So many things were the same when we returned to Alaska. Kodiak is still very much the town that we left almost six years ago, and the land itself looks just like it always did. We slotted effortlessy into old friendships, chatting easily with people we hadn't seen in years.
But one thing about Alaska has changed in a big way for us - for the first time, we were experiencing the place with kids.
Elias and I settled on fishing as our main father-son activity in Kodiak. When we first planned our trip we had thought we would be visiting in June, when the sockeye salmon are running, the halibut are inshore and the king salmon might even be on the bite.
Then we changed our visit to May. And it was a very cold May, to boot, and none of those things were going on - none of our friends with sport fishing boats had even been on the water yet during this year.
So we concentrated on trying to find Dolly Varden - little salmonids that haunt the rivers and lakes and nearshore coastal waters of much of Alaska.
I'm not much into fishing myself - I fish enough to eat fresh fish, and that's it. So it took us a few tries to find any Dollies. But then, on our last full day in Kodiak, on the storied Buskin River, we did - check out Elias' expression, below, when we finally caught a fish.
We caught six Dollies, and they made a nice feed for the family. They're wild fish, not, as far as I know, the product of any stocking program. I just love the fact that Kodiak is a place where you can walk down to the banks of the local river and catch a wild salmonid with your kid.
Fishing was a great excuse for getting outside with Elias, a way to interest him in a few hours spent together on the river, or casting from a beach at high tide.
But having a six-year-old along changes every outdoor event in Alaska - even simple things, like hanging around a fire on a beautiful day at a friends' place. Suddenly there's this whole other world - outdoor Alaska - that I know well, and love, and Elias knows not at all, and loves, and I have plenty to show him, and explain, and he's interested in everything I know.
It's a pretty sweet deal.
Eric's big breakthrough on the trip was getting used to dogs.