This small town isn't even accessible by road - you must come in by air or sea. It's not an island, but it functions like one - small population, expensive groceries, lots of boats. Nelly, who works for the Copper River Salmon Marketing Board, picked us up in her old Westfalia van which we packed full of extensive baby equipment that only new parents on their first trip with a baby would imagine was necessary. There is a beautiful thing that happens when you don't have expectations. I was busy with a new baby and a few catering jobs and didn't have time to build any before we left and regret that's unlike me. I didn't know I was going to fall in love with Alaska. It wasn't a destination high on my "must visit" list, which made the beauty and charm all that much more appreciable.
We eat wild salmon. It costs more but it tastes better and I care about the sustainability and quality, so I find the price tag worth it. There is a charming story behind the wild salmon from the Copper River that I felt privileged to get a peek into. The salmon season last a few short months in the late spring/early summer and the fishermen work hard during that season to fish the Copper River Delta. We spent some time on a commercial fishing boat and the job is not an easy one. You must revere the water and the fish; it's what the industry hinges on. What the whole town hinges on, really. The fishermen head out rain or shine and fish virtually around the clock for as long as the Fish and Game Department allows them. Clearly these families fish for a living, but in talking to the the fisherman, there was a united respect they have for the ecosystem which they depend on. The Watershed Project, a local non-profit, is dedicated to preserving the salmon by researching their environment and teaching kids how to preserve their habitat.
We had a chance to meet with a small team that spends the summer along side Childs Glacier monitoring salmon escapement via sonar (literally counting the fish that swim by for months). We had a salmon pot luck with the fishermen's wives, gaped at glaciers and bald eagles and a pod of Orcas, caught some salmon, and enjoyed a tiny bit of the vast landscape that makes the state remarkable. We met so many people who love this town, who care about the salmon and the Copper River, and want to tell its story. What an honor it was to be a part of it for a short week.
Hugh's photos are gorgeous and it still doesn't do the place justice. This trip was sponsored by Copper River Salmon and all opinions are my own.