Wildman Lake Lodge got it’s name from an old folk lore. A very long time ago, a native village existed in the area and the story goes that a lady who lived in this village would venture up into the hills to be with a trapper who lived up there all on his lonesome when her husband left on his numerous and extended fishing trips. When her children got older and wanted to head up to the lake to fish and hunt, the lady would caution them not to head toward the lake where a “wildman” lived. That said, Wildman Lake lodge could have gotten it’s name just by what it is today…
Steve and I were discussing what other wildlife we would like to see while in Alaska. We had seen many bears, lots of bird species, otters and moose - and we are looking forward to seeing polar bears way up north at the end of August. We would love to see Orca’s, we have not missed those for a lack of trying, but some elusive animals we will have to keep dreaming of… So what else is up here, that we can’t see in other places? Well, walruses of course! After putting in the search words “walrus alaska” and doing some poking around we found the webpage for Wildman Lake Lodge. I sent a late night e-mail, and hoped something would work out. A lot of times people book these tours many months in advance - but you never know… Bright and early the next morning we got a phone call from Butch, the owner, who said we were very welcome and they could come pick us up in their twin engine at the airport in Homer.
The day arrived and we parked Homer the Roamer at the Homer airport (confusing, I know!) and picked up our back-packs. We had been asked not to bring more than 25 Ibs per person and our weights had been carefully recorded to make sure we would arrive safe and sound. I have flown in a few small planes, and that is also how we got around to see the bears on Kodiak, but this was the longest, highest and furthest I have traveled in such a small plane… It was beautiful, we flew over an active volcano, snow covered mountains and absolutely immense amounts of land. By the time we landed, we were 500 miles from the closest road and the only way in or out was by one of the 5 small planes Butch operated.
Everything in the lodge was also brought in by these planes, and I am amazed that it had been possible to even build a lodge where this was located. I am guessing that at some point a barge had brought in the boats and perhaps some building supplies, but with this unforgiving coast on the edge of the Aleutian Islands and no place to dock it was not something that happened often.
There were 14 of us out there, including another family with two kids, Butch’s grandson and the son of one of the employees - and that was more kids than they had seen in a very long time… I think they are more used to old fishermen and middle aged trophy hunters. Which is a story on it’s own… Perhaps more on that later…
Zack was in heaven and exclaimed that he did not want to leave for 4 years. He was in the water fishing every second he possibly could - and both boys caught unbelievable amounts of fish in the river that was as clear as gin. We took their boats out, saw bears fishing in rivers where there was so much fish it looked like the water was boiling. We fished and we admired the beautiful red salmon as they were spawning. They looked like they were on fire, and they made the rivers look like glowing, spluttering ember.
Finally, we were going to see the walruses. We took a little Cessna and landed on the beach where we grabbed some lunch before hiking towards the rookery. The beach was absolutely beautiful, grizzly tracks everywhere and half eaten salmons dotted the shore line. Butch walked in front to make sure there were no grizzly’s feasting on the walrus carcasses that inevitably had washed up on the beach and into the gulleys. There was no one there but us, probably for hundreds of miles up and down the coast, and it was magical. The sounds, the smells, these impressive, massive animals with their huge tusks. I could have stayed all day, admiring the 1000+ walruses wallowing on that beach. I will never forget this day, and knowing that they are out there no matter what I am doing simply makes me happy.