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. Here are some of their stories.
COOPER LANDING — Daniel Thornton jumped off the green, motorless, flat-bottomed ferry and tied it to the dock. About 10 fishermen, most wearing waders, rain jackets and hats, walked off, returning to the parking lot off the Sterling Highway. The lucky ones carried sockeye salmon.
The next group of fishermen filed on. Thornton untied the rope and the ferry floated back across the Kenai River, just below the confluence with the Russian River. The ride to one of Alaska's most beloved fisheries took barely a minute.
As the ferry's deckhand, Thornton, a 21-year-old from Atlanta, spends the day helping guide the ferry across the river. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. The ferry is tethered to a cable and carried by the current from one bank to the other.
It seems repetitive, but Thornton loves it. The mountains. The river. The fishing. The bears.
"It's awesome," he said, waiting for the next group of anglers to board on a rainy afternoon. "Paid vacation."
Thornton is studying civil engineering at Georgia Southern University. He learned about the summer job on the Kenai River through some of his fraternity brothers, and came up in May with friends to work for Alaska Recreational Management for about three months. This is his first time to Alaska.
"You have to come here," he said. "You have to witness it. It's like Yellowstone on steroids."