"After spawning, all Pacific Salmon and most Atlantic salmon die. Most salmon are anadromous, a term which comes from the Greek anadromos, meaning "running upward." Anadromous fish grow up mostly in the saltwater in oceans. When they have matured they migrate or "run up" freshwater rivers to spawn in what is called the salmon run. Prior to the run up the river, the salmon undergo profound physiological changes. Fish swim by contracting longitudinal red muscle and obliquely oriented white muscles. Red muscles are used for sustained activity, such as ocean migrations. White muscles are used for bursts of activity, such as bursts of speed or jumping. As the salmon comes to end of its ocean migration and enters the estuary of its natal river, its energy metabolism is faced with major challenges: one is, it must supply energy suitable for swimming the river rapids. Salmon start the run in peak condition, the culmination of years of development in the ocean. They need high swimming and leaping abilities to battle the rapids and other obstacles the river may present. All their energy goes into the physical rigors of the journey. The run up the river can be exhausting, sometimes requiring the salmon to battle hundreds of miles upstream against strong currents and rapids.
The Copper River or is a 300-mile river in south-central Alaska in the United States. It drains a large region of the Wrangell Mountains and Chugach Mountains into the Gulf of Alaska. It is known for its extensive delta ecosystem, as well as for its prolific runs of wild salmon, which are among the most highly prized stocks in the world. It is the tenth largest river in the United States, as ranked by average discharge volume at its mouth. The river's famous salmon runs arise from the use of the river watershed by over 2 million salmon each year for spawning. The extensive runs result in many unique varieties. The river's commercial salmon season is short: chinook (king) salmon are available mid-May to mid-June, sockeye (red) salmon mid-May to mid-August, and coho (silver) salmon. The Copper River Delta, which extends for 700,000 acres is considered to be the largest contiguous wetlands along the Pacific coast of North America."
I found the King Salmon marathon in Cordova when the date for the Jackson Hole, Wyoming marathon was changed to labor day weekend. For the last two years, I had planned on running the Big Wildlife Runs marathon in Anchorage, but life got in the way and had to postpone until this year. After a few searches I found this obscure, tiny marathon in a remote fishing village in Cordova. Getting to Cordova both for Salmon and humans is no small feat but it is wildly beautiful and adventurous.
On the approach into Anchorage, we were told that we could see Mt. McKinley off in the distance. We could but barely. This is not Denali but shows some of the snow caps upon approach.
It was a beautiful day and one of our best weather days. After flying into Anchorage through Chicago, our first stop was at Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse, an iconic bar and seafood house that used to be the title sponsor of one of the Anchorage marathons.
The two most famous fish in Alaska were on the menu so we decided to start our Alaskan adventure with Salmon chowder and Halibut tacos. A pint of Alaskan Amber was also just what was needed after the long flight from NC. Yum! Since we needed to take a Ferry to Cordova from Whittier, we decided to stay in the small fishing village (pop. 177) overnight. Actually, it wasn't a choice since the only Ferry to go to Cordova was at noon. The only way to get to Cordova is by Ferry or small plane although the airport is just a landing strip. We figured that the 3 hour Ferry across the Prince William Sound would be the most scenic and serene. We were right!
There is one road, Seward Highway, Alaska Route 1 that could get us to Portage Glacier highway. What the Pacific Coast Highway is to the west coast, the Seward highway is to this part of Alaska. Granted it is not as long, but the views along the Turnagain Arm and Chugach mountains are amazing. Crystal waters and high, some snow capped mountains. We have so many pictures that it's difficult to choose which ones get posted here. This blog might last for a few posts. As runners, and humans in general, we all love the journey. Just getting to a remote place 26.2 miles from Cordova, Alaska was a journey onto itself and any runner wanting this type of journey just to run 26.2 miles through the Copper River Delta has to take this journey first. The road meanders along the Turnagain
Arm. The railroad tracks are for freight and passenger trains from the Alaskan Railroad and basically
follow the road and the water cutting their way through the Chugach Mountains. Turnagain Arm is one of two narrow branches of Cook Inlet of feeding into the Gulf of Alaska. Turnagain Arm boasts the second highest tides in North America sometimes rising more than 40 feet. I suspect we hit low tide which turns the beaches into a mud flat.
We stopped at Beluga Point hoping to see some Beluga Whales. No such luck. However, this little outcrop is beautiful in its own right. As you can see from our approach, the rock formations and pines on Beluga Point present themselves as a post card of beauty. We spent some time walking around the point and taking pictures.
One of our first "together" pictures in Alaska on Beluga Point. All we need here is a Whale breaching behind us. Again, no such luck. Although there is a lot of wildlife in Alaska, seeing it does come down to luck. There are more caribou in Alaska than people but did we see a caribou? No, but we did see people!
The flower below is Fireweed and upon its arrival introduces summer and it is everywhere.
Farther down the highway was Portage Lake, home of Portage Glacier. The mountain views were still phenomenal getting there.
We missed our tunnel time so we had a few minutes to kill at Portage lake. Check out this mini-iceberg. The water is very cold obviously. With the snow on the mountains, the clean, crisp lake and the iceberg, it makes for a great Alaskan picture.
It was actually quite chilly at the lake although a nice day in Alaska, the temperature was still 20-40 degrees cooler than NC. Here we are cuddling!
The Video of the tunnel won't upload but if you would like to see more of the tunnel you can go to the website, Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. So, we finally get through the tunnel and Whittier meets us on the other side. A quaint fishing village of 177 and a beautiful place. Check out the waterfall behind Cynthia. Also, don't be fooled, there is no downtown or at least a downtown as we know it.
This is one of my favorite pictures of our Inn, the Inn at Whittier, how lovely sitting right on the water. We've arrived! Look for the next blog post, Whittier to Cordova.
Days 198-210: 40 miles, 2014: 1,034 miles