There’s a difference between accepting your fate and giving up.
I’ve come to the realization that my particular place in the outdoor world isn’t going to be the expert of anything except maybe that “get back on the horse” metaphor.
I can do things well enough to be successful and have fun, but there will likely never be film crews following me, and if I ever publish a “how to” book, look at the fine print or familiarize yourself with sarcasm and irony before purchase.
That doesn’t mean that I am fated to have a bad time. Quite the opposite really. My only barometer as a mediocre Alaskan is entertainment and fun. People who want to see Boone and Crockett animals or dozens of steelhead in a single morning know better than to read what I write or follow me on social media. I have only the reputation of an average dude who attempts to adequately articulate his outdoor inadequacies.
I have no clients. I have no guests.
And I think that’s most of us. Some of us have jobs with something like equivalency somewhere else, but it’s not here, and when we’re off the clock, we’re where people vacation, so that’s why we stay. That’s why we’re not taking that similar job in the Lower 48. We’re grinding away at the recreation and subsistence games while others make a living at it.
Longtime Alaskans have been running lodges, charters, excursion services, employ local kids and create an unmatched experience for those previously uninitiated.
We all know some people who have lived in Alaska for 10 minutes, claim residency and attempt to make a business out of connecting others to our embarrassment of resources, and good for them too. Without people willing to make a living showing other people what they might see or experience only once or twice in a lifetime, people would only know the Alaska of television or the internet.
None of that is me. I feel like I can barely catch fish myself, so charging people to fish with me would be stealing.
My favorite outdoor writer Bill Heavey wrote, “When I first started writing for Field & Stream, I saw that the expert end of its masthead was overpopulated. The other end — a place for amateurs with more passion than proficiency, for guys who fail more often than they succeed — was wide open. It was here that by inclination and experience I planted my flag.”
I am not immune to frustration, but there is something liberating about enjoying Southeast Alaska without the added pressures of upholding a reputation that’s anything more than a dude who likes to be outside. I enjoy being successful and feel that every time I’m outside I’m learning something, which I’ve learned is a bit of a key to life. You’ll never know everything, but the more you acquire, the more fun the ride is.
Plus, it has to take a lot of energy pretending to never be wrong or to be a self-proclaimed expert. So I’ve decided not to try. I’ll do what I do, stay in my lane and chronicle the happy, fulfilling life of a decent Alaskan.
• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.