The Magic of the Northern Reaches

For some it's the West, but ever since I was very young, the idea of going "up north" was synonymous with a certain type of freedom. You could get away with and from lots of stuff out in the woods "up north" that would get you in deep trouble back down south in the world of teachers, pavement and endless rules.


1-Doucette_Yakutat-0802 (1) Fishing a pulsing salmon run is an experience that defies superlatives. After a single day, the reasons why so many people have built their worlds around the revered species made perfect sense. Not to mention it was a damn good time! Photo: Dan Shelper @danshelper


‘Up north’ was where the boys went to be boys and the men went to escape the world of schedules, responsibility and those endless rules and laws. It has probably always been this way, and I hope it always will be. The wild places of this world teach us life’s greatest lessons, and they're where I learned things that I never could have amongst the saturation of information in our digital world.


After a day fishing on the river, we packed up the camping gear for an overnight mission to a nearby island and were rewarded with glassy, head high waves with no one else in sight. This was shot at about 10 p.m. as the last light slowly faded for a limited but very appreciative audience.


Alaska. About as far ‘up north’ as you can get in the western hemisphere, and from what I’ve seen it just might be a kind of Valhala for those who feel the weight of modern civilization is just a bit too much. The allure of wild land is every bit as powerful a draw to the domesticated people of the 21st century as it was to Buck in Jack London’s Call of the Wild.


The Bald Eagles of the area eat well when the Salmon are running. This guy had already had his fill by the time we drifted by, but he kept a close eye on the rookies and I imagine he was chuckling at our ineptitude.


Many hours of my youth were spent watching ski movies and day dreaming about the day I would get to go north. When I finally did, the experience was far beyond anything a lifetime of those daydreams could’ve prepared me for. The best memories are seared into your synapses like a cattle brand and remain vibrant for decades. Alaska always provides a lot of those kind of moments. Doesn’t matter what you’re going up there for ... magical stuff happens in the far north, and I go every chance I get.


Headed down the coast. The roads in Alaska only go so far. The sturdy bush planes, and the men who fly them, are the stuff of legend. We were happy to hitch a ride out to a isolated river mouth for an unforgettable day. There’s something about loading fishing gear and surfboards into a plane with giant balloon tires for landing on the beach that just guarantees a good adventure is in store.


These are a collection of images from a recent trip to chase silver salmon and breaking waves in and around Yakutat bay with my twin brother and an old friend. As it always does, the great state of Alaska delivered far more than our share of magic and another set of fried synapses. The Deuter Helion 80 was the perfect bag for the trip, easily fitting all the thick wetsuits, fishing waders, warm clothes and camera gear I needed.


Watching this group of giant, playful Stellar Sea Lions frolic and bark on a rock outcropping not far from the Hubbard Glacier was a bitter sweet experience as their numbers are crashing throughout the region and while we were fortunate to experience them in their natural habitat one can only wonder how many more years they’ll be around.




The fishing around Yakutat has remained amazing for so many years in no small part due to the tight regulations and the enforcement of those regulations throughout the region. Limits are closely adhered to, and the fish populations are thriving which will hopefully be the case for generations to come.


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