Alaska Field Trip
Story by Jainee Dial & Lindsey Elliott
Photos by Sashwa Burrous & Dawn Heumann
Three years ago, we decided to reach out to two commercial fishermen based in Homer, Alaska. We loved their story—two sisters who, in addition to running a family fishing business, were revitalizing the dialogue around the importance of salmon as a keystone species. Since we aligned in so many ways, we asked them to be Ambassadors for our newly formed company.
Our relationship with Emma and Claire has deepened since then, and over the course of the last year, we worked to create our first Wylder Field Trip with the Salmon Sisters. We designed an intimate group retreat to Homer, Alaska with a key focus on cultural ecology.
Homer is known for its tumultuous, stormy weather, so when we arrived to find the forecast calling for five straight days of sunshine, we knew it was going to be a fantastic week. Each day was filled with an itinerary created for full immersion into the environment. We hiked to nearby Grewingk Glacier, went fishing on a private charter for King Salmon (which everyone caught!), and foraged for berries around our basecamp, the Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge.
The workshops, led by local experts, were an incredible way to learn about the traditions and people of Homer and their expertise in cooking and harvesting wild foods. In one of them, we made a salmon skin leather wallet so everyone could take home a physical reminder of our incredible experience; a memento harvested from the ocean and hand-crafted for use over the course of a lifetime.
Each day brought a renewed sense of abundance, a primal feeling of awe, and an education in how important salmon is to this ecosystem. To embrace this land is to embrace its harsh beauty. The attention to seasonality and the delicate, balanced interplay of Alaskans and their environment is exceptionally intentional and stubbornly harmonious. The gruff boat captains share the same indomitable spirit and pride as the farmers exhibiting their abundant harvest at the Saturday market.
In addition to experiencing the vast beauty, we were also able to learn why the Pebble Mine and extractive development pose such an immediate and existential threat. From the tiniest microorganism, to the massive grizzly bear, we learned and witnessed firsthand, that life here revolves around the salmon runs and we must do everything in our power to protect and foster this last great salmon stronghold.
Save Bristol Bay | www.savebristolbay.org
Wild Salmon Center | www.wildsalmoncenter.org
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear.”
In such a rugged environment, its critical to plan for every scenario. Our trip included a diverse array of activities like glacial hiking, fishing from a chartered boat in open water, morning yoga classes, and tide pooling around the Lodge. We rounded up our favorite clothing, tools, and footwear that stood up to the test of Alaska and hope it’ll inspire an adventure of your own.
Our apparel of choice for each day's activities was Patagonia. We didn't think anything could replace the beloved down sweater until we met the Micropuff Jacket. This jacket has more warmth with half the bulk, comes in great colors, and is washable. Win! The Happy Hike pants crushed multiple plane rides, hikes to glaciers, hot tub runs, and lounging at the lodge. And the Stormfront Duffle takes bag life to the next level. There's nothing better when you're on the road than being able to isolate dirty, wet shoes and clothes from your precious clean ones, and have all your gear stay dry at the same time.
Danner makes the best boots for charging trails and we loved trying out some of their new styles. The Adrikas and Mountain 600's are both lightweight and durable. These were perfect for longer hikes and they're super comfy for everyday use and travel. The Mountain Light Wild take a bit more time to break in, but once they've formed around your foot, you'll wear them for years because the leather is meticulously crafted and built to last. All in all, Danners are that perfect blend of style and function that you'll have for years and years of good use.
Having the Leatherman Signal Tool on this trip was crucial for nearly every activity, from cutting fishing line to starting a fire at the base of the glacier. The Signal is lightweight and has perfect features for regular use like a saw blade, pliers, and phillips head/straight slot screwdriver tips. We kept it at our side at all times.
Xtratuf boots are the best footwear for life on the water and we loved wearing them on the boat. They're totally slip resistant and so comfy you won't want to take them off. The Salmon Sisters collection features cool prints and colors inspired by nautical tradition and the wilderness of Alaska. Whether you're gardening, boating, or just walking on pavement in the rain, Xtratufs can handle getting dirty and look cool doing it.