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Environmental impact is something women's outdoor retailer Wylder Goods place huge importance on, so when they heard about two sisters running a Salmon fishing operation in Alaska with similar values, the Salmon Sisters became natural partners. Last month Wylder Goods and the Salmon Sisters teamed up on an incredible journey into the untamed beauty of Homer, Alaska and its surrounding ecosystem. From their basecamp in the wilderness of Kachemak Bay, they explored mountains, glaciers, and sea, with f-stop packs helping them record the journey...
Words: Wylder - Lindsey Elliott & Jainee Dial
Three years ago, my co-founder Lindsey and I decided to reach out to two commercial fishermen based in Homer, Alaska. We loved their story—two sisters who, in addition to running a family fishing business, were revitalizing the dialogue around the importance of salmon as a keystone species. Their brand, Salmon Sisters, was incredibly inspiring to us. Since we aligned in so many ways, we asked them to be Ambassadors for our newly formed company, Wylder. We were thrilled when they said yes!
Our relationship with Emma and Claire has deepened since then, and just over a year ago we agreed to co-guide an intimate trip that would showcase the rugged beauty of Alaska with hands-on workshops and exploration of the surrounding landscape.
In thinking about how to offer something meaningful to our community, we knew that approaching the trip through the lens of cultural ecology would be the most powerful strategy. We felt that in order to truly understand this magical place, it would be imperative to engage with and learn from the local population about how they inhabit their unique ecosystem.
Homer is known for its tumultuous, stormy weather, so when we arrived to find the forecast calling for five straight days of sunshine, we knew it was going to be a fantastic week. Each day was filled with an itinerary created for full immersion into the environment. We hiked to nearby Grewingk Glacier, went fishing on a private charter for King Salmon (which everyone caught!), and foraged for berries around our basecamp, the Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge. The workshops were an incredible way to learn about the traditions and people of Homer and their expertise in cooking and harvesting wild foods. We even made a salmon skin leather wallet so everyone could take home a physical reminder of our incredible experience; a memento harvested from the ocean and hand-crafted for use over the course of a lifetime.
Having never been to Alaska, I was astonished at both the epic landscape, and the generosity and grit of its residents. Most folks say that Alaska is “wild” which has a bit of a romantic connotation. But “wild” as a descriptor, doesn’t quite honor the reality of life here. It’s far too reductive and implies an untamable nature. This landscape and its inhabitants are wild in some sense, yes, but nothing seems out-of-control in the balance between humans and soil, ocean and fisherman. The attention to seasonality and the delicate, balanced interplay of Alaskans and their environment is exceptionally intentional and stubbornly harmonious. The gruff boat captains share the same indomitable spirit and pride as the farmers exhibiting their abundant harvest at the Saturday market. One young woman who worked at the lodge remarked, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. Only bad planning.”
To embrace this land is to embrace its harsh beauty. It raises hair on the backs of necks and asks for humility in return. Each day brought a renewed sense of abundance, a primal feeling of awe, and an education in how important salmon is to this ecosystem. In addition to experiencing the vast beauty, I was also filled with an impending sense of doom; being able to quantify the encroaching threat that the Pebble Mine and development pose to this ecosystem is gut-wrenching. From the tiniest microorganism, to the massive grizzly bear, we learned and witnessed firsthand, that life here revolves around the salmon runs and we must do everything in our power to protect and foster this last remaining wilderness.
For this trip, the Wylder crew used the f-stop Dalston from the compact Urban Series, and the 50L Tilopa from the Mountain Series with the Large Pro ICU to meet multiple gear carry needs. Don't be fooled by the size and naming differences though - both of these use the same premium shell material for weather resistance.