The Kenai Peninsula comes alive during summer. Tourists, fishermen, seasonal workers and year-round residents share highways and harbors from Homer to Seward. ADN's Tegan Hanlon and Marc Lester recently spent a week meeting some of the people who make the Peninsula unique. Over the next few days, we'll be publishing more than 20 of their stories.
COOPER LANDING — Fishermen dotted the shore of the Kenai River in both directions near its confluence with the Russian River days after sockeye fishing opened. Cars and RVs filled two big parking lots. Joe Albrecht remembers when just a dozen fishermen here would've been considered a busy day, but he wasn't nostalgic for the solitude.
"I have a beautiful raft. I can float this river," he said. "But I have more fun being here with everybody else."
Albrecht has been fishing the Kenai since 1963. Back then there was just one tiny parking lot, he said, and a tavern nearby. Crossing back and forth on the little red ferry cost just 50 cents. He may have missed a few summers of fishing here since those days, but not many.
Albrecht retired from a career in construction and architecture in Alaska. Nowadays, he divides his time between Anchorage and St. Louis, where he "snowbirds" in winter. When he heads south, he takes 50 pounds of salmon with him to grill with olive oil, salt and pepper.
When he returns, he looks forward to sharing the Kenai River experience with the masses.
"I love being on the river. I love to talk to all these people from all over the world," he said. "They're the greatest people in the world. Very seldom do you find people with a bad attitude."