Kristen Berube lives a crazy, laugh-filled life with her outdoorsman husband Remi and their three camo-clad children in Missoula, Montana. A graduate of Montana State University and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, she loves being a mom and enjoys hiking, fishing, and camping.
I love an adventure. I love the feel of fresh, cool air whipping across my face; filling my lungs with the "freshness". I swear nature has the ability to heal my soul. The healing powers of nature are amazing. I am a believer. From simple everyday stresses to serious problems, fresh air and nature usually clarify the path that should be chosen. When you combine nature and adventure you get something magical, something once in a lifetime, something you will never forget.
Long story short... My fiancé and I had been pretty dang grumpy the last few months as we were starting a new business at the ripe old age of 23. In fact, every time I looked at him, I kind of wanted to pop him one in the nose. Well…That is not particularly healthy for either one of us. Talk about stress. Talk about not even knowing how to deal with real life stress. In hindsight, we did pretty well, but I will never forget feeling so lost and so FRIED. We took it out on each other and pretended we were perfectly happy and in control to the rest of the world. Now, when I look back, I am proud of us for overcoming all of the obstacles that were repeatedly thrown at us. Dip! Dive! Dodge!
Anyways! One day I was sitting there thinking about life and I got a wild, wild hair. Using money we did NOT have, I busted out my credit card and booked my fiancé, Remi and I, a trip to Alaska. We both love the outdoors and we had talked about going there "someday" so, so many times. I figured I wouldn't face an argument considering it was, after all, Alaska. Cue: the heavens opening, music, and sunshine sprinkles…I thought that it would be good for us to have an adventure and nurture our strained souls and our bruised relationship by ripping the lips off of a few salmon and running from a few bears. Okay, maybe not running from bears, but at least seeing the big suckers! Little did I know, that we would indeed, see some huge bears and we would be close enough to floss their teeth with a fish bone.
I was so excited when I pointed my mouse at the “BUY” button for our airplane tickets and clicked, that I almost peed myself. You know half from excitement and half from just blowing all of our plastic “money”. Yipes! Then I began pacing in giddy excitement as I waited for Remi to get his butt home. When his truck pulled up I about killed myself in the screen door trying to get outside to break the news. I spastically told him, and he was instantly jacked up and as giddy as a school boy in the fishing department at Cabela’s. We immediately got on the computer and began making plans, drooling and “ooooohhhhing and awwwwwing” - you know since we left in seven days and all- there simply wasn't a moment to lose.
Our plans were finalized and we anxiously awaited our seven days. Ahhhhhh, the torture of having no patience and exploding excitement is about enough to kill a girl, but I did survive those LONG seven days. Barely. Ha!
As soon as our feet hit the Alaskan soil and felt the cool air fill our lungs I immediately felt better. Less pressure. Less stress. More happy. My worries were lifted off of my shoulders and at the moment I realized how much I had needed this and I smiled at Remi, he smiled back, and we were ready for our Alaskan adventure.
Remi and I both love fishing and where o’ where, is better to fish than Alaska? Lucky turds that we were! We decided to hop on a Havilland beaver plane and go across the Cooke Inlet, to the chain of lakes and get dropped off for a day of fly fishing. Holy crud, I did not know what I was getting into. As our pilot dropped us off on this tiny island of muskeg, I looked everywhere… there was nothing resembling and sort of human civilization! The fact is, I do not think that I have ever been so ALONE… The feeling of having absolutely nothing at the tips of your fingers, you know crazy things like doctors and grocery stores, is at the same time exhilarating and terrifying.
Have you ever walked on muskeg? It is weird and a little creepy. It is like a mat of vines and slime that makes an island. It is not land, but you can walk on it and it just feels like you are walking on a squishing sponge. Weird! I looked around and saw nothing. No homes, no people, no nothing. Well, except alotta bears!! Holy crap, there were bears everywhere, and all we had to protect ourselves was our bare hands and sissy bear spray. I guess we could whip at them with our fly rods… No one told me I would pee my pants within the first two minutes of our trip. Ahhhhhh!!! So awesome, so scary, and holy crap, were basically a repeating loop through my brain. I nonchalantly asked our pilot- you know so that he wouldn't know I was scared out of my frigging mind, “Should we be concerned about all of the bears?!” He said, “No, because they are preoccupied with all of the spawning salmon.” Apparently it was supposed to bring me comfort that the hungry bears would rather chase a fish than me… in theory. He told us that our guide would arrive shortly. Ummmm, okay... I thought with living in Montana I was pretty tough, but there is nothing that can make you feel more exposed than the raw power of nature “eyeballin’” ya in the form of hundreds of pounds of muscle, teeth, and claws. My adrenaline was pumping through my veins and I loved it. Remi seemed as cool as a cucumber but I know he was peeing his pants too! As our plane took off across the water and soared into the air Remi and I looked at each other again and gave each other a knowing smile. This was awesome! Okay, now where is that damn guide to keep us from becoming bear turds?
As it happened we sat there for about 45 minutes when all of the sudden we heard the humming of a boat motor and I was relieved. After 45 minutes I was concerned that our guide might have been converted into a bear turd as well and we had no way to get out of here without his precious sat phone to get the plane back. So you may be wondering where this guide came from since there was absolutely nothing anywhere near this little island we were marooned on, but that guy did come from somewhere and to this day... I still have no freaking clue! Once I saw him...I thought perhaps he might have come straight from the bear den that he lived in- you know with the bears. He was grisly! Holy shit, I had never seen anything like him. Tougher than nails, brown leathered skin, a beard down to mid chest, a burning Marlboro hanging from his lips and a sawed off shot gun at his side. I had no doubt this man could take out a bear with this bare hands if need be. Okay, who should we have been more afraid of: the bears or this guy? Yikes! He said his name was Jack in a raspy voice and that we were going to catch some fish and see some bears today. Yep, this was going to be awesome. We hopped into his 18 foot jet boat , with the motor purring and the water spraying we were off to catch us some silver salmon! Wahoo!
Old Jack took us to all off his honey holes and we slayed the fish. Our lines were ripping out faster than we could reel them in. Good God, my arms were tired. It was fricking great! Once the bite slowed down, Old Jack asked if we wanted to go check out some bears. I asked if it was safe and he said, “As long as you stay in the boat.” Um…hell yes, I will be staying in the boat! I couldn’t wait to see the bears!!!
Old Jack, now he was a fearless “sumbitch” and gave us the best bear viewing I could have ever, ever, ever asked for. We all piled back into his boat and tore off towards Old Jack’s bear watching grounds. Granted, I'm still not convinced he didn't live with the bears somewhere around there. The first spot was a no show. So we zoomed off towards a different area. The spawning fish were everywhere, easy targets and ready for consumption for all of the hungry bears who needed fattening up for the winter. There was literally a pot of bears hanging out, ready to hand pick their breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, and one more snack. Okay, basically the bears were just gorging themselves into salmon euphoria. Seeing all of those bears was amazing!!! They were everywhere!!!! Old Crazy Jack asked if we wanted a closer view... Well sure. I didn't realize that the crazy old coot meant would you like to pettttt the freaking bears! He drove over to this giant rock that overhung the water and like clockwork a huge mama brown bear dove into the water about two feet from the edge of our boat- front paws and claws outstretched towards the water and the jumping salmon. Holyyyyyyyy crap! We were so close that she sprayed us with water when she jumped in. I could see her two adorable cubs sitting on the water’s edge waiting for their mother to come back with another tasty fish delight. Mommy with two babies... All the more reason to pee my pants, yet again. I wanted to tell Old Jack that we were going to tip him even if we didn't get to pet the bears or be on a first name basis with old monster mommy over there. Dang! That got the ol’ ticker pumpin’! Remi looked like he had a permanent grin frozen to his face. I will never forget that face, the expression of sheer horror and pleasure all wrapped into one giant, frozen grin. Just plain awesome.
After we watched the bears a bit longer it was time for us to get our butts outta’ there before the sun went down and we really did become bear turds. Old Jack told us to walk across the muskeg to the most random table sitting in the middle of this island and then go to the other side of the water’s edge and wait for our plane. He told us not to dilly dally near the table, which so happens to be a fish cleaning station complete with a filet knife and an old milk jug tied to the side for the guts. Once you clean your fish you are supposed to go out into the water and get a milk jug scoop of water to "wash" the table. But clearly the area reeks like fish and the bears like to hang out there. Ummmm… ok we will be moving along quickly.
We said our goodbyes to Old Jack, who was still puffing on the burning Marlboro dangling from his lips as it had been all day long. For some reason, I don't think Old Jack would ever give the nicotine patch a try. So we said adios and he zoomed off in his jet boat, leaving us there surrounded by bears, on a muskeg island, the smell of fish and each other. Romantic, right?
Our plane arrived about 20 minutes later, we hopped in and looked at each other breathed a sigh of relief that we would not be converted to bear turds by morning. We had a ton of fish and we were so refreshed in that moment that nothing else mattered. The only thing that mattered was the thrill of an amazing day that nature had graced us with and each other. There were no worries no stressors, just life. And it's a life worth living to its fullest every day.
Now go outside and give yourself a mini vacation! Breathe some fresh air, hike a mountain-side and go catch a fish!