Thursday, July 2, 2009

An Adventure at Fish Camp: Ekuk, Alaska

By Father Scott Joseph Garrett

On a beautiful day in Bristol Bay, Wednesday, July 1, 2009, I decided to visit a few parishioners at Ekuk, Alaska. Ekuk is South of Dillingham about 14 miles. It is only inhabited in the summer when the King, Sockeye, and Silver salmon are running. It is in spitting distance of Clarks Point. Like all of the villages out here, there are no roads so traveling by car is not possible.

It was my first time landing on the small runway...if you could call it a runway. It was actually a very narrow, short, soft, road. Since it was my first attempt to land at Ekuk, I was on a reconnaissance mission to check out the runway. Normally, I land and walk around to check things out before I actually minister there, then I fly back to Dillingham and make arrangements for a mass, hence, no clerics. Looking back, I could kick myself for not wearing them.

After making a couple of passes I decided to land. It was touchy. I had to hit a spot on the runway exactly or I would have run into the bay. I landed and almost got stuck back-taxiing to a parking space.

In the right hand lower corner below is the narrow Ekuk runway and the cannery. As you can see, if one happened to to touch-down half way down the runway, one might end up in the drink before one stopped.

Walking to the Anderson/Ingram fish camp, I was picked up by a family and driven down the beach. I was not expecting to find them, but June and Katie were at fish camp with all of their family and friends. They were tired after catching thousands of pounds of Red (sockeye) salmon.

They invited me in, made me tea, and wanted me to bless the house. Like I said, I wished I had been more official and had worn my clerics. I don't feel comfortable ministering without the formal collar, please forgive me!

This is what many of the fish camps look like along the shore where the Nushigak runs into Bristol Bay. The fish camps are only used when the salmon are running.

From left to right, Fr. Scott (me), June (whose husband has another fish camp in another village), Josh, Kara, Katie, and a friend who helps with the fishing.

Another picture of the crew. Notice the drawing on the building.

One of the youth holds up a small duckling found out at the camp.

Here the wild duckling stares down the puppy. I think they like each other!

Katie really wanted the fish camp blessed, whether I had on my clerics or not. I made a feeble attempt, but successful one. Katie found s a type of bush that was perfect for the sprinkling. After I blessed the water, we were in business. We prayed together and I walked around blessing several dwellings in the fish camp.

Since the dirt-strip was so soft I could not turn around without getting stuck. It was also short and I wanted as much runway as possible in front of me when I took off. I had the gang pull my Cherokee Warrior out of its parking spot, and then we pushed it backward to the end of the runway.

Fly safe and hope you have a great fishing season, Fr. Scott

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