Outdoor Corner: The Last Frontier

Lyle Johnson
Cory Watts with an Arctic Grayling he caught on a fly fishing trip to Clearwater Creek near Delta Junction.

I just finished reading a book titled “The Final Frontiersman,” by James Campbell. It’s a story about Heimo Korth’s lifelong dream to live in the outdoors in a self-sustaining manner. It sounds a little romantic, but life in the “bush” is not what most think about.

Heimo Korth grew up in Wisconsin, the son of a German immigrant who was raised rough over in Germany. The elder Korth raised all his sons the same way, which was some of the reason Heimo left home determined to make a life in the wild.

My relationship with the State of Alaska began in 2005 when my daughter Kaycee and her family got transferred to Eielson Air Force Base just outside of Fairbanks. She had our only two grandchildren at the time, Canaan and Isabella. The new technology at the time was the webcam, which was our only live connection with our family short of a 4200 mile, 69 hour drive or a plane ride.

This kept our relationship as close as it could, but inevitably we would have to hop a plane and fly to Fairbanks to get some flesh-to-flesh contact (hugs and kisses). So we planned our first trip far, far away from home. Our flight took us from New Orleans to Minneapolis, Minn. then on to Fairbanks International Airport.

I was always a big fan of Alaska because of the way the United States bought it from Russia in March of 1867. The cost of $7.2 million dollars for over three-and-a-half million acres comes to about two cents an acre. Talk about a real estate deal.

The Last Frontier” is the state motto like ours is “The Sportsman’s Paradise.” I was in the Fairbanks airport the first time I saw it. I thought it was just a marketing catchphrase and didn’t think much of it. Then I saw it on a coffee mug, then a t-shirt, a billboard and a few more times on different types of promotional items. Oh well, they have a pretty good catchphrase.

But it didn’t take very long for me to realize that it was for real. Our ride out of Fairbanks heading to Eielson soon left the city, and the realization of just how vast this land was became a little overwhelming for me, a Louisiana swamp boy. But that was just the beginning of my experiencing The Last Frontier.

It’s pretty hard to describe the size of Alaska with words. Pictures don’t do it justice either, but you can fit the state of Louisiana inside Alaska 13 times. It’s one-fifth the size of the Lower 48, Alaska is bigger than Texas, California, and Montana combined!

From north to south, Alaska measures 1420 miles, the distance from Denver to Mexico City, and east to west 2500 miles, the distance from Savannah, Ga. to Santa Barbara, Calif.

Alaska also has the most northern point (Point Barrow) and the most western point (Cape Wrangell, Alaska -- further west than Hawaii) in the U.S.

Alaska has 134 times as much inland water (in lakes, reservoirs, and rivers) as Louisiana. In fact, Alaska has 3 million lakes over twenty acres big. Alaska has more than 50 percent of the entire U.S. coastline, or 6,640 miles. Louisiana has 397 miles of coastline!

We stayed on Eielson AFB with our family and only ventured as far as Denali State Park which is 147 miles away on Hwy 3. That’s right, Hwy 3. As far as I can tell there are only 11 state or federal highways on a piece of land that big. That means there are a lot of places you can’t get to very easily. Everything about that place is mind blowing.

Besides a visit to Denali, we took a riverboat ride down the Chena River and did a little panning for gold at an old gold mine. Yes, we got some gold, saw a nugget that was worth over $40,000 dollars, and almost caught gold fever. There is a North Pole in Alaska, and it is Christmas year-round.

On our second visit, we decided to expand our horizons a little so our first adventure was a flight on an eight-passenger plane that landed in Coldfoot on a rock runway (which is another story). We visited the town of Wiseman (population 13) in the Arctic Circle.

Part two of our visit took us to the eastern side of the interior down Hwy 2. Our final destination was Seward for a couple of days. According to our mapping instructions, this would be a nine-and-a-half-hour drive. Not! Fourteen-and-a-half hours later we arrived at our lodging destination, totally overwhelmed by what we had just seen.

Between the AFB and Delta Junction was a place to stop for viewing the lay of the land. You could literally see all the way to Mount McKinley (250 miles), as Alaska is mostly flat except for the mountains which are plenty.

We took a day cruise where whales, killer whales (Orca), all types of seals, dolphins, and otters were there for the viewing. The boat made a stop at Aialik Glacier that offered the opportunity to watch the glacier calve (tons of ice falling into the water). Thatreminded me of old-time aluminum ice trays when the cubes were removed. You could literally hear the ice popping, sort of like thunder.

Our next two visits to the state included our whole family on the third trip, then Deborah and I went the last time by ourselves. We’re not finished with our visits there as we both can’t get The Last Frontier out of our systems. It’s in our blood.

We keep connected by watching most all of the Alaska shows on TV that we can. The Last Alaskans is our favorite. Wouldn’t you know it, Heimo Korth and his family star in the show! Their cabin is one of the few left in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The show is worth watching on the Discovery channel, and the book “The Final Frontiersman” by James Campbell is well worth the read. Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe, and may God truly bless


Lyle Johnson is a free-lance writer, co-host of Ascension Outdoors TV and Curator of the Louisiana State Fish Records. He can be contacted at reelman@eatel.net

Outdoor Calendar

EASL Monthly Meeting: 3rd Monday every month, East Ascension Sportsman’s League meeting held at Chef KD’s on Highway 74 starting at 7 p.m. A meal served and special speaker will be in attendance.

Squirrel season: Through Feb 28 daily bag limit 8 possession 24.

Rabbit season: Through Feb 28 daily bag limit 8 possession 24.

Quail season: Through Feb. 28, statewide, private lands only. Daily bag limit 10 possession 30.

South Louisiana Highpower Club Match: Jan. 27 at 8:30 a.m., Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Range, St. Landry Road, Gonzales. NRA match rifle or service rifle, 200-yard/50-rounds match course. Fee $12 members, $15 nonmembers, $5 juniors. $15 annual club and Civilian Marksmanship Program membership (allows purchases from CMP). Other match dates: Feb. 24, March 24, April 28, May 26,

June 23, July 28, Aug. 25, Sept. 29, Oct. 27, Nov. 24. Call George Serrett 225-389-6118. Email: gserrett41@cox.net.

Fishing For Tucker Bass Classic: Feb. 2. The 9th Annual tournament is scheduled for February 2, 2019 at Cabela's in Gonzales.

La-BASS Open Tournament: Feb 16 at Doiron’s Landing Stephensville, La. benefitting Anything Outdoors Helping Kids. $100 entry fee, pre-registration required so see La-Bass on their Facebook page.

LSU College Bass Team Benefit Tournament: Feb. 17 at Doiron's Landing in Stephensville, La. benefitting LSU Fishing Team. $100 entry fee, register morning of tournament. See LSU Fishing Team on their Facebook page for info and entry form rules.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net