No Road

Jul 15, 2016 | 0 comments

If you spend any time at all in Cordova, you’ll notice the town slogan just about everywhere: “No Road.” No road into town, no road out. The only access is by plane or boat (or by foot through the wilderness if you’re super ambitious?) Cordovans are pretty proud of this, and although there always seems to be talk of connecting the Copper River Higwhay to the rest of the Alaska road system, it doesn’t seem like that’ll happen anytime soon. For now, it just ends at the broken bridge at mile 36. As you can imagine, having just one “highway” and a few side streets doesn’t give you much to work with in terms of places to go and things to do. Thus, our main past time here is to drive the local roadways to check on the status of the salmon run, and look for bears, seals, and eagles. The sockeye run has been pretty slow this year, which we found out is because they’ve moved the commercial sockeye opener to the mouth of the river, so most of them are getting fished out before they make it upstream. Once they move the fishing location, the numbers will even out again and more will come in, but right now it hasn’t exactly been a spectacular run like everyone says it has been in past years.

Salmon vs. Seal

My personal favorite part of these road ventures is when we go out to Hartney Bay, the area near where I hiked on my first day here. Turns out, when the tide is low, the sockeye bottleneck in through the narrow channel under the bridge and hurry upriver to spawn. When the tide comes in, the water level rises, the river widens, and the seals come in to feast on the sockeye. The best part is that the water is crystal clear here, so you can stand on the bridge and look down, and watch the seals cruising back and forth underwater, hunting for salmon. When they come up, you can hear them breathing and snorting and chomping on their catch. I could seriously sit there and watch them all day.

Down the hatch


Gull: “Mine?” Seal: “Nah.”


The Sockeye are running!

Although the sockeye run has been slow, they are increasing gradually. I’m used to seeing pinks and chums run, so coming down to Power Creek and seeing the striking red of the sockeyes never ceases to surprise me. It almost feels like watching goldfish swim around or something, except they’re far more aggressive and desperate in their disposition, fighting over females, splashing about, and fending off the occasional opportunistic seagull. I’m all about the circle of life just as much as the next person, but it always breaks my heart a little to see how hard they fight even as they are dying. I wonder if they have an instinctual sense they’re at the end, or if they’re just doing what they know how to do with no inkling of how quickly their lives are coming to a close?

Becoming a zombie fish

  This week I took a different road from the usual routine, and took the undergrad class up to hike Eyak Mountain. We were actually attempting to find the trail that connects to the Crater Lake Trail, but we somehow missed that and ended up on top of Mount Eyak instead. Huh! Fancy that!

Orca Inlet

Orca Inlet If we had done the trail we intended to hike, it would have been about 3 or 4 miles roundtrip. As it worked out however, we ended up doing over 5 miles (nearly vertical!) according to several peoples’ phone apps! My legs are still paying for it, 2 days later. I had a blast though, and the view was more than worth it.

The summit (a little over 2,000′)


Only mostly disheveled.

As of today, I have 7 days left in Cordova, then it’s on to Sitka to visit some friends, and back to Eugene. I am both overly ready to get back, and simultaneously wishing I had another 6 weeks out here to collect more stories for my research. And spend more hours watching seals hunt fish, hike more trails, eat more salmonberries, and film more timelapses. Time moves so slow out here, and yet so ridiculously fast.


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