The Salmon Run Story

This week, I drove through Anchorage and stopped to see the salmon run. It ended up being more than I bargained for.

My first stop was Ship Creek, which is just above downtown Anchorage. There’s a wooden bridge where you can look down into the stream and see… nothing. There were a few other people milling around and watching the stream, but no sign of enthusiasm. There was one fish who had gone the wrong way and was flopping in the mud, but it was just sad.

An elderly Chinese man approached and asked me where he could see the salmon. I admitted that I wasn’t local and had the same question. My next best guess was a dam and hatchery about 3 miles upstream. He looked disappointed and said it was too far. They were cruise ship passengers walking around downtown.

Then I had An Idea. “How many people are with you?” I asked. Minutes later, he was in the passenger seat and his three relatives were chatting in Shanghainese in the backseat. The guy who had spoken to me had done some IT work in Maryland but had now retired. I was feeling really good about the future Reader’s Digest / email forward about the Local Who Dropped Everything.

That would be the end of this story, except for a GPS mishap. Google directed me to a large building with a fenced-off entrance. I decided to continue driving and ask some people parked on the road up ahead. And this is how me and the Chinese arrived at a checkpoint for Elemendorf Air Force Base. At some point I realized that this was Not Going Well, but I did need those directions. Inside I was confused about directions and what would happen, but I projected calm. Carefully I explained the situation to my passenger-translator for the group. I brought the car to a stop at the designated spot, and the workers ignored us. Did I need to shift into Park? A jet took off over our heads. I rolled down my window and waited. Eventually a soldier in proper camo and armor appeared, and strolled over. She was very chill and told me that this was the freight entrance.
She asked, “do you know how to get to the other entrance?” I explained where I was going, asked for clarity on how I should turn the car around in front of their checkpoint, and carefully made our way back.

We turned around and… quite quickly saw the signs for the visitors entrance to the hatchery. I’m not sure how we could have missed it. Anyway the fish were here (not so visible in the photo, but they’re there!). One jumped and we all gasped.

Anyway, here is my tour group marking their location on the hatchery’s tourist map! They took a picture with me, but we didn’t exchange names or e-mail addresses.

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