting wet and band them shut. We learned about all of this the hard way in the early years.

Once we have all of our crates built and loaded we deliver them to Carlisle trucking where they in turn haul them north of Anchorage about 400 miles to Nenana.  In Nenana they’re loaded onto Ruby Marine’s barge and are shipped down the Yukon to the village of Anvik.  This leg of the trip usually take about a week to 10 days depending upon river and weather conditions.

As we anticipate the arrival of the barge in Anvik we get as many things done as possible.  Most projects hinge on the arrival of the barge freight.  For instance, any building or repair projects that need to be done can be started but rarely finished until the barge gets in with the bulk of the building materials.  Once our barge freight gets to Anvik we disassemble the shipping crates and haul the contents up river in two 23ft. Wooldridge boats.  This is a minimum of 6 hours round-trip travel time plus another couple of hours for the time it takes to unpack and repack the supplies onto our boats – making sure the weight and balance are good and we’re maximizing the payload on each boat.  The barge will usually arrive in Anvik sometime within the first 10 days of June, which gives us two to three weeks before we open for the season.  A few years ago the ice conditions were so thick that the Yukon wasn’t navigable until well into June.  The barge got to Anvik on June 22nd – three days before opening day that year – talk about hustling, you have no idea.

One of the other forms of shipment we use is a system called Bypass mail. Bypass mail is unique to Alaska. The federal government understands that getting everyday items out to bush Alaska is very expensive. When you’re paying $10 a gallon for milk, if you can even find milk, it can be almost too expensive to live. The Post office will ship grocery items to approved companies (stores, lodges, and other businesses) at priority speed but at parcel post prices. In our case we have to pack boxes that are not more than seventy pounds, stack them on pallets, and shrink wrap them. We then have to use a very large scale to weigh the pallets, submit our total weight to the post office, and wait for an air carrier to approve the shipment and receive it. After we drop it off at the air carrier they have 72 hours to get it to Anvik where we will receive it on the other end and begin the process of hauling it 75 miles upriver to the lodge. Most items in this particular group include produce, meats, as well as other perishables.

Transporting the Staff & Dogs:  The final method we use to get items to the lodge is on our private charter flight through ACE – the same company that transports our guests to Anvik from Anchorage. The crew, the dogs and most fragile and super important items such as our office files, computers etc. and some garden starts go on this flight.  We also include items that we donate for Anvik’s annual “Clean-Up, Green-Up” day and picnic.  Once the snow melts the whole community comes together to clean up debris and garbage that’s been covered up by snow and ice over the winter. It is another awesome tradition that Alaskan communities have. This day signifies that summer is upon us and is everyone celebrates with hard work, games, prizes and good food. It’s our chance to be able to give back to this great community and so fun seeing the pride everyone shows in making Anvik beautiful this time of the year.

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska Sport Fishing, Arctic Char fishing, Chum Salmon Fishing, Grayling fishing, Northern Pike Fishing, Remote Alaska Fishing, Uncategorized, Wilderness Adventures | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on LET’S GO SHOPPING!

Blair’s report on the spring time re-con mission to Alaska’s Anvik River Lodge

One of the unseen aspects of running the most remote lodge in Alaska is what I like to call the “Gathering Season”. With the lodge dormant in the clutches of the long Alaskan winters comes one of our best friends for gathering – namely – snow. With the use of snow machines, or what people from the lower 48 may call snowmobiles, we are able to move firewood and logs quickly and efficiently over the several feet of accumulated snow.

Using a snow machine to gather fire wood for the Anvik River Lodge

Cliff, JD, Nick, and I have just returned from our early springtime adventure out to the lodge. The primary focus of this expedition is to first check out the lodge to assess any damage that may have occurred over the winter. Sometimes this can be as simple as a stove pipe being broken off due to the overwhelming snow load on the roofs, or it can be as dramatic as a bear break in. Last year for instance we were unable to make it out to the lodge early in the spring so we were taken off guard when Nick and Cliff arrived at the beginning of May to find that a Sow grizzly bear and her cubs had decided to make the lodge their winter den causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage. But that is a story for another time.

This year as we set out from Anchorage on that sunny March morning the temperatures out in Anvik were still in the sub-zero category. We arrived in the village of Aniak then proceeded on to Anvik on the local milk run Cessna Caravan with longtime pilot Ron as our captain. Upon arriving in Anvik we could definitely tell that the winter had not yet given up its grasp in western Alaska as much as it had in south central. From there we had a longtime local friend fly us out to the lodge in his bush plane. It took several loads in the plane for all of us to make it safely to the lodge. On our initial entry back to the lodge we always take more than we need because we never know what may encounter.

Upon a quick hot lap of the grounds we realized there was no apparent damage which was a huge relief. We then proceeded to begin building fires in all of our woodstoves and firing up the Toyo-stoves. Because the weather on the Anvik River had been quite frigid this winter it took a day or two just to bring the log walls up to a temperature to where the inside of the building was warm enough to no longer need heavy wool sweaters. When you find a bottle of anti-freeze that was in fact frozen, you get a perspective as to how brutally cold it must have been.

Once we established all was well and good we began to plot out a project list of what was needed to be accomplished over the next couple weeks of our stay. We knew we had to gather as much firewood and lumber wood as possible to avoid the mud-fest that comes with early summer logging. Cliff made an approximate materials take off list so we knew time was of the essence to accomplish our goals before we needed to leave.

Now, if we were able to just fire up the snow machines and head off into the woods to begin our task it would be one thing, but this is not the way things are in the bush. It always seems it is the small details that become a time sink. For instance, when our generator batteries had died and froze it makes the process of getting it to run a bit more involved. There wasn’t enough juice in the solar charged batteries to run things for long due to the long dark days earlier in the year.  But we were able to get the generator going with only a couple hours of a heat gun and some Cliff “MacGyver” techniques. The same goes for the tractor which we would need to use to plow all the snow away from the buildings so when the thaw occurs we would not have to deal with a small sea of melted snow around the foundations of the buildings.

After a couple days of “housekeeping items we could finally focus on our main task, gathering wood. It always takes a few runs to get back in the groove and make the process run more efficiently. The snow was deep so when we would dismount from the machines it felt a lot like wading the river. JD made some comment about his spirit animal being the T-Rex and how he was not built for these conditions.

For several days it was a constant rotation of finding proper trees, dropping them, limbing them, cutting them into moveable portions, loading them on sleds, and transporting them back to the lodge. Although it could be -20 degrees in the morning it would warm up to a blistering 15 degrees during the day. With every load it seemed to become easier and more streamlined.

We definitely would work long days, but occasionally we would find time to go out and be swashbucklers. We mixed in a little ice fishing

A little ice fishing fun on the Anvik River in March.

and some overall exploring during our little breaks between work. On one of our adventures we found where a pack of wolves had killed a moose no more than a few days before we had arrived no more than 300 yards from the lodge. Although we saw tons of wolf sign we never encountered one on this trip.

Nick check’s out the spot where a pack of wolves killed a moose on the frozen Anvik River just days before their arrival.

Another important task is to be able to go through what supplies we have at the lodge and double check everything we may need for the upcoming season, so we can meet the barge deadline in early May.  We’ll talk more about this whole process in another blog post.

However, after a couple weeks it’s time to leave and head back to Anchorage. In typical fashion we quickly gathered our belongings, reattached our electric fence, boarded up the windows and awaited our friend’s arrival in his bush plane to transport us back out to civilization.

Having a break in the sled.

In closing I’d just like to comment that no matter how much time we spend out at the lodge, it never seems like enough. But once the snow melts and the ice vacates the river we will be back for Anvik River Lodge’s “hell month” when the real work begins – stay tuned.

 

Categories: Alaska Sport Fishing, Arctic Char fishing, Chum Salmon Fishing, Grayling fishing, Northern Pike Fishing, Remote Alaska Fishing, Wilderness Adventures | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Blair’s report on the spring time re-con mission to Alaska’s Anvik River Lodge

WHEN IT’S SPRINGTIME IN ALASKA….IT’S FORTY BELOW

Alaska’s Anvik River Lodge covered in snow – BEAUTIFUL!

Or so the song says. It’s not quite -40 degrees at the lodge, but it is pretty chilly. Cliff, Blair, Nick & JD just ventured out to do the spring re-con mission and report that it was -15 degrees, but warming to a balmy 0 this afternoon. The really great news is, there is no damage from the cruel winter weather or the animals. Many of you will remember last years surprise of the sow and cub breaking in and camping out over the winter! But with our outstanding crew we were able to get everything ship shape before we opened up for the season.  Luckily this year the guys report that all is well and things look great out at the lodge.  They’ll be out there for a couple weeks getting firewood and timber put up for the season, then it’ll be back to Anchorage to start getting supplies packed up and shipped.  Stay tuned for the progress as we’re getting geared up for our 22nd season. WE CAN”T WAIT!!

Categories: Alaska Sport Fishing, Arctic Char fishing, Chum Salmon Fishing, Grayling fishing, Northern Pike Fishing, Remote Alaska Fishing, Uncategorized, Wilderness Adventures | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on WHEN IT’S SPRINGTIME IN ALASKA….IT’S FORTY BELOW

Why the Early Season is so Much Fun – a Guide’s Perspective

Chef Megan – got out of the kitchen to fish for some early season Chum Salmon

We invited the staff to join The Alaska’s Anvik River Lodge Blog. Many of our guides have been with us for well over five seasons and they can’t wait to get back up to the lodge every spring. The following is some insight by guide extraordinaire Justin Doucet (J.D. to everyone that knows him). ENJOY!!

DON’T MISS THE VALUE OTHERS OVER LOOK

The early season (June 25- July 15) at the Anvik River lodge consist of the largest salmon run of the year, highly aggressive pike, acrobatic grayling and ravenously hungry arctic char. This combination makes for some of the best fishing opportunities on the Anvik.

The Anvik River is home to one of the largest Chum salmon runs in Alaska, averaging 400,000- 700,000 fish, at times exceeding 1.2 million fish. This amount of fish in a crystal clear river is truly a remarkable site to witness. The chum salmon range from 7 to 15lbs and fight like hell trying to elude the net. Some of my best days on the river have exceeded over 100 chum a day between 2 anglers, that’s basically reeling in 700 to 1500lbs of salmon a day per boat – that’s a work out. The number of fish that are available during the first few weeks of the season is tough to beat.

Slammin’ Chum Salmon on the Anvik River.

What a catch!! A beautiful summer Chum Salmon on the Anvik River.

Fishing for Chum is exciting, most of the time you see the aggressive takes. One minute your lure is working its way through the water then all of the sudden you see this 10+lb fish, (swimming so fast you might miss it if you blink) slam your lure. You set your hook perfectly and your rod is dubbed over and your guide is PUMPED! You get that fish landed for the grip and grin – proof positive that you are a skilled angler.

WHAT THESE FISH LIKE TO GO AFTER – The Chum love spinners like the #3 black Vibrax with silver sparkles commonly known as the Micheal Jackson. They also love the natural swing of the fly hitting voodoo leeches, intruders, and popsicles.

PIKE FISHING GALORE! On top of the spectacular Chum Salmon fishing; the PIKE fishing is phenomenal. The northern pike are just coming out of their spawning season and are eager to hit anything. The guides love to rig up a top water lure this time of year. Pike are a prehistoric, mean looking toothy monsters and when they hit top water lures it is a thrilling experience. As you reel in and work the lure the still water begins to move and suddenly comes alive, at times seeing 3 to 4 different fish creating a wake as they speed toward your lure, the fastest pike wins and a huge explosion erupts. BOOM a huge pike is fighting you with all his might head shaking & water thrashing. As you reel it in several more pike are hoping for a quick meal. If the excitement of top water isn’t your thing a spoon or a jig would work just as well. This is one of the best times of the year to fish for these aggressive predators of the north.

Nothin’ like catching an Anvik River northern pike on the fly!

Plentiful and exuberant the Anvik River grayling can’t be beat – spin or fly it’s all exciting.

If you’ve had your fill of catching salmon and pike the Grayling and Char are in the same kind of feeding frenzy. The water is finally warming up the river is free from all ice and dirt, and they need to get as much food as possible before winter sets in again. This is the time Grayling are most likely to hit on dry flies, the grayling will come clear out of the water like acrobats flipping and twisting to grab your fly. Although rare it’s also the best time to catch Char on a dry fly as long as you are up to the challenge, you could be part of the elite group that catches one. If you’re not a fan of fly fishing, don’t worry as they are just as eager to hit spoons and spinners with vicious strikes. They both put up fights that will have you begging for more. Whether you’re a seasoned vet, beginner fly fisherman/women or one that loves to fish with ultralight gear fun can be had by all.

This is a great example of the beautiful char you’ll catch on the Anvik River.

If you’re planning your next or your first trip to Alaska consider the early season. The salmon are plentiful and will give you a workout. The pike explode the water and get your adrenalin pumping. When the pike and salmon fishing wears out the Grayling and Char will fill in the gaps for an exciting fun filled fishing vacation, all at an incredible value that should not be overlooked.

Categories: Alaska Sport Fishing, Arctic Char fishing, Chum Salmon Fishing, Grayling fishing, Northern Pike Fishing, Remote Alaska Fishing, Uncategorized, Wilderness Adventures | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Why the Early Season is so Much Fun – a Guide’s Perspective

Alaska’s Anvik River Lodge Blog is back!!

Celebrating our 22nd season with Alaska’s Anvik River Lodge – Cliff, Alyson, Cheryl & Blair Hickson

This is just a quick post to let you know that we’re FINALLY getting into the swing of things again. As you know being out in the wilderness and in remote areas most of the time, we’re not all that tech-savvy.  After years of having marginal, at best, internet capabilities we installed a new system this past summer. Once we got the kinks worked out it has proven to be just what we need in order to be able to upload photos and access our site easily.  And of course with the help of our capable (and much younger) staff, we’re figuring all of this Blog stuff out.

Thank you all for your encouragement and for letting us know that you really do want to know what’s going on up here!

We really look forward to being able to share information and to tell stories about this remote wilderness lodge that is so unique even in Alaska standards of uniqueness.

We’ll be posting short articles written by some of the guides themselves, information about what’s going on up here in the wilderness, fishing reports, weather information for your trip planning and of course lots of entertaining recaps of the season’s events.

Whether you’re looking for a special fishing and wilderness adventure for a couple or a place for a great family & friends or corporate get-away, please stay tuned to Alaska’s Anvik River Lodge blog and let us know what you’d like to hear about!

Yours in the Wilderness, Cliff & Cheryl and the whole Anvik Crew

Categories: Remote Alaska Fishing, Uncategorized, Wilderness Adventures | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Alaska’s Anvik River Lodge Blog is back!!

Continuing on with the Adventure!

What a terrific time it has been these past couple of weeks! Last week one group of guests estimated their group of three boated nearly 500 fish in four days. The weather was a little bit on the chilly side and it felt as if Silver Salmon fishing was soon upon us. Lots of big roaring fires in the woodstove at he main lodge were in order on those days. The weather has gotten better and the fishing, wildlife viewing, and scenery is incredible. Seeing 7 bears a day is not uncommon and catching fish until your arm is sore has been occurring on a very regular basis. A pair of guests who have been coming to Alaska for well over twenty years commented on their stay that they have had the best fishing day in their entire life and look forward to their return. Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game has counter 800,000 pink salmon in the river and several hundreds of thousands of Chum Salmon. The Grayling and Arctic Char have swollen bellies from gorging themselves on the abundant salmon eggs, but still have enough of an appetite to crush beads on the ultralight. All in all it has been simply marvelous!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Continuing on with the Adventure!

The third and fourth weeks of adventure!

The past couple of weeks up here at Alaska’s  Anvik River Lodge have been full of fun and adventure. The weather has been diverse to say the least. One day it was so hot out guides preferred sun screen to mosquito repellent and guided without waders. The very next day it didn’t seem like you could wear enough layers to stay warm. The fishing has been phenomenal. One of our returning guests caught a Chum Salmon that had swam so fast from the ocean it retained a good portion of its ocean run chrome color. The bears are coming out in larger and larger numbers everyday it seems. We had a sow and two cubs setup shop over by the fishing cleaning station here at the lodge but after a tussle with Kobuk and a few warning shots from the staff it appears the bears moved onto a better foraging area. The Pink Salmon are also in in huge numbers. Some parts along the river it almost appears the entire river bottom is moving due to the massive schools of these interesting looking good fighting salmon. Although most all the news coming from the Anvik River has been wonderful this year we did get one bit of unfortunate news from Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game.

After weeks of being on edge as to whether or not we would be able to fish for King Salmon, at the very least in a catch and release environment, we were informed that they will not be opening fishing for King Salmon on the Anvik River for the 2014 season. This was certainly not the news we were hoping to hear but unfortunately these things are beyond our control. We are just hoping that this year’s halt on fishing for these fish will return to us stronger runs in the future.

From all of us up here on the Anvik take care and stay tuned in for more updates!

Categories: Wilderness Adventures | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The third and fourth weeks of adventure!

Second week at Alaska’s Anvik River Lodge!

Another terrific week! The sun has been shining like there is no tomorrow and we have definitely been experiencing warmer than normal temperatures. Many of the guides claim they are going to begin guiding in shorts. The Chum salmon were on fire this week and the Pink Salmon are beginning to show up by the drove. The hordes of Grayling roaming the river are still making their presence known by biting at anything that lands near them. This week most everyone received a Grand Slam and we even added some members to our new Century Club. The Century club hat is won when a person catches over 100 fish in a day. The bears are starting to show up by seem to be fairly nocturnal due to the heat in the middle of the day. One day this past week a group of guests went to eat lunch at the Swift river after climbing Mount Egypt but were barred from coming ashore due to the curiosity of a bear looking for salmon. He stood on the shore watching them fish and posed for multiple photographs. It even appeared he was quite interested in how it was we caught over 30 salmon in an hour and he was not having the same luck. Another awesome experience from the past week was when long time guest and friend Bruce K not only managed to join the century club but also simultaneously secured a grand slam on the same cast securing a wonderful Arctic Char. To sum it up, terrific people, terrific fishing, just a total adventure!

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Second week at Alaska’s Anvik River Lodge!

Week one of the 2014 Season!

What an exciting week! The first season of the 2014 season here on the Anvik River started off in an epic manner. All guests who came got grandslams! The weather was absolutely terrific. During the whole five days there was one day with rain but by and large it was tee shirt weather. On the last day of the trip a majority of our guests opted to go and hike Egypt mountain. Once reaching the summit all stood in awe of how far out in the wilderness we truly are. The chum salmon are also in with big numbers and even more aggression. There were a number of times this week when a boat would have caught 60 chum a day. That is pretty incredible when you don’t even factor in all the Grayling, Char, Pike, and even Pink Salmon. The bear viewing is on the increase as we see more and more everyday. The wolves are howling up a storm too. In the middle of the week Cliff took a photo of a black wolf directly across the river from the lodge on an early morning. All in all a great start to a great season! stay tuned to see what else is in store.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Week one of the 2014 Season!

Heading out for the season!

Tomorrow morning the crew of the Anvik River Lodge is heading out to the wilderness. After many delays in the early season the time has finally come for us to head back to our true home. The excitement of the upcoming summer has everyone anxious.

Categories: Uncategorized, Wilderness Adventures | Comments Off on Heading out for the season!