A Visit to Lake Clark

For the past 3 summers, my friend Asa flew out of Port Alsworth for Lake Clark Air.  During his first summer there in 2019, he invited me out to spend a few days exploring the area. Having been inspired to begin my whole Alaska journey after reading Dick Proenneke’s journals, I eagerly accepted the offer.  I had 5 free days between the end of forestry training and the beginning of field work.   I packed my things, loaded my car and drove the 6 hours down the Parks Highway to Merrill Air Field in Anchorage.  I spent the night camped out in the old pilot’s shack amongst old scrap and neglected planes at the edge of the airfield. Come morning, I walked down the road to Lake Clark Air and soon found myself looking down on the city, Cook Inlet and the flats beyond. Westbound for Lake Clark and Twin Lakes country.

The route took us through Lake Clark Pass, a stretch of mountains that spans roughly 50 miles, emptying into the northern end of Lake Clark.  Turquoise waters filled some of the ponds and lakes below, melt off from some of the surrounding glaciers. We flew over Lake Clark and the surrounding mountains, touching down on the southern end of the lake at Port Alsworth.  Asa was out flying, so one of his coworkers showed me to his place then took me to the only spot to eat in town, a food truck run by the local church group.

Lake Clark Pass

Port Alsworth is one of the most unique communities off the road system in Alaska.  The community is centered around two things.  The first being aviation and nearly the whole town borders two different air strips.  The Alsworth family first settled down in the area to homestead and fly supplies and people to the surrounding villages.  Over the years that operation expanded to what is Lake Clark Air, a booming air service business.  The second thing Port Alsworth cernters around is religion. The community boasts a church that sees high attendance, a Samaratian’s Purse retreat that helps veterans and a Christian camp that brings in youth from the surrounding area during the summer.  Demographically, the village is almost entirely white and is the only village in the Bethel census area that has grown in the previous decade.

Chicken coop built by Dick Proenneke in Port Alworth

Asa still had to fly for the majority of the time that I was there.  I’d find ways to pass the time through explorations during the day by exploring the local country.  I walked up the trail to Tanalina Falls and beyond to Kontrashibuna Lake.  Another day I hiked up a nearby mountain, gaining a view of Lake Clark in its entirety. At night we’d boat on the lake, walk around town or eat with some of the other people in the community, chewing the fat.

Kontrashibuna Lake

There were a couple days in which Asa did not have to work. We took advantage of those, hiking back up to Kontrashibuna Lake and canoeing nearly to the far end.  One of the main highlights of the trip was the day we flew in one of the TriPacers and took a tour of the park. We first flew north, heading towards the Chilikadrotna and Mulchatna Rivers, then heading east by Turquoise Lake.  I was matching maps with reality. I had read Dick Proenneke’s journals so many times that I recognized many of the areas that we passed.  We soon found ourselves at Twin Lakes.  Mountains rose up sharply from around the lakes and glaciers were nestled back in its headwaters.  It was no wonder that Dick had picked such a site. Grand in its splendor and with a variety of animals to keep him company.  We took a low pass over the cabin, continuing down past Lower Twin Lake and over the mountains south to Lake Clark once more.

Two days later I hitched a ride back to Anchorage in a TriPacer with some of the young Alsworth boys.  We flew a couple hundred feet off the ground, spotting moose, wolves and bears on our flight back to town.  The trip had fulfilled all my expectations. I had come full circle to an extent, catching a glimpse of the origin of one of my primary life inspirations.  A trip like this only provides further inspiration, hopefully yielding richer experiences in the years to come.

Lake Clark Pass

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