Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Emmonak, Alaska Is A Long Way From Home

©Bert Gildart: It’s a long way from my son’s home in Kalispell, Montana, to Emmonak, Alaska, but that’s where David worked this past summer. Though he initially took the job because there was so very little employment locally for those in the construction field, as it turned out, not only was the summer profitable, but as well, it was a great adventure, one he may try to repeat. Perhaps there are some lessons to be learned about rolling with the times.

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Emmonak, Alaska, five miles from the Bering Sea

Emmonak is located near the mouth of the Yukon River near the Bering Sea, and that’s a long way from anywhere. The Yukon is several thousand miles long, and Janie and I know a little something about it. Several years ago, we loaded up our john boat, shoved off from Circle, Alaska, and boated about 2,100 miles in the course of four months.

Our journey took us about 300 miles down the Yukon to Rampart, then back up river to Fort Yukon where the Porcupine River converges with the Yukon. We then boated 350 miles to Old Crow, Yukon Territory, a Gwich’in Indian village, where I was gathering materials for various stories about the lives of subsistence hunters… This is big country, and though we covered many miles on the Yukon, we were still about 500 miles from  Emmonak. Because there are no roads to Emmonak, boat travel or bush plane are the only ways to get there.

Originally, Emmonak was settled by the Yup’ik Eskimo, a group that would hunt the winter ice for seals. But white people moved in, and when they did, roads were needed, meaning gravel to shore up the mud plastering grounds of this delta village. But the only gravel is located about 100 miles upstream around Mountain House, another Yukon River village. Each season that’s where barges go, returning with loads to be dumped along the roads of Emmonak. Maintaining Emmonak is a constant struggle.

VILLAGE STRUGGLES

Several years ago, the village had a particular series of problems. In the winter of 2008-2009, a combination of a cold winter and increased fuel prices led to economic hardship. Due to a collapse in local king salmon fisheries in 2008 residents were unable to generate enough economic capital to buy increased amounts of heating oil at higher prices. On January 10, 2009 Nicholas C. Tucker, Sr., a town elder, circulated a letter asking for aid. The letter was circulated by Alaska bloggers, where it was picked up by national media.


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CLICK TO SEE LARGER IMAGE AND COMPLETE CAPTION. L to R: George, the chef; David with Coho salmon; main street of Emmonak; David and George, the chef; home for the summer.


Emmonak is small, about 800 people, and the village is considered “dry.” Kwik’Pak Fishery operates a business there, netting and processing salmon. That requires out buildings, and the talents of a skilled carpenter, which after many years in the business my son certainly is. The business also requires the talents of welders, mechanics and of a professional cook, and Kwik’Pak, at least according to David, was very lucky in that they were able to hire “George,” a Romanian cook who has worked in some of the world’s best restaurants. Once he worked on a boat which ran into some bad luck. The ship sank and “George,” said David, relating the story to me,  “had to tread water for twenty-four hours.”

David also says that his crew of about 12 was lucky, for they dined like kings — all on meals prepared by George.

MOOSE AND SEAL HUNTING

David worked seven days a week, but still had a little time off to join natives as they hunted for moose and seals. He said he wished he’d had a camera with him when the Eskimos tried to spear seals in the traditional way. Nevertheless, he still came back with some excellent story-telling images.

Though no one has a crystal ball, David said he’d very much like to return, for not only did he benefit from the hard work, but he says he also had quite an adventure.

“You bet, I’d like to go back,” said David. “It’s a different world, and I enjoyed learning about another culture and the business of catching fish.”

Seems like in this season of rough economic times, you do what you must do, and sometimes it really works well.


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THIS TIME TWO YEARS AGO:

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2 Responses to “Emmonak, Alaska Is A Long Way From Home”

  1. Marie and AJ Says:

    We are from Alaska and touring the lower 48 for the first time in our new (used) Airstream. Your photos are beautiful and your website is very inspirational-thanks for sharing and enjoy Alaska!!

  2. Orlando Travel Photographer - Melanie Says:

    That looked like a really fun trip. I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska, just not in the winter :)

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