(Part Two of Three)
As I was re-reading Part One of this three-part series, I realized that I forgot to mention the biggest news of all! Steve DID catch a King Salmon while out fishing with Bill White! A good size one too - about 35lbs! He had Bill take some photos of him with his catch, but they’re on the video camera and I have to wait for him to download them before I can share one.
Steve left the fish with Bill, so that he could clean and fillet it, package it up, and freeze it. He made arrangements for us to pick it up when we passed through Sterling on our way out of Soldotna on Sunday morning. We met Bill and his son (also a guide) at a local diner along the highway, and Bill handed over the king salmon fillets. They totaled about 15lbs. I did a little online research and saw that Kenai River King Salmon fillets currently retail for about $50 for 2.5lbs. Steve definitely got his money’s worth from this fishing trip.
As an added suprise, and because Steve is a repeat customer of Bill White’s (and perhaps because he felt terrible about Steve’s luck with Steve McClure), Bill threw in another 15-20lbs of Red Salmon (sockeye) fillets! So, all in all, despite the two fishing trips that didn’t pan out, Steve brought home enough fish to make it all worth while. Our freezer chest doesn’t look so empty anymore.
We left Soldotna around 10am, and began our drive to Seward. We made plans to stop at the Russian River Campground, and hike the Russian River Falls trail. We’ve always wanted to do that, but in past years we couldn’t find a spot to park in the campground because of all the fishermen in town. I don’t know much about the salmon runs, but I don’t think they’ve reached the Russian River in full force yet, so we were able to get in. Unfortunately, because the combined length of our truck and camper is more than 50′, we had to park in overflow parking - which was .6 miles from the trail head and right next to the entrance to the park.
The trail itself is 2.3 miles to the falls. It’s an easy to moderate walk, with some slight uphill climbs both coming and going. Even with my issues with asthma, I didn’t have any problems. There were quite a few families hiking the trail with small children. The trail is gravel, wide, and well marked. Here’s a trail map I found on line:
Parking is $11 for the day, if you’re not camping there. However, because we were told to park in overflow parking, they didn’t charge us (that was a nice surprise!).
The scenery was gorgeous, and changed constantly. The trail begins beneath towering spruce, aspen and poplar trees, and then comes out into an open area surrounded by tall grass and mountains, before going back into the woods for a while. At several points during the hike, you can hear or see the river below. At the falls area, there are two observation decks overlooking the river. The sound is deafening as the water cascades down the valley and into the area where the salmon weir is set up (they count the salmon here).
This area is also where bears have been known to fish, but we didn’t see any on our walk. We later heard that a black bear was sighted on the trail. We did see plenty of fish jumping up the falls, trying to make their way back to their spawning grounds. It’s a beautiful waterfall, and well worth the hike if you’ve got a couple of hours to spare when traveling through this area.