Red Gold on FRONTLINE

It has been nearly three years since FRONTLINE creator David Fanning contacted us to license Red Gold, a day we’ll certainly never forget. Another day we’ll never forget is when FRONTLINE kicked our asses out of Boston during the re-edit. It took a few months for them to realize that having the Red Gold name on their program was a bad idea, considering it was partly funded by donations from anti-Pebble non-profits. [you gotta respect their journalistic integrity] Travis, Lauren and I tucked our tails and headed home—knowing that the most important thing was that awareness of the issue would be spread into more than a million homes when this sucker airs [tonight!] After several more filming missions by us, and one by a PBS crew, “Alaska Gold” premieres all over the country tonight and should be available for streaming here at FRONTLINE. Thank you FRONTLINE for this phenomenal opportunity—even if our credits are buried deep, we couldn’t be more proud. Expect a drastically different film, more along the lines of the classic FRONTLINE style.  —bk

Here’s the synopsis from FRONTLINE: The Bristol Bay region of southwest Alaska is home to the last great wild sockeye salmon fishery in the world. It’s also home to enormous mineral deposits—copper, gold, molybdenum—estimated to be worth up to $500 billion. Now, two foreign mining companies are proposing to extract this mineral wealth by digging one of North America’s largest open-pit mines, the “Pebble Mine,” at the headwaters of Bristol Bay. FRONTLINE travels to Alaska to probe the fault lines of a growing battle between those who depend on this extraordinary fishery for a living, the mining companies who are pushing for Pebble, and the political framework that will ultimately decide the outcome.

 

 

The gift that keeps on giving…

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It was starting to feel like a never-ending awkward moment… 
A situation you walked into carelessly without consideration of how you’d escape. I wanted to design the Red Gold DVD myself, but if there’s anything I’m slower at than editing it’s design. I’m convinced Travis had dreamed of killing me in my sleep with an icicle with one hand while texting a professional designer with the other. “It’s done, you may begin the design” he would text. I made the mistake of telling Travis that I wasn’t positive the play button in the DVD menu would actually function… [Apple's DVD Studio Pro was created by Satan under the label "unintuitive torture device"] I didn’t realize the impact my concern about the play button would make on Travis. I don’t think he slept well for a month, and I’m pretty sure his girlfriend didn’t get any foot rubs during this anxiety ridden time.
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When the 5,000 DVD’s arrived by semi in Denver, we quietly off-loaded the boxes into Travis’s garage and didn’t speak until a the first DVD was loaded into the player. While the menu loaded, I gritted my teeth and rubbed my forehead almost anticipating a headache. Travis looked pale and prepared for disappointment as he glanced at the remote for the play button. Thank fuck, it played. It took a full two years for us to get to this point… a man-hug happened… Travis said I could be his friend again and we congratulated each other on a job well done. This is where you’d click to order a DVD if you like that sort of thing: www.feltsoulmedia.com/products

What’s up with Pebble? How can I help?

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—The latest update from Lauren Oakes [Red Gold co-producer]

In addition to all the inquiries we get about where one can acquire the soundtrack, my inbox is flooded every day with emails that go like this: “I saw Red Gold… It made me cry [men, women, children all write this]…What’s going on with Pebble right now and can I help?”  Of course the answer is Yes! Yes! Yes!

On November 14, 2008, Ben and I stood before 500 people at the National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, D.C. to show Red Gold [what an honor].  On the very same day, just a block away from the theater in the Bureau of Land Management building, President’s Bush’s staff put out a Record of Decision for the Bristol Bay Area Management Plan.  It opened nearly 2 million acres of federal land surrounding the Pebble Site to mining exploration.  2 million acres.  So while citizens continue to battle development of the Pebble mine on Alaskan State land, we now face the worst – Pebble amidst a mining district in the heart of the world’s largest remaining sockeye salmon fishery.  When the Obama administration comes into office, our leaders of change will have 30 days to reverse this decision.

State Land. Federal Land. To me, the land classifications are borders drawn for management purposes.  But in reality Bristol Bay and its pristine waters, the abundant wild salmon runs, the life this watershed sustains are global resources we cannot replace.  We need more people standing up saying “No – not here, not this place.  Wrong location. A risk not worth taking.”

Support for gaining permanent legislative protection for the Bristol Bay watershed continues to grow.  The Trout Unlimited Alaska program is currently engaged in a number of projects to stop development of the Pebble Mine.  We are placing emphasis on necessary science research so we can understand more of the critical water and habitat issues.  We are also working with state and federal policymakers to support legislative protection, and we are leading a nationwide campaign to educate and engage salmon consumers on the values of wild salmon conservation and cuisine (www.whywild.org).  We continue to raise state, national, and international support for protecting this world-renowned watershed, a mosaic of unconfined rivers supporting nearly a 1/3 of our wild salmon supply.

Yes! You can help.

**** Write members of congress today and express you support for protecting the watershed from mining development.  Ask the new administration to keep BLM lands in Bristol Bay closed to mining.

*** Donate.  I hate this part about asking for money but it’s true;  to do more good work to protect Bristol Bay we need more financial support and that’s the simple reality they taught me here in non-profit world.  www.savebristolbay.org

** Host a Red Gold screening.  Contact Emily Long:  emily@feltsoulmedia.com.

* When you’re at the grocery, or at your favorite restaurant… please request wild salmon. You’ll be supporting sustainable, well-managed fisheries and increasing the demand for what Bristol Bay is famous for. Avoid the farmed stuff unless you have a thing for artificially colored dinner.

And then lastly I’d like just like to thank the people who believed in this project, Ben and Travis for asking questions and listening, and then all those who understand there are still some places left on this planet we must protect.   Please go flood the email boxes of your congressman and tell them they have a chance to save one of our last great salmon runs.    – Lauren (loakes@tu.org)

It’s official, Red Gold doesn’t suck.

A Ben & Travis man-hug ensues as Red Gold recieves a standing ovation at it's premiere.

A Ben & Travis man-hug ensues as Red Gold receives a standing ovation at it's premiere. Photo courtesy of Mountainfilm

Approximately a billion people lined up [see photo below] outside Telluride Colorado’s Michael D. Palm Theater for the premiere of Red Gold, a venue that seats only 600. Needless to say, hundreds were turned away. With the quarter million dollar HD projector warming up in the booth, Mountainfilm’s festival security staff opened the doors and began confiscating weapons and real estate licenses. My eyes widened the moment the film filled the screen. Seeing it bigger than life amongst a standing room only crowd was the moment I had tossed and turned over for months. I gave Travis a squeeze on the leg that probably summed up about twenty emotions in one gesture. A solid year of our work had been compressed into 54 minutes. Short of a freak projector explosion, it was finally time for some hot Red Gold action.

The line of 78,000 wrapped from the theater around the soccer field and up Colorado Ave. across from the grocery store. Photo Courtesy of Mountainfilm

A line a billion strong wrapped from the theater around the soccer field and up Colorado Ave. across from the grocery store. Photo Courtesy of Mountainfilm

To see a crowd of that size sit still, for that long, without so much as a fidget and gaze upon what you’ve poured your heart into was a humbling experience. When the credits rolled the applause began. It felt like it lasted forever. Festival Director David Holbrooke invited Travis and I onto stage after the last credit had passed and something happened that I didn’t anticipate at all. My heart broke as I walked down the dimly lit aisle with Travis and realized every person in the theater was on their feet. A standing ovation with an energy that left me trembling. I held my hand against my eyes, trying to hold back the tears and peeked through my fingers at the crowd. My arms and hands were tingling. This was one of those moments that will probably define my life I think. No matter what happens next I’ll always have this memory. This was the best night of my life. Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, I remembered that my Dad was there.

The Audience Choice Award ballots didn't have to be counted because the Red Gold pile was kinda bigger than the others.

The Audience Choice Award ballots didn't have to be counted because the Red Gold pile was kinda bigger than the others. Photo by Nick Wolcott

Two days later, after another sold-out showing, Red Gold won the Mountainfilm Festival’s Audience Choice Award and the Festival Directors Award. I hadn’t been thinking about what I’d say if we actually won something, so my portion of the acceptance speech was a gaping hole of things not said. All I remember saying was that Red Gold was the most important thing I’ve ever done. I guess that sums it up well enough. The Telluride Mountainfilm Festival is the reason I picked up a video camera and started editing in the first place. The impassioned people who gather here and share the work they create is the single most inspirational thing I can imagine. I used to be a “slide projector bitch” for Mountainfilm so I could get a free pass and meet my hero still photographers. For 13 years Mountainfilm has drilled into my head how powerful photographs and documentaries can be. Winning those awards has blown my mind. I really can’t believe they’re sitting here in my room.

Sage, Redington, & Rio’s “A Day for Bristol Bay”

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Sage, Redington and Rio step up big for Bristol Bay.

Sage, Redington and Rio have committed a day of production from their Bainbridge factory to help support our film Red Gold (which is nearing completion by the way) and TU AK’s continued grassroot efforts to combat the proposed Pebble Mine. The triumvirate is not messing around either. We are talking a donation in upwards of $100,000 and you can be a part of it too.

Here is the deal. By designating “A day for Bristol Bay” Sage in setting aside one day of production of its 9 foot 8 weight Z-Axis paired with a Redington CD 7/8 Reel and Rio’s new Gold Fly line. It is the complete package and one that both Ben and I fished with all summer while shooting Red Gold. The crazy thing is that they are donating all the proceeds from the day of production to help in the fight against Pebble Mine, but supplies are limited and the response has already been amazing. Folks are also going beyond merely purchasing the rods and donating on top of the sales price.

Help support Trout Unlimited’s work to save Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed from proposed development of one of the largest open pit and underground mines in the world– purchase a limited edition Save Bristol Bay rod and reel set –there are less then 100 outfits left. Plus $200 of your purchase price will be donated by Sage, Redington & Rio to Trout Unlimited ‘s work in Alaska.

Felt Soul’s quest for a big-ass hole

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Quest fulfilled-the Bingham Canyon mine as seen from 10,500 feet. Note: there used to be mountains there. Photo by Ben Knight

As a child growing up in a trailer park, I was fond of big holes and
ditches. You know, things to hide in so I could ambush Isaac the
unsuspecting kid from next door. It was all fun and games until he got
hit between the eyes with a roofing nail. Still makes me laugh,
thinking back, but at the moment it was terrifying. We had progressed
from bending tree limbs back and letting them go when Isaac was within
beheading range to bloodshed. Anyways, holes have many practical uses
besides booby traps and ambushes. They are especially useful for the
extraction of minerals such as copper, gold and molybdenum.

Travis and I traveled to a remote native Mormon village called Salt
Lake City on Tuesday to get some aerial footage of the only man-made
excavation claimed to be visible from space. This thing is deeper than
an episode of LOST. I know that seems impossible, but it’s true. The
Mormons are apparently trying to find China. Our theory is that
showing an existing open pit mine similar to the proposed size of Pebble would be an important thing for Alaska to consider when they vote on whether or not to kill half the World’s salmon. Oops, there I
go giving my opinion again. Sorry, forget that you just read that.

Huge thanks to Sama at Lighthawk (www.lighthawk.org) for all the help
with arranging our flight over the mine site and “props” [get it?] to
Larry the pilot for being awesome and keeping the oily side down.

Bingham Canyon Mine Stats:

*Number of Mormons it would take to fill the open pit: almost all of them

*Amount of copper excavated so far: 17 million tons

*Depth: 3,960 feet

*Width: 2.5 miles

*The mine has nothing to do with Mormons, just to clarify.

Mountain Home Exit

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God damn that’s one big hole – Travis shoots the Bingham Canyon Mine in Utah – Photo by Ben Knight

If you ever need to get in touch with Ben and need an immediate or timely response – start texting. Here is a dated exchange of ours from September as we tried to catch up somewhere in Idaho. Ben had just put the finishing touches on the final version of the trailer and I was headed back to CO after floating the Rogue River…

Ben Knight (9/9 6:51pm): Call me
Me (9/10 11:07am): Headed into boise now. About 1 hour out. you?
Ben Knight (9/10 11:07am): Haven’t left town yet
Ben Knight (9/10 11:50 am): Let’s meet at green river i-70 maybe
Me (9/11 11:50am): Headed to highway 84 now from riv
Message Failed
Status Information:
(256) Unknown Cause Code
Original Sent at
9/11/07 10:47am

Ben Knight (9/11 9:17am): What up?
Ben Knight (9/11 9:32am): Left a dvd for you inside newspaper box @ jack in the box@mountainhome exit.
Ben Knight (9/11 9:34am):Undernearth-not inside actually…
Me (9/11 12:15pm): No u turn for us. Super bummed we missed each other. Can you overnight some dvds on the fsm amex?
Me (9/12 10:06am): Holy shit dude you have me all teared up. You killed it.
Ben Knight (9/11 10:10am): Glad you liked it buddy

The original DVD trailer still lies dormant underneath the newspaper box next to the Jack in Box at the Mountain Home, ID exit off of I-84. She is all yours for the taking.

Raw Lobe…

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Felt Soul Post Production Studios, AKA Ben’s bedroom. Telluride, Colorado.

The Red Gold trailer is here folks, check this bitch out: www.feltsoulmedia.com/RedGold_Trailer.mov
[may take a minute or 12 to load]

I know, I know, it’s like we abandoned the blog as if it were that cute baby rabbit you begged for as child and then left it in the cage in the backyard when you realized it smelled like mold and had a taste for blood.

What you’ve missed: [in the last month and a half... sorry.]

Our final task before leaving Alaska was to interview Bruce Jenkins, the COO of Northern Dynasty. He is the 5 time undisputed Canadian freestyle condescending champion. He spoke down to us through the entire interview as if we were reporters for the high school newspaper. His favorite hobby is to question your question, which I’m guessing is a well honed corporate skill. In the end, Bruce served his purpose, and after 2 months Travis and I were on our way home.

On the flight home I got a rubber ear bud from my headphones lodged in my right ear. All I wanted was to go home in peace, but no, I was digging in my ear canal at 30,000 feet with the male end of my headphones while Travis slept like a baby. I’m pretty sure the Mother across the aisle told her two children to stay away from the obsessed ear probing freak when the plane landed. After 3 hours of fucking with my now raw lobe, the plane landed in Denver. I put Travis on my left side [so I could hear what he was saying] and asked if the tweezers were still in the med kit.

To bring you up to date, we waded through all 43 hours of footage, labeled and logged every clip using Final Cut Pro and edited the trailer for Red Gold in two weeks, just in time for Drake Magazine’s five minutes of flyfishing film festival. We didn’t even expect to be entered into the competition due to the fact that it was a trailer, but to our absolute disbelief, we were honored with the “Best Overall Film” title for the second year in a row. [Last year was for Running Down the Man] Needless to say, Red Gold is for real, and we’re both proud as hell to be a part of this thing. Many thanks to Drake editor Tom Bie for hosting another rad event. If you’re looking for us this winter, we’ll be pretty easy to find: Either in Ben’s room to the left of his bed editing or walking to the store to get more Red Bull and those new Boulder brand balsamic rosemary potato chips. Our longest film to date was 17 minutes I think, so wish us luck. We’re thinking 45 minutes maybe? Who knows.

Dear Steve Jobs, may your expensive Mac and Final Cut Pro bless us with blazing fast ram and dependable hard drives. Amen.

Keep the oily side down…

sockeye_funnel.jpgExhibit A: This is a photo that I’ve had in my head for months, and wasn’t sure if I’d ever get. I got it today. This is, without a doubt, the single most incredible thing I have ever seen in Mother Nature’s bag of tricks. Mind blowing. Tens of thousands of sockeye stacked three-deep in a river most people would call a creek. This is something worth protecting. Photo by Ben Knight

Quote of the Day: “It’s another good day of flying as long as you keep the oily side down.” —Not-so-funny bush pilot humor.

bear1.jpgSpent about an hour with this lovely family. Photo by Ben Knight

Close enough to piss your waders. That is how close we were. 18 grizzly bears in 3 river miles. They were chasing salmon, eating salmon brains, napping in the bushes, rolling playfully in the tundra and doing belly flops into the river. There were wet ones, smelly ones, cute fluffy blond ones, old grumpy ones, cubs and a mom that was in no mood to breast feed. The moments that got to me were when they looked into your eyes [before you had a chance to look away] and when you strolled past a bush and there they were, 20 feet away. It doesn’t take long to get your heart up to warp speed. Needless to say, we’re finally getting the “intimate” wildlife footage we hoped for. Many thanks to our guide Todd at the Alaskan Sportsman’s Lodge.

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This is when you want to quickly row your little raft in a less menacing direction. No rapids to speak of, but I’d call this a class IV wouldn’t you? Photo by Ben Knight

Life’s too short to hunt with an ugly dog…

kris_jetboat.jpgIf you ask jet boat pilot Kris Kennedy how shallow he can take his skiff, he’ll tell you “five feet.” “I can make it across about five feet of dry gravel.” Kris is without a doubt one of the best sport fishing guides in Bristol Bay. His plan to save the area from mining is to find Bigfoot. This way we’ll have a Bigfoot wildlife refuge on our hands. I like this idea. Photo by Ben Knight

Q&A of the day: Does a bear shit in the tundra? Answer: Yes, lots.

Updates: We just passed the 13,625 viewer mark on the Felt Soul blog. Cheers to that, and thanks for your support of independent filmmaking!

Best blog day ever: Saturday August 4th, 555 views.
[Thanks to the Telluride Daily Planet]

Day: 62

Total hours filmed: 41

Total hours of cherished footage known to be lost in the black hole of the evil matrix of our digital world: approx 30 minutes

Did you know that bug populations are so epic in Alaska that the severity of the insect swarm can dictate Caribou migration? At one point on the upper Nushagak river I was contemplating my own migration back to Colorado as the demonic white sock fly was crawling up my sleeves, behind my ears and under my waist line, leaving streaks and pools of my own blood behind. As you could imagine, it’s a little challenging to hold a camera still when this is happening. It’s also hard to resist the urge to flail around like a man on fire, ripping your clothes off and cursing God. When I rolled up my sleeve, my forearm looked like it had been through BB gun hell fire. Your skin crawls with the urge to itch the bites after you’ve wiped the blood away but those who know from experience tell you not to scratch unless you don’t mind permanent scars oozing puss, or a possible trip to the hospital. Not what I would describe as ideal filmmaking conditions, but fuck it, you only live once.

camille.jpgCamille Egdorf, 17, has been hunting and fishing since she was big enough to hold a rod and aim a gun. This girl can throw some line. When I fished with Camille I felt like a monkey waving a stick and every time I looked over she was releasing a rainbow. Oh, and the bronze color on the water is pollen incase you were wondering. Photo by Ben Knight

Don’t expect a re-cap of what you’ve missed in the last couple weeks. Seriously. Just leave me alone. It’s not like I’m getting paid to write this crap. I can barely comprehend the amount of shit that has gone down. First of all, Lauren [TU girl] hates me for sure. Boy, did I call that one early in the trip. Not many people have hated me, but I’m almost positive that she finds no redeeming qualities here. It’s pretty much all over a box of king-size Snickers, but it’s a long story, and I type too slowly to tell it. Brief explanation: Ben + Snickers = wonderful, fun to be around and sarcastic dry humor for days. Ben – Snickers = Insensitive, sensitive, bitchy redneck [with a shotgun]

lauren_chumattack.jpgLauren was severely mauled by a snaggle-toothed chum salmon that she tried to handle for a photo. We haven’t seen her since. Word has it she’s back in Juneau doing whatever it is that vegetarians do. Oh, right, eating game. “Alaskatarian” is what she prefers to be called. Blurry photo by Ben Knight

What you’ve missed in a [nut]shell:

Travis went wakeboarding behind a small fishing boat wearing nothing more than his boxers and a lifejacket and every time he got up these two little Athabascan indian girls had to cover their eyes because his shorts were falling off and his balls were showing. Yes, we have this on video. No it won’t be on U-Tube. Travis shivered for the following two hours, but the doctors say he’ll be fine.

The wealthiest man in Alaska [seriously] is a big, bold, cigar lovin’ fella named Bob, and he happens to be leading the fight against the Pebble Mine by paying for lobbyists and expensive political-style ad campaigns. His 5,000 square foot lodge sits in the Lake Clark National Park, just a stones throw from the proposed mine site. His rich ass had two of his pimped-out bush planes and three employees at our disposal for an entire day. Before we arrived via jet boat at his lodge he had already sent a beaver [the hot-rod of float planes] stuffed with a 3-wheeler and trailer to be dropped off on a lake near where we were going to start our 53-mile raft trip down the Koktuli river. [a river that begins at the mine site] You won’t believe your eyes when you see these guys trying to fit a 3-wheeler into a floatplane. Now that is an awesome idea that only an Alaskan comes up with. When they landed, there were already bears hanging out, so the dude they dropped off was armed with the biggest handgun ever made. “Check these out…” he said, ” “This is why I don’t carry a shotgun.” Referring to a handful of massive predator slaying bullets. That dude and his big ass gun drove the raft a mile across the tundra and kindly pumped it up for us. If I had asked, I’m almost positive he would have thrown me over his shoulder and carried me to the put in. Beast of a man he was. Without that 3-wheeler we would have spent a day just getting our gear to the river. [incase you were wondering: No, Bob didn't pay for our film, he made a contribution to our still ongoing funraising efforts and obviously saved us several thousand on the Koktuli lift]

bigfoot.jpgNot sure if this was a bear track or a Bigfoot track… I’m going to go with the mythical creature theory because there obviously weren’t any bears this big outside our tents. That’s Lauren’s right hand by the way, and for all you single bushmen on the prowl: there ain’t no ring on the other hand. Photo by Ben Knight

Keep in mind this place is hundreds of miles from anything. Imagine that… exactly, you cant. Nothing is out there besides hungry wild animals, tundra for days and the occasional Northern Dynasty helicopter whirring overhead scaring terds out of the caribou. We strapped the camera to the wing of the other plane, a Super Cub [the tricked out Subaru WRX of the bush] and did a reconnaissance mission over the 53 miles of river to make sure we knew where the dangerous log jams were and picked out a good spot for a pick-up seven days later. In addition to lending us their 14-foot raft, we also borrowed a chainsaw and a can of Boy Scout juice [lighter fluid] for those rainy, difficult to start a fire sort of nights. Turns out… that was every night. Oh, and a shotgun. Just in case the natives got restless.

trav_rain.jpgWelcome to life on the Koktuli river. Paddle, fish, paddle, fish, repeat. Travis takes momentary refuge under a small umbrella that I’ve carried all over the place and never actually used until now. Photo by Ben Knight

The river started off skinny and stayed that way for 2 days until the first tributaries began trickling in. My back ached at night from dragging the raft over shallow sections of river while Lauren sat in the raft and enjoyed the view. She would get out and help, but only when I’d exhausted all possible forms of grunt inducing leverage. Every couple hours we’d surprise a grizzly bear or two but luckily they seemed more apprehensive than curious. I got the feeling they hadn’t seen many [if any] humans before by the way they reacted. If roles were reversed and I was chowing salmon on the riverbank when a bear came around the corner rowing a blue raft… well, I’d peace the fuck out too. I’ve never felt more alone, even with two friends near by. There was a quiet in the tundra that I’ve never experienced. Not even a bird chirp, or the sound of water at times when the river was slow. Having no idea what was around the next bend in the river gave a sense of adventure. I often wondered how quickly I could cock the gun and get the safety off before Travis’s scalp was being gnawed on. And then Lauren would belt out in her least lady-like voice HEY BEAR… HAAAAY BEAR. So much for my quiet time. Lauren would yell “hey bears” all the time, even when she actually saw a bear, which was confusing and constantly startling for Travis and I, so we came up with the code word for an actual bear sighting. BUTTERFLY! BUTTERFLY!

eagles.jpgI often drive 45 minutes to a small town near Telluride called Norwood in hopes of capturing a shot of an eagle. It never works, no matter how slow I crawl toward the tree. Turns out, it’s way easier to just fly to Alaska where they’re not as camera shy and just sit there squawking at you like a couple cocky roosters. Photo by Ben Knight

Seeing our first pod of spawning sockeye weave around the raft was a memorable moment, but after a few days and hundreds of sightings it just seemed normal to see massive glowing cherry-red fish darting around like roaches when the lights go on. It makes the river feel alive, like a vein pulsing blood from the ocean into the hills. Feeding almost everything that breathes. HAAAAY BEAR. HAAAAY BEAR. “Does she see one, or is she just finding a place to piss?” I would say to Travis. Travis kindly reminds me of the code word. It started raining the first day and didn’t stop for more than a few minutes for the rest of the trip. By day four I smelled like a moldy jockstrap so I braved the river for a bath. For some reason that I can’t really explain, bathing naked in an ice cold river and trying not to scream with the camp soap bottle in my mouth on a rainy, windy night just seemed like the perfect moment for something with big teeth and claws to pounce from the bushes. Maybe the early stages of hypothermia induce mild paranoia… or maybe being naked and gun-less gives a sense of vulnerability… who knows, but I couldn’t stop checking the bushes. Turns out, the only thing watching me was Travis. He had the camera rolling the whole time. I think he may have stopped rolling when I lathered up my junk though. This also, will not be on U-Tube.

rain_grass.jpgThe liquid on this Alaskan bush grass is called “water.” It comes from the sky in the form of what the natives call “rain.” This phenomenon happens often… usually in periods of four days in a row. You will be imprisoned in your stinky cold waders until further notice. Get used to it. Photo by Ben Knight

The journey was a successful one, we were able to get some wildlife footage that we needed [moose, bear, caribou, eagles] and most importantly show people ground zero, a place that could be most quickly affected by a potential accident at the mine. At one point, up-river of where we put in, the Koktuli actually disappears underground and a mile or so later it reappears. Seeing how shallow the headwaters are, and considering a maze of underground aquifers in the Tundra… it just seems insane to extract water from this creek for mining, much less expose such a complex water table to anything out of the ordinary. But that’s just my [un]educated opinion.

trav_bite.jpgTravis dedicated about 8-10 hours a day to finding the elusive Koktuli river rainbow. This process involved mostly the act of fishing and not so much the act of catching. Photo by Ben Knight

“Lean forward when I tell ya, ok?” Said the pilot who was trying get his floats on step after cramming the gear from our river trip in every nook and cranny of his plane. If a plane had an ashtray, we would have put something in it. That’s how full this plane was. Travis and I gave a nod to the pilot and looked at each other, confirming our mutual confusion over whether or not he was serious about the whole lean forward thing. 20 seconds pass as the rpm’s come to a deafening hum and we’re still motoring up the river… getting closer to the end of the straightaway and approaching a bend lined with tall trees. “LEAN FORWARD!” barked the pilot. Travis and I shot our chests out as far as we could but the plane was still on the water. We started to turn, following the bend. At this point the engine was roaring, leaving a wake you could ski behind. I actually had time to reflect: “Maybe there is more to life than having the stiffest wheels on my mountainbike.” A moment later the plane sluggishly took flight, gaining just enough altitude to clear the tree line. Come to find out later, this was the heaviest load he had ever lifted off a river in this aircraft.

dave.jpgThe one and only, Dave Egdorf. Ever meet someone who you swore up and down that their life would make the perfect book? Well if his life was a movie it’d need a sequel because this man has stories for days. He’s literally done it all, seen it all. Some say Dave came out of his mother’s womb with dry feet… already wearing a pair of hip boots so he could walk straight into the woods and not come back. Photo by Ben Knight

Meet the definition of a bushman. Dave lives the dream of many men. He’s killed and skinned just about anything that moves, caught every fish, flown, landed and taken off where few dare to take an aircraft and always… I mean always, has a story to tell. Normally slammed flying clients in and out of his two incredibly remote sport fishing camps, we were blessed with 2 days of his time. His guide staff, his drunk cook, his wife Kim and his amazing daughter Camille were all there to greet us and do whatever they could to better the film. We had no idea what to expect… it was like going to a movie you’ve never heard of and leaving the theater completely floored. After 3 perfect days I didn’t want to leave. One of the guides we met had been engaged recently. A seemingly perfect life in his path, but the draw of Alaska [more specifically Dave’s camp] turned it all upside down. He found himself faced with choosing between the two. The guide’s eyes would light up with intensity when he spoke of the auburn fall colors and the way the light changes with the seasons. He kept mentioning how he’s walked and boated where no one has before, and caught rainbows that have never seen a fly. The wildness of this place was intoxicating, yet humbling, and the sense of family in that random grove of tall pines on the river bend was enough to change anyone. I understood why these people had all made sacrifices to be there.

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Tom is his name. A [mostly benched] division 3 college football player who thought being a rookie, under-paid Alaskan fishing guide might just be the way to go. So here he sits in the upper Nushagak river, [as are we] waiting motionless and silently for two hours for a grizzly bear that never showed up. [the wind changed, so he most likely smelled us] A piece of recently learned bush wisdom that Tom shared with us: Campfire charred porcupine tastes best the closer you get to the ass.

[If you are a grandparent of mine, don’t read this, and shame on my Dad for giving out this web address to my poor family]

Rookie Tom’s campfire joke of the day: What are the three reasons why it sucks to be an egg?

1. It takes three minutes to get hard

2. You only get laid once.

3. Your Mom is the only chick who’ll sit on your face.

kris_bow.jpgGuide Kris Kennedy tends to a small child-sized Nushagak rainbow while big Rummel burns some card. Photo by Ben Knight

Note: Although Travis and I… well, mostly me, give Lauren a hard time every day and on the blog, we love her dearly and are well aware that this shoot would have never succeeded without her hard work and dedication. She has left us for a well earned bowl of organic greens, and we understand. Heart.