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No Pebble Mine

NO PEBBLE MINE Pictures from Ground Zero
by Robert Glenn Ketchum

 
Since 1998, I have been working to protect the spectacular resources of southwest Alaska and the fishery of Bristol Bay. Two Aperture books, a national traveling exhibition, a massive coalition of concerned users, and a lot of personal lobbying, had it looking like we were almost there. Then Donald Trump took office claiming he would always put America, and American jobs first. SO WHY destroy a BILLION-dollar-a-year, RENEWABLE salmon fishery and over 100,000 jobs for a group of international mineral speculators that will leave us with a Superfund site to clean up, and NO fishery left edible? And yet, he did,..so please, keep saying NO TO THE PEBBLE MINE!
~Robert Glenn Ketchum






Tuesday, September 15, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #418, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #418:
I have posted this image before, way back in the 200’s of this blog, but I am putting it up again, because it is the essence of the beauty in Wood-Tikchik State Park. It was also taken while flying with pilots from Bud Hodson’s Tikchick Narrows Lodge. Along with Mike Harder, a pilot out of Dillingham, with whom I frequently worked, Bud, and his numerous pilots, provided me with hours of airtime above this park. Bud operates a small fleet of Beaver aircraft, which are used to transport his fly-fishing guests to-and-from their daily destinations. Bud not only allowed me to fly those to-and-from routes along with them, he then allowed me to fly in the many hours the planes would normally sit idle, between drop-off and pick-up. These pilots, and many, many others, generously supported my work in Southwest because they uniformly oppose the development of the Pebble mine in the headwaters of the last great fishery in North America, Bristol Bay. Thousands of jobs, and MILLIONS of dollars are to be made from the renewable resources of this fishery. The mine will exist for 30-years, and then close, leaving a massive, toxic lake to poison the habitat. DO NOT let this happen, SAY NO THE THE PEBBLE MINE!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, September 8, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #417, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #417:
Our flight has now come over the top of the Wood Mountain Range in Wood-Tikchik State Park, and we are descending into the valley/lake terrain that is the heart of this landscape. I want to take this opportunity to thank the pilot, Mike Harder, with whom I am flying today, as I have flown with him several times before, and today is one of the best of them. Mike maintains a hanger, and a small store at the Dillingham airport, and has several planes there, including a huge cargo transport rumored to be used for special ops missions. We always have fun when we are in the air together, because he is as enthusiastic about the beauty of Southwest as I am, and he gets what I am doing. As subject matter comes into view, he will notice what I am looking at, and turn the plane to better suit my perspective. It is a unique “team” skill. Mike, and Bud Hodson, the owner of Tikchik Narrows Lodge, have provided me with hours of airtime that have made my work in Southwest, and Wood-Tikchik State Park in particular, the success that it is. Again, thanks to both of you.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, September 1, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #416, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #416:
As my flight heads back to Dillingham, we have left the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge behind us, and we are now threading our way through the spiky ridgelines, and hanging glaciers, of the Wood Mountains in Wood-Tikchik State Park. In all of Alaska, of the many places I have flown over and hiked, or floated through, this park is my favorite destination. The variety, and diversity of this complex terrain are unequalled, and in the fall, the spectacle of color is, quite literally, unbelievable,..psychedelic! This range is a maze of ragged peaks, and meandering river valleys, that host a myriad of wildlife and fish. The waters that come from the park contribute to 1/3 of the flow into Bristol Bay, and the flow from Tikchik Lake, one of many in the park, eventually joins with the Nushagak, the second most productive river that feeds into the Bristol Bay fishery.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #415, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #415:
Dead ahead, my flight goes into the heart of the Wood Mountains, and we enter the wonderous world of Wood-Tikchik State Park. The spire-filled teeth of the summits stab into the sky, and blue glowing glacial faces, generate streaming rivers from their melt. That water flows into a dizzying myriad of lakes, before it goes to Bristol Bay, where it feeds the last great fishery left in North America. 5 species of Salmon, Pollock, Herring, Oysters, Clams, Scallops, Pacific Cod, King crab, Halibut, Blackcod, Groundfish, Geoducks, and sea cucumbers, are ALL part of this commercial saltwater fishery, and in the freshwater streams and rivers, several species of trout, Arctic char, Steelhead, Graying, and Sheefish, are part of a huge recreational fishing industry. At a time when all of this is threatened by the extremely toxic mine proposal called the Pebble, who will have a 30-year life span (at best) and then leave the habitat poisoned, the ANNUALLY RENEWABLE fishery just had its single most productive season EVER, harvesting 56.5 million salmon, worth $306.5 million, and employing thousand people in several states. If you truly want to Make America Great, do so by SAYING NO TO THE PEBBLE MINE. Harvest sustainably forever, and tell the outsider-Canadian mining firm, Northern Dynasty, to get out, and go FU their own backyard if they are so eager to dig big holes, and create poisonous lakes.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #414, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #414:
The subtle tones of the late fall at alpine, and the last pocket lake I will see in the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge pass by as my flight now begins to climb a bit, lifting up and over the much more ragged summits of Wood-Tikchik State Park. As sad as I am that I may never see this landscape again, which I have SO enjoyed for the last four years, I am excited to soon be above Wood-Tikchik. Wood-Tikchik, in reflection, is the single greatest destination in all of my Alaska experiences, and I am going to get one final overview. The remarkable chain of glacier carved lakes, the spiky peaks of the Wood mountains, the ASTOUNDING fall coloration of the landscape, and the dramatic, constantly changing weather made EVERY single day I spent in this park, among the best days of my life. I am especially grateful to have befriended, and been hosted by Bud Hodson, the owner of Tikchik Narrows Lodge. On the ground, and in the air, he, and his crew of pilots, allowed me access to view one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. The idea that parts of Southwest Alaska could be invaded by toxic industrialization is appalling, and must not be allowed to happen,..ANYWHERE, but certainly starting with the proposed travesty of the Pebble mine. Please defy our jackass President, and defend the Bristol Bay fishery, and headwaters, from being disrupted by a proven, careless Canadian mining group Northern Dynasty. Tell both of them to get out of the lives of Alaskans that actually respect the land into which they were born. SAY NO TO THE PEBBLE MINE! Say yes to the tribes, the hunters, the fishermen, and the red gold of the largest salmon fishery in North America. Make America Great Again, in the right way.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, August 11, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #413, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #413:
The last of the more gently rolling summits of the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge are now below our wings, and the more ragged peaks of Wood-Tikchik State Park are quickly coming up. This is probably my last visit to this amazing habitat, because after my return to Dillingham tonight, I am flying out to my home and studio in Los Angeles, where I will begin work on my second Aperture book about this area, Wood-Tikchik: Alaska’s Largest State Park. These last few images of this blog also mark the end of it, after posting EVERY week for over 8yrs. In the 9-years of being on the board of the Alaska Conservation Foundation, and prior to that, working in the Tongass rainforest, I have traveled, and tripped extensively throughout the state, so new blogs will appear about those experiences which include, kayak camping in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, floating the Noatak River from Gates of Arctic to Kobuk Valley National Park, numerous trips to Camp Denali in Denali National Park, and endless miles of driving around on the roads of the 100-mile-square, Chugach Mountain Range, that graces the view from Anchorage.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, August 4, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #412, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #412:
In this amazing world of water, lakes, and rivers that stretch across the landscape as far as the eye can see, when you are in the air above it all, the scale is impressive, but the most striking aspect is how the water reflects the sky. Some days under a bright overcast, every wet surface shimmers with a silvery light. On blue-sky days, the colors of the sky intensify the blueness of the water, and on this particular day (above), the color is a little bit of both. In my mind, this is a kind of abstract surrealism. This is not a place, it is three forms, and it is unlikely any paint ever offered a silver-blue like that. Wowser! Mahalo, Togiak!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #411, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #411:
Ahead of us, I can now see the summits of the Wood Mountains, their profiles being more ragged and spire-like than the rounded massifs of the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. For the moment, however, the last few glorious miles of the refuge are below our wings. This expansive landscape of lakes and rivers is an incredible aerial experience, and I feel so lucky to have flown above it many times. Floating, and boating, the rivers made it up-close-and-personal, where I could see the fish, bears, caribou, and wolves, as well as eat the wild berries, but your point of view is “land-locked,” you cannot take in the terrain in all its vast scale, as you can when flying. Four years ago, when Jan Konigsberg first brought me to Southwest, we flew into Dillingham on a rainy day with low clouds. We were well into the territory, before the flight descended beneath the cloud ceiling, and the landscape was revealed. I distinctly remember my first view of dozens of lakes and rivers sprawling across the rolling tundra as far as the eye could see, and Jan said to me, “What do you think?” My response was, “It looks like A LOT to deal with.” At the time, I had no idea what an understatement that was.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, July 21, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #410, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #410:
While my flight heads back to Dillingham after a spectacular afternoon, I am trying to take in the last four years of being in Southwest Alaska and what a gift that has been to me. I have hiked, floated, and flown over, one of the most untouched, and vast, landscapes in North America. It is a world teaming with life, both on the land, and in the water. Its primary human inhabitants are still connected to the land, and are, literally, living off of it. Not far ahead now, we will leave the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, and enter the Wood Mountains and Wood-Tikchik State Park, so for the moment I look back at the refuge in the late light to see the water-pocked landscape shimmering in silver, and the forest-islands standing tall, undisturbed. What a world!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, July 14, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #409, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #409:
Backpacking in the lower ’48, I fished virtually every day, so it is amazing to me that here in Southwest, one of the world class places to fly fish, I only did so a few times. I was “working” most of the time, and that is my excuse, but as we fly above these beautiful rivers systems, it strikes me as ironic. I love the way the low rays of the late light grace the landscape, and in this case make the mountain more sculpturally defined, like a work of art on an illuminated pedestal. All of that offset by blue sky reflection on some epic meandering trout water. It WOULD be quite an evening to be fishing down there, but is also pretty cool to be right where I am. I will miss these parks and refuges, and I would like to thank Jan Konigsberg who first suggested I fly out here to view this part of the state. It is an understatement that he said, “I think you will find it interesting."

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, July 7, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #408, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #408:
As my flight gets further from the coast, the cloudy skies are more broken, and spots of sunlight illuminate the landscape in dramatic ways. I love working from the air because you see the terrain in such a different way, grander and more encompassing. We are still above part of the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge but are turning towards Wood-Tikchik State Park. Rather than the more closely packed summits I think of as a range, the mountains here are massifs that stand alone,..perhaps they are social distancing - LOL! Whatever, it makes for a GREAT afternoon of flying, and it is likely I will never see these places again because after long summers in Southwest, two Aperture books, and eventually a national traveling museum exhibit, my “work” here is finished. Besides, Alaska is a huge state, and there are many others parts of it I hope to explore. At this moment, however, I am “in the moment,” and it is good to be here now.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #407, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #407:
My final flightsee over Southwest Alaska has paralleled the shoreline of Bristol Bay from the mouth of the Kvichak River to the mouth of the Negukthlik, flowing out of the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. As it is getting late, we are now wending our way back to Dillingham, through the mountains of the refuge and Wood-Tikchik State Park. The weather is being kind, leaving me with enough light to shoot, and although I have overflown some of this terrain previously, it is ever-changing, and always interesting. This valley (above) has numerous small lakes, and around the bend up ahead, we will emerge onto a broader plain surrounded by mountains, dotted with more lakes, and flowing with rivers.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #406, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #406:
Our flight has left the coast, following the Negukthlik River into the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. The river meanders wildly beneath our wings, winding its way through the landscape, and at the point where we will soon loose our view of the Pacific, I look back to see the river’s path illuminated by the reflection of the still-bright sky. It is more stormy further into the refuge, so I am not sure when we get there that I will have enough light to work with, but I remain hopeful because I know we are going to work our way through several mountain ranges, and part of Wood-Tikchik State Park, and these will be my last parting views of some places I have come to love dearly. As the American public, we need to be sure and say no the Canadian company, Northern Dynasty, that wants to develop the Pebble mine, and certainly SAY NO TO THE PEBBLE MINE!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #405, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #405:
Finally leaving the coast and turning inland, we cross a bay with the Negukthlik River estuary at its head, and begin to follow the river into the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. It is a large river and wetlands complex, but not particularly imposing, just one that meanders quietly along, splitting into occasional braids, and weaving through a myriad of ponds. My pilot thinks there are salmon moving up this system, because we see several bear on the beaches of the river, and in a territory this vast, bears seldom congregate unless they have good reason. The weather remains kind to us, and the long Alaskan evening still offers plenty of light for me to shoot, so now we will soon visit a very different terrain.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, June 9, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #404, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #404:
The incredible rugged coast of cliffs, scalloped bays, and hidden beaches, just keeps unfolding as our flight heads farther along the shoreline of the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. The afternoon is getting late, however, and although it is giving me some beautiful light, we will soon leave the coast, head into the refuge and begin to wend our way back to Dillingham. As a huge new bay opens in front of us, the bluffs flatten, and the ragged shore abates, but we are running out of time, and there is still a good deal more to this tour, so we choose not to explore this crescent of beaches, rather crossing the mouth of the bay to another jutting peninsula, and passing between it and the offshore, Summit Island. We finally turn into a bay with a sizable river at its head. This is the Negukthlik Bay and estuary, and we will follow this river into the heart of the refuge. What an evening it has been out here on the coast, but the show is not over.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, June 2, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #403, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #403:
After our flight crosses over the mouth of Metervick Bay, we encounter the most sculpted part of the coast we have seen so far. Tundra headlands slope down to the azure sea, and then steep bluffs plunge onto scalloped coves and beaches. Except for birds, there is little sign of other life. It seems otherworldly. My pilot flies cargo mission all over the world, and he could base anywhere he wants, as he has some very wealthy friends that use his services, but he has told me he chooses to live in Dillingham because when he flies for his on personal pleasure, it is places like this, and Wood-Tikchik State Park in the fall, that are like no other landscape in the world to look down upon. I have now been flying southwest Alaska enough to know what he is talking about. This is NO PLACE FOR THE F%&$ING PEBBLE MINE! Please say NO!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #402, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #402:
Our flight crosses the mouth of Metervik Bay, and although we will ultimately head north, at the moment the convoluted coastline we parallel, is pointing in a southerly direction as it juts out into the expanse of Bristol Bay. A good distance offshore, I can see a scattering of islands, the two largest of which are High Island, and Crooked Island. Although we do not fly out to see them, my pilot tells me they are seldom visited, and thus have become massive bird rookeries because they lack predators. The day is getting late, and we will soon turn inland over the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge before heading back to Dillingham. My pilot and I have flown that territory before, so tonight he promises to take me over a different part of the refuge's vast expanse (4,102,537 acres), but he suggests that on some future flight, I might want to see yet another treasure of the Bristol Bay/Southwest Alaska territory, the Cape Newenham State Wildlife Refuge. Jutting dramatically out into Bristol Bay, the cape is a refuge within a refuge, and most consider it part of Togiak. At the extreme tip there is a long range radar station and a small airstrip managed by the US Air Force, but the rest of the ragged peninsula is for the birds, literally. Sadly, this is one place I never have the chance to visit.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #401, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #401:
Our flight has paralleled the arc of Kulukak Bay and is now following the shoreline towards the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. It is a rugged, convoluted coastline, and spectacular to look down upon from a low and slow aerial view. There are no people to be seen, but there are a lot of birds, and much evidence of animals, especially bear. There are beautiful coves and beaches, and occasionally even some lines of surf wrapping perfectly around rocky points. This one (above) separates Kulukak Bay from Metervik Bay and just as we round the tip of it, the off-coast clouds, part letting the late sun through, and lighting it up for me. I gasp as my shutter clicks, and my pilot smiles because we have flown together several times before, and he knows today is putting on a real show, so I am pumped. We are more than an hour into this leisurely flight, and it has just been an ever-changing spectacle of pristine coast. Truly, WILD Alaska!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #400, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #400:
Our flight is now out of Kulukak Bay and above the coastline of the greater Bristol Bay. Referencing my last post, I am looking down on a series of steep bluffs topped by tundra meadows, and I see something that I know from the experience of being on the ground, is a trail. Out here it is unlikely human traffic created such an obvious path (in this shot, barely visible to the right of the dark green clump of brush). So, how did that get there? Bears are very curious animals, and definitely creatures of habitat. When I was working in the Tongass rainforest in the 80’s, we would come upon, obvious, well established trail systems all the time that were NOT created by the US Forest Service. They were created by grizzlies. Bears are so particular, some of the trails were even stranger - rather than being continuous paths, some were a series of round spots in a line. The passing bears were actually walking EXACTLY in the previous print. Very funny. Now below me, I am looking at a bear trail that they have established so that they can cruise the bluffs, and scan the beaches below for anything that might scavenged. I will also tell you that I know for a fact that bears enjoy the view, and certain places serve only that purpose. When I floated the Tatshenshini River (several times), one of the most interesting discoveries was a huge “beach bench” where bears came to sit and watch the spectacle of ice floating in Alsek Lake. There was nothing else there for them, except the view, and you could clearly see they came there often. Check my blog about the “TaT,” and you will see why we all enjoy that beach, bears too.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2020, @RobertGKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, May 5, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #399, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #399:  Ahead of us now is the coastline of Bristol Bay, and the beginning of the ranges and rivers that comprise a portion of the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. The low tide has revealed MILES of shallow flats which are now shimmering with reflections from the sky above. It is very surreal to view clouds reflected in the shallow waters, as though the world has been turned upside-down. I love to work from this aerial platform as it allows me to see this amazing planet in a completely different way. Being here magnifies and re-interprets what I know from being on the ground. I know what I am looking at, and yet I have never seen anything like this before. I fully appreciate the richness of a landscape I have walked and paddled through, but up here, I know can see how inter-connected EVERYTHING is, and water courses tie it all together. This IS the Garden of Eden! Be here now.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #398, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #398:  As our flight arcs around Kulukak Bay, we come upon the estuary of the Kulukak River. Although this river is longer and larger than the Kanik (last two posts) its mouth lies between two mountains which limit the expanse of its wetlands. Still, these estuaries full of meanders, and side braids, are simply stunning to see from the air. As we pass over the Kulukak, I realize how vast the Kanik valley system that we just passed wais. LOOK at this link. OMG! What a World! One that should be allowed to exists WITHOUT the presence of the Pebble mine. PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! SAY NO TO THE PEBBLE MINE. After the Kulukak mouth, the coast once again turns mountainous and rugged, and we are headed back towards the more open waters of Bristol Bay. Red Gold, Forever!

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #397, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #397:  The estuary flowing into Kulukak Bay above which we are flying, is the Kanik River whose headwater is Ualik Lake. Please look at this Google map link, as the meanders of the Kanik are "Earth Art” at its very best. You can also see the myriad ponds and pools that comprise the wetland. It is an amazing thing to behold. Every body of water hosts some population of birds, now flying south on the Pacific Flyway. In the image above, the shore has angled us to a more northernly view than the last post, and now we are looking at mountains that are part of the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. The Kanik weaves its way through the puzzle of wetlands, directly below our wings (center of picture, and lower right corner.) In retrospect, I regret we did not divert our flight and explore this more, and follow this lush habitat back to Ualik Lake.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #396, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #396:  We fly past another cluster of small mountains, and then the Kulukak Bay shoreline bends to the north and opens onto a wetlands complex that stretches a considerable breadth and distance, finally arriving at Ualik Lake (in the far distance, here). Ualik is not in the actual boundary of Wood-Tikchik State Park, but from this point of view we are looking directly into the park, and some of the distant summits are part of the Wood Mountains. In a previous post, I mentioned there were no people to be seen on our flight, but there have been A LOT of birds, and in this wetland there are a lot of swan pairs. Southwest Alaska and Bristol Bay are part of the Pacific Flyway, and provide food and rest for millions of migratory birds. Now that it is becoming fall, most of those avian populations are heading south, so the landscape teems with their presence (swans, being white, are the easiest to spot.)

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Tuesday, April 7, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #395, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #395:  Kulukak Bay is fed by many rivers and streams, and although it is a large bay, there is much sediment deposited into to it, so it is relatively shallow, especially at the immediate shore. As we are here at an extremely low tide, not only are the exposed tidal flats expansive, but they are ripe with the smell of organic decay. When you are on the ground in a delta or a wetland, you always smell this, because you are surrounded by it, but in all the flying I have done over river systems in Alaska, I have never smelled it from the air. Here, in Kulukak, the size of the bay, and the huge complexes of surrounding wetlands literally scent-saturate the air above it, so the rich odor pours through my open window. While some may think it is “stinky,” I have learned to associate this smell with a productive fishery, and a rich, pure, organic habitat.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #394, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #394:  As our flight progresses along the southern shore of Kulukak Bay, the mountains taper down into a vast valley of wetlands which is fed by the complex of surrounding summits. Obvious here for the first time, the color of the coming fall is beginning to assert itself. The vibrant glow of the gold and red colorations are dramatically offset by the green of the hills, and the blue waters reflecting the sky. We have been flying for a good part of the afternoon, and we are yet to see people, a boat, or another plane. Big country,..and we are just at the southern edge of the massive Togiak National Wildlife Refuge.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #393, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #393:  Now paralleling the southern shoreline of Kulukak Bay, the landscape of our flight changes in dynamic ways. The hills, and coastal bluffs, have become mountains, and inside the bay, where so many rivers feed the system with soil, our low-tide flight encounters a stunning expanse of tidal flats, with miles and miles of glossy, wet sand, shimmering in the cloud light. Just ahead of us now, you can see the re-emergence of the wetlands I discussed in the last post, the drainage from which has helped to make this expansive beach.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #392, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #392:  As we round the southern end of Kulukak Bay, I look back at a lesser bay. Fed by a large wetland drainage, it spans the landscape across to the inside of Kulukak, so we will fly above that in a few moments. This peninsula that we are above now has a ragged rock shoreline and on the inside of the bay, these stoney hills become mountains, at the end of which, the wetlands system I can see now, will reappear.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #391, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #391:  The ceiling above our flight has lifted even further, and the day keeps growing brighter, so my pilot feels there is still much we can do, and he is willing to keep tracking the shore if I want to, so I am good to go,..and we do. Kulukak is an enormous bay, and it is fed by several rivers, so I suggest we explore it, rather than passing across it to the adjacent headlands. He agrees, and so we take a sharp right after we reach this thrust of the landscape, curling back directly above a bayshore of rocky headlands, punctuated here and there by small beaches and coves. Although it is late fall, you would never know it from the views I am having. The terrain beneath our wings is vibrantly green, and water flows, or pools, EVERYWHERE. A myriad of small streams flow to the beach coves, and larger river systems sport broad wetlands where they intersect the tidal flats. As I have said many times in this blog, scale is everything, and just this bay is an entire world unto itself, and only a small part of the overall coastline we have been following. This is the bounty that drains into Bristol Bay, creating one of the most productive fisheries on the planet. Red Gold, forever, Pebble mine, NEVER! You can’t eat rocks and cyanide.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #390, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #390:  And so it begins! The flat, lengthy shoreline we have been flying above, gives way to headlands, bluffs, and rocky shoals as we approach the indentation of Kulukak Bay. On last look back at where we have been reveals, once again, the extensive, exposed flats of the low tide, and, I also note that there is a pronounced swell streaming in. Not too many surfers out in the 45˙ degree water, however - LOL! From this point, we will see more mountains, and coastal bluffs with an occasional beach cove, and some relatively large wetlands, where rivers meet the sea. The weather is even cooperating a bit, and it is getting brighter, with fewer clouds. As this will be my last flight-see of the season, it is fine with me if it goes on all afternoon.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #389, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #389:  After the mouth of the Igushik River, we reach the tip of the very long peninsula that juts out into Bristol Bay, round it, and then start a more due-north flight path toward the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. This part of the peninsula is low, flat, and flooded with hundreds of pothole ponds and small lakes. The shoreline seems to go on forever, and the broad beach makes everything quite visible. At one point, we spot a grizzly with her cubs, browsing, and then about three miles farther along, we fly above a dead whale washed ashore. Within minutes of that, we also encounter a big male grizzly, headed down the beach towards that carcass. Because bears have acute senses of smell, detecting such a large rotting corpse can be done from miles away. The scale of the feast will last for days, and the blubber ingested will assure these scavenging, late fall bears will survive hibernation quite comfortably. After many more minutes of flight, we approach mountains more closely than at anytime so far in our journey this day, which means we are at the tail end of the Wood Range in Wood-Tikchik State Park, and about to pass into Togiak. Soon the landscape of our shore will grow more ragged, turn to bluffs, and cross over the sizable Kulukak Bay.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #388, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #388:  At this low of a tide, the Igushik River is defined more by its delta and the expansive surrounding wetlands, then by the actual river. We are not in the season of migration, as yet, but even so I can spot the brilliant white of swan pairs on many of these lakes. A the height of migration, the spectacle of birds must be just amazing. At this point on the coast, Native hunters have great access to these wetlands , as they can be approached by boat and kayak. During the flight our weather has become more impending, but the cloud layers are still above us, leaving my pilot with good visibility for flying. My photography is struggling, however with ever-darkening light conditions, and issues of plane speed. Still, I seem to be doing alright, I just do not want it to get any darker, or start raining hard. But hey! We have flown ourselves WAY out into Bristol Bay and the open Pacific, late in the fall, so what else should I have expected?

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #387, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #387:  River deltas pouring into the sea carry with them a tremendous silt load that is dispersed along the shores that surround the delta. You could see that in the low tide, mud flats when we left Dillingham (post #383). Now that we are approaching the Igushik River, the low tide is revealing another extensive area of flats that extends hundreds of yards out into the Pacific. Frequently, there are rich beds of shellfish in these shoals, but even bear do not venture too far out onto this unstable soil, as it can be like quicksand, and once stuck in it, it takes considerable effort to extricate oneself. Best to keep to the actual shore, and browse for things more closely at hand, like berries,..or dead whales, that have been washed up onto the more solid shore by the HIGH tide. As you can see from the mountains drawing ever nearer, our flight will soon round the long peninsula, and head true north once again, approaching the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. At the moment, and at this angle, however, these mountains are more likely part of Wood-Tikchik State Park.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #386, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #386:  Flying north and west, up the coast and away from Dillingham, the shoreline seems to go on forever. Notably, though, as the mountains of the Wood-Tikchik State Park and the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge grow closer, the pothole ponds grow fewer, and the lakes become more expansive. There is an interesting aspect to this image you may have already noted. In the left margin, middle of this picture, the landscape appears “wiggly,” and you probably think it is an aberration of my leans, or perhaps, the window glass of the plane, but it is neither. It is a section of the landscape that has been “scraped” by glacial movement, dragging boulders across the terrain. Those striations are actually embedded in the ground, and they are now covered by tundra, but the roll of the grooves is still apparent. At this point in our flight we have also observed several bears walking along the beach, hoping to find some edible morsels. Otherwise, there is not much else out here. Even the Natives don’t often come this far, because the terrain is so wet and saturated, it won't support the weight of an ATV. When they do visit, it is during the bird migrations, and they come to hunt these ponds which are stopover points.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #385, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #385:  On my flight up the coast from Dillingham, and the mouth of the Nushagak River, my previous post was looking east, and south, toward to general vicinity of Dillingham. The above is an opposing view, north, encompassing miles and miles of shoreline ahead of us as we fly in the direction of the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. My last post calls your attention to the amount of water in this landscape, which besides a great number of large rivers, includes thousands of pothole lakes. Many of those are small, but as we fly farther north, you can see some of them are becoming substantial lakes. Although Togiak is to the north, we are now actually flying west and south, as we are working around a vast peninsula that stretches out into Bristol Bay. After the intersection with the Snake River, we will encounter another, the Manokotak River, that also is marked by an endless series of meanders across the flat plain of Southwest. Many of these river systems, all of which flow into Bristol Bay, are born in the watershed of Wood-Tikchik State Park, and feed into the most productive fishery left in North America. This is no place to site a toxic open pit mine. In this New Year (2020), PLEASE SAY NO TO THE PEBBLE MINE, and say no to leadership whose only experience of wilderness is a Scottish golf course. If you REALY want to Make America Great Again, leave alone the things that make it that way. No other country has a place like this!

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #384, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #384:  As my pilot and I head north and a bit west, up the coast from Dillingham, and the mouth of the Nushagak River, I marvel at the tidal flats that have been revealed at an extreme low tide. The is a lot of weather streaming through the skies above, but below the clouds visibility is good, and I have enough light to work with, so I am excited to be flying on what will probably be my last shoot over Southwest this season. Some miles into our travel along the shore, the expanse of the Nushagak River mouth is intersected by the inflow of the Snake River, which you can see part of in the above picture. Please check out the link, as it clearly explains why the river is called the Snake, unusual to me, since most of the waterways bear Native names. The greater part of the Southwest landscape looks like this. As you can see, it is flat, and VERY wet, covered by a myriad of rivers and pothole lakes. This surely NOT a place to put an open pit mine, proposed to be 2,000ft. deep. Can you imagine the inflow of water, that then, toxified by mineral contaminants, would have to be pumped back out, to be stored “in perpetuity” in poisonous lagoons? There is no reason to create an open pit mine in such a water rich landscape, so PLEASE SAY NO TO THE PEBBLE MINE, regardless of what our jackass leadership promotes! If you doubt the DANGER of an open pit mines toxicity, check my much earlier postings is this blog about the Berkley Pit, #35-#42, and the threats it poses to Butte, Montana’s groundwater, and the ENTIRE drainage of the Clark Fork of the Columbia River.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #383, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #383:  My assistant, Rhett Turner, is finally headed home to Atlanta, and I find myself back in Dillingham, not quite yet wanting to give up my long season in Southwest. One of the things I have not yet photographed is the coast, north from Dillingham to the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, so that seems like one good final objective to pursue, before I also head south to return home to Los Angeles. It is my luck to find my most trusted pilot in town, and he does have the time for a flightsee, so I book a day, and we are off. On the day of our departure, the weather is mixed, but visibility is very good, so I am hoping for a productive flight. Our trajectory takes us out, over the mouth of the Nushagak River, and what is immediately notable is that the tide is out,..WAY out, and the mud flats are very exposed. (If you wish an amusing story about these exposed flats, check previous post #378). Although along the path of our flight, the exposure of these flats will vary, because of the steepness of the beach, here at the mouth of the river, the expanse is vast and impressive. I can only imagine that at this low tidal stage, get a boat trying to get into the neighboring Kvichak River is nearly impossible, as the mud flats there are even greater and notoriously dangerous in passage.

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Tuesday, January 7, 2020 

NO PEBBLE MINE #382, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #382:  My assistant, Rhett Turner, has decided it is time for him to head home to Atlanta, so we break camp at Brooks Camp in Katmai, and hop an air shuttle back to King Salmon-Naknek. He will begin his return to the lower 48 from there. I will fly back to Dillingham to do a little more work for the project. As our flights are not until the next day, we spend the early evening with our friends in Naknek, and have last look out over Bristol Bay from the bluffs of the village, and the beach below. We enjoy another dramatic sunset, but if you follow this blog you should recognize by now, that all three of my sunset posts, #376, #378, and this, clearly show how much weather streams in from the Bering Sea across Bristol Bay. This is a stormy environment most of the year, and especially so as winter draws near. If you watch “Deadliest Catch” on TV, it all takes place out there somewhere, in the middle of all this weather, which makes for a VERY challenging work environment.

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Tuesday, December 31, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #381, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #381:  After an interesting breakfast at Brooks Camp lodge (last post), Rhett, myself, and many other tourists set out to walk the trail to the bear-viewing balcony overlooking the famous falls, where numerous bear can be seen fishing for salmon. Rhett, and I, are not in any hurry, and we are enjoying the late fall colors of the woodlands along the trail. As it has rained a lot, the reds of the leaves, and the green of the mosses and lichens, are saturated and vibrant. By the time we finally reach the viewing platform, however, it is so crowded we choose not to enter the fray, and stand a little higher on the hillside, where we can still see all the action. There are hundreds of salmon leaping up the falls, and at one count, there are 22 bears visible, so there is quite a bit of activity. From our viewpoint, though, the real amusement is not in the river, but the viewing platform, where crazed tourists are muscling each other to get the best picture, and people are dueling with their long lenses, and tripod legs. It is FAR more dangerous on the platform, than in the river. Aside from the spectacle of the platform warfare, we are here at a choice moment because this is the last salmon run, and the bears know it, so they are EVERYWHERE there is any sign of fish. With the day wearing on, the sky begins to clear, so Rhett, and I, return to our campsite for lunch, and then follow a nearby trail that climbs to the summit of Dumpling Mountain, giving us a great overview of the surrounding lakes and summits. When evening descends, so do we, deciding to once again dine at the lodge. The lodge is quite close to the mouth of Brooks River, and upon our arrival, we realize that people are not the only ones dining. The mouth of the river is alive with fish and bears, who are splashing about chasing dinner, or in this case (above), eating it.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #380, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #380:  Rhett Turner, my assistant, and I, have a nice dinner in the warm, rain-free lodge cafeteria at Brooks Camp in Katmai, and linger by the firepit, talking to others for some time. Finally we must retire, so it is back out into the rain and cold of the late fall night. Fortunately it is not raining very hard, but it is VERY dark, and although we have flashlights, walking the 1/2 mile back to our campsite, is spooky, passing through the bear-filled woods. The trail is obvious but in the dark shadows, big brownies could be anywhere. When we arrive, we are pleased to see that our tent has not been disturbed, so we crawl in, and sack-out for the night. It rains REALY hard on-and-off for several hours, and then as dawn approaches, it seems the weather is backing off, and a wind is rising. Eventually the light skies and the flapping of the tent gets us up and out, to find it is blustery and cold. Given the conditions, we once again opt for eating at the lodge, rather than toughing it out in the campground, so we don our gear, and head off down the trail. We do spend a bit of time, looking for bear prints in the mud around the campground, and are reassured (somewhat) when we find nothing. On the way to the lodge, however, a VERY large grizzly passes by us without taking any note - he is out walking the shoreline of Naknek, probably occupied with the idea of salmon for breakfast, and we are discreetly behind trees on the forest path. By the time we reach the lodge, the wind is REALLY picking up, and waves are starting to roll in on the beach. We go down to the shore to have a look, and from there we can see two more big bear, still some distance away, but definitely headed towards us, so we retreat to the lodge, and breakfast. More so than last evening, the lodge is now PACKED with tourists, vying to get food, and get on with their day of hiking, and hopefully, bear-viewing. There are many nationalities present, most of whom are part of organized groups, and in one corner with huge plate glass windows, there are a dozen Japanese. In a moment of reality for them, a BIG griz ambles out of the woods, and stands up, putting his paws against the glass to look in. He is about 10ft. tall and quite impressive, which pretty much clears that table. Rangers outside soon discourage his behavior, and breakfast inside resumes to everyone’s awe and amusement. Rhett and I finish eating, and decide to walk to the bear-viewing area at Brooks Falls, something many others are doing as well. Most are eager to get there, but we ramble, enjoying the late fall colors of the surrounding landscape, as this will likely be the last time either of us visit here for a long while.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #379, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #379:  Another day dawns, and the National Park Service still has no open lodging available in Katmai National Park, so Rhett Turner, my assistant for this summer, and I, once again take a drive in the car, in hopes of finding something we have not previously seen. The King Salmon-Naknek area has a great diversity of biomes, and on this morning we discover a luxuriant meadow of mosses and lichens. It is SO spongy and soft it is hard to walk upon, and initially I feel guilty about even setting foot upon it, but what we discover is that, as soon as we take the next step, it springs back, COMPLETELY erasing our footprints. Still, I don’t want to be crushing things, so I take a few quick pictures, and we retreat. Not a moment too soon, either, because another rain squall blows in, and begins to pound away. While we sit in the car through the downpour, I get a crazy idea. Since we do not seem to be able to book into the Katmai lodge, and we do have all of our camping gear with us, why not stay in the Katmai campground, if it is still open? Rhett agrees that seems like a crazy idea, but he is game, if I am, so we head back to King Salmon to talk with the park service. They think it is a crazy idea also, given the weather, but they do indicate the campground is “open,” there is just nobody camping there. They further remind us that makes us the possible sole target of roaming bears, and certainly, we will be cold and wet. Undeterred, we decide to go, return our hotel room, collect our gear, and show up for the next shuttle flight out. 20-minutes later, we are on the ground in Katmai, talking to an astonished park ranger about camping. He thinks is is a crazy idea, as well. Nonetheless, he gives us the key to the “food cage,” and also the lecture about NOTHING scented in our tent. Then, he wishes us good luck. The campsites are about 1/2-mile from the lodge, tucked back into the woods, just off the frequently bear-prowled shoreline. We pick a site, set up camp, dutifully lock what food we have in the cage, and opt to return to the lodge for the evening, sit around the huge, welcoming indoor communal firepit, and eat dinner in their cafeteria, rather than cook it at camp, because, of course, it has started raining again.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #378, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #378:  After a day of hard rain, great fall color, and a few pictures made in between the squalls, my assistant, Rhett Turner, and I, return to visit a friend in Naknek, where we snack, and drink to warm up. We also make a regular ramble to the coastal bluffs at sunset, just to see the expanse of Bristol Bay aglow in the last light of the day,..if there is any. The beach below the bluffs can also be accessed, so if it not raining, we descend and walk on the shore. There is also a place where you can drive a car down on to the sand, which villagers often do to go fishing. Although we might be slightly drunk, we have never thought that a good idea, but many do, and certainly some of them have been drinking as well. On this particular night, such a consumer provides many of us that are walking the shoreline, with some amusing, foolish, and ultimately costly, behavior. Tonight the tide is way out, revealing shimmering layers of mud flats that extend hundreds of yards into the bay. This can be a treacherous, boot-sucking environment to even walk upon, but certainly not upon which to drive a car. Nonetheless, an inebriated fisherman, hopeful of getting to the water’s edge, decides to drive his truck out there. When he starts, most of us look on in disbelief, but for the length of a football field, he seems to be succeeding, and we begin to think, “he’s local, and knows how to do this.” Then it happens, and we realize he is just drunk, and stupid. The truck slogs to a halt, the wheels spin, and then it sinks to the underframe, into the tidal flats. Now, he is completely F*#%ed. When he gets out, he sinks up to his knees as well. There is still some daylight left, but the tide is turning, and once that starts, it comes in rather quickly. Some of the other villagers on the beach recognize him, and walk out to rescue him, because he is SO bombed he is useless. Another runs up the bluff into Naknek to find help, and sure enough, a small troupe of friends come down with their trucks and tow chains. Those that walked out to help him, get him to the solid beach, where he sits, dazed. The others go to work, trying to get to his truck, and chain it up. It is windy, cold, and just as the sunsets, the rain begins, so Rhett, myself, and our friend, retire back to his house. Even with the turn of weather, and the oncoming dark of night, the drunks colleagues keep working to free his vehicle. In the morning, we are curious to see what has happened, so Rhett and I drive back to Naknek, from our hotel in King Salmon, and the view from the bluffs reveals his truck is still on the beach, but way up on the hard sand, so it appears he was saved an expensive loss, because he had good neighbors.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #377, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #377:  While my assistant, Rhett Turner and I, wait to hear from the National Park Service reservation system about getting lodging in Katmai National Park for one last late fall viewing of the bears, we bide our time in King Salmon-Naknek, while serious daily weather streams over us. Every day grows colder, and it rains A LOT. We try to get out in between squalls to make a few pictures, because the tundra is aflame with fall color, but there is a considerable amount of time that we just sit our car and listen to the pounding rain. When it does let up, and we can work, we are well rewarded with displays such as you see above. The terrain around the villages is very diverse, and depending on where we drive, there are many varied ecosystems we can visit, so it is never boring, just cold, and REALLY wet. In the late afternoon, we warm up at the home of a friend in Naknek, and I must confess, that involves some fair amount of drinking. It also places us close to the coastal bluffs, and an amazing view of Bristol Bay, which we try to take in each night, regardless of the weather. There is ALWAYS something dramatic going on, as can see in post #376.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, November 26, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #376, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #376:  After our modest flight-see above the Mulchatna, and Kvichak river systems, my assistant, Rhett Turner, and I, land in King Salmon-Naknek and check into lodging. Because we hope to go on to Katmai, we visit with the National Park Service about lodging there, but for the moment, nothing is available, which we expected. After placing our names on their reservations-hopeful list, we rent a car, grab some dinner, and then decide to drive to the Native village of Naknek to visit friends. Naknek is in an amazing location, whereas King Salmon is located on the Naknek River, it is at a midway point. Naknek, however, sits at the mouth of the river, where it joins the outflow from the massive Kvichak, and from high coastal bluffs, it offers a commanding view of the Bristol Bay shoreline, and the open vastness of the bay. Standing on those bluffs, you are staring directly into weather from the west and north, coming in out of the Bering Sea. Better yet, two roads from Naknek lead down from the bluffs to the actual beach. Although tonight some serious clouds are streaming through, it is not raining, so Rhett and I take one of those roads, and descend to the shore. At the moment, the tide is in, and the sun is going down, but there is some break in the clouds near the horizon, and we get to enjoy a show of “god-light” to end our evening.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #375, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #375:  On our “extended” flight from Dillingham to King Salmon-Naknek, my assistant, Rhett Turner, and I, ask our pilot to wander a bit so that we may visit some familiar terrain, given that we have good weather and light. We fly somewhat to the northeast which carries us above the astounding, braided river system of the Mulchatna (last post), and then we intercept the upper section of the Kvichak River, referred to as “The Channels.” (above). The Mulchatna, feeds into the Nushagak River, and the Nushagak and the Kvichak are the two most productive rivers in the Bristol Bay salmon fishery. They are also both “downstream” from the proposed Pebble mine site, and either, or both, could be poisoned forever, were there to be a failure in the mine’s massive tailings pond system - a highly likely event since this is one of the most seismically active areas in the world. The Pebble is a foolish industrial invasion of the last great, undisturbed fishery on the planet, and that is more than enough reason to SAY NO TO THE PEBBLE MINE, so PLEASE do! Please also use my map links, and +up the details. Follow these rivers along their course, and they will blow your mind with their endless meanders, through a terrain spotted with thousands of small lakes and tundra ponds. Because I know, and have floated many of these river systems, I can follow them to their headwaters on these Google maps, and the maps make CLEAR that several lie at the very foot of the mine site. My NO PEBBLE MINE Facebook page, has been regularly trolled by people posting a picture of the mine’s exploratory camp, and asking, “Where is the water? Oh yeah, 100-miles away?” Indicating to me that they know NOTHING about this actual landscape. Bristol Bay is 100 miles away. But, more to the point, dozens of rivers lie that flow to the bay are within a few miles of the mine site, and feeder streams emanate FROM the site. THAT is where the water is,..quite literally EVERYWHERE! Perhaps these critics should study this geography a bit more, rather than speak about something, about which they know NOTHING!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #374, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #374:  My assistant, Rhett Turner, and I, spend a few days recouping in Dillingham, but do go out everyday, and wander around a bit, enjoying the onset of fall colors (last few posts). Rhett also does some great underwater work with his film camera and housing, wading into the middle of a stream, where salmon are migrating and spawning (last post). Nonetheless, we have been adventuring ALL summer, and after a few days, we are restless once again. Neither of us wants to head home just yet, because the fall is peaking, so I suggest we go back to Katmai, where we have previously enjoyed watching the bears, and perhaps we can arrange a flight-see south of Katmai, towards Lake Becharof, a portion of the Bristol Bay landscape that we have not yet photographed. Lodging at Katmai is always reserved, and in high demand, and we do not have reservations as yet, so our plan is to fly to King Salmon-Naknek, where there is available lodging, and we have some friends. We will wait there to see if we can get in at Katmai. No plane flight should be wasted, so en route to King Salmon, we fly over some familiar terrain, to have another look at the amazing system of rivers that feed into the Nushagak and Kvichak rivers, the two most productive of them all, which are part of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery. I love the image above, because you can see the contrast between the spare tundra terrain, and the rich, lush river valleys. Here, two smaller systems feed into the much larger Mulchatna.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, November 5, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #373, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #373:  The rain saturated red in the fall foliage of this landscape (last post) is not the only, or the brightest, red that we can find. This long-running blog’s purpose, is to protect the remarkable salmon fishery of Bristol Bay, from what could be, the toxic development of the Pebble mine in its headwaters (SAY NO TO THE PEBBLE MINE!) My assistant, Rhett Turner, youngest son of media mogul, Ted Turner, has just graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, and has formed a fledgeling film company, he hopes to get off the ground with some short “news” clips, taken while we work our way through the summer. Already we have taken a flight over the Copper River delta, to view an area proposed for the building of an expensive “road-to-nowhere” by Alaskan Congressman, Don Young, a stupidly, development-rabid, bonehead, whose anti-environment politics we both dislike. The flight gives Rhett some GREAT footage, which ultimately becomes a 3-minute news loop, that is aired numerous times in American media, and creates enough pressure on Young, that he drops his proposal. Now that Rhett and I are relaxing for a few days under the roof of the Bristol Inn in Dillingham, we still go out each day and search our immediate environment (last two posts) for picture and/or, filmmaking possibilities. The salmon are still running this late in the fall, and they are all close to “spawning out’” which brings Sockeye salmon to their reddest color. While wandering a tundra-woodland path, we can hear them splashing up the rills of a nearby creek, so Rhett decides to teach himself, how to use his camera’s underwater housing, which he has carried around all summer, without finding a subject to apply the tech, as yet. Standing next to creekside, while fish after fish flash by, Rhett finally has the rig ready, and wades in. Interestingly, standing in the middle of this small salmon run, does not spook the fish. To the contrary, while spawning, they are very aggressive, and rather than swim away, they frequently “attack” the camera, providing GREAT footage. As I watch, it dawns on me to take this (above), not because it is a great picture of fish, but because it does display the REAL GOLD of this landscape. It is NOT the PEBBLE MINE! It is the red-gold of the Bristol fishery, an annually renewable, $1-billion industry, that supports Native village life, and hundreds of workers with jobs in several states,..not to mention, the BEST salmon you will EVER eat. If you really want to Make America Great Again, don’t let a Canadian mining company and a bunch of international investors take away, what truly does make America great - the intelligent management of the bounty our country has been blessed with. Wake up, and SAY NO TO THE PEBBLE MINE! Go for the red-gold!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, October 29, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #372, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #372:  After our plane flight, my assistant, Rhett Turner, and I are once again ensconsed at our lodging of prefernce, the Bristol Inn, in downtown Dillingham, AK. We are surrounded by comfortable beds, serviced rooms, and a TV view of the world, since we last checked in. The mostly Native staff has also grown used to our summer-long comings and goings, and generously lets us store our gear with them, between our adventures. For the moment we have the luxury of no bugs, no assault from the weather, and copious plates of food at the nearby, Muddy Rudder restaurant, who have also come to know us well. Although we do indulge by sleeping in, Rhett and I are still driven to be productive with whatever is at hand, and Dillingham has cars-for-rent, a fairly lengthy road system (for here), and it is surrounded by a tundra-forest terrain. We have been in Southwest since early spring, and we are now staying late, into the fall, so peak colors are going off across the landscape. Regardless of our downtime laziness, everyday, rain or shine, we go out and drive around a bit, hoping something will be revealed that surprises us, and visually informs my project. On this particular day (above), the weather is raging. It is raining on and off, and the wind is gusting fiercely. While not ideal working conditions, the water saturated colors of the fall tundra, are an ideal subject, so we patiently wait out the bluster, trying too create a few more frames. You can see a good deal of blurring in this pic, as on a day like this, most everything is in motion. (For those that read my other blogs, and have viewed/read “ORDER FROM CHAOS,”, you might remember one of the many objectives in that body of work was to refute, the design “rules” taught to me in college, that you should NEVER put any subject in “the middle” of your picture. Because I reject such rules, many of those images have something in their middle somewhere, you just might have trouble finding it. Years latter, I am still at it in the tundra of Southwest. This works for me. Does it work for you - LOL!)

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #371, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #371:  In much of the previous posting, I have repeatedly spoken of “me", and “I", on the Kanektok River headwaters overflight, but clearly there has been a pilot along as well. There is also my assistant for the summer, Rhett Turner, youngest son of media mogul,Ted Turner, who joined me for these explorations as my assistant. He has just graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, where we met after one of my lectures, and he is starting a film company, so both of us can help each other pursue our careers. However, on the many plane flights we have taken together, he is in MY service, and much needed. To achieve the many aerial shots, posted in this blog, it is best done with two people working together. I am shooting with a Pentax 645 camera, which has a detachable back that contains the film roll. At the end of a 120-roll of film (12 frames), the back can be detached, and another clipped on, starting an additional twelve picture sequence. Eventually, the exposed roll must be removed from the back, the location sequence labeled on the roll, and a new role, rewound. This is somewhat complicated, and more importantly, it takes time. Were I to be doing that for myself, I would miss a good deal of whatever we are flying above. So, our well practiced routine, makes Rhett’s assistance invaluable. After I complete a roll, I hand him the detached magazine, and he hands me a newly loaded one. Then, he labels and numbers the expended role, and reloads the back with fresh film, allowing me to keep shooting, seamlessly. This process is actually exciting, AND exhausting, for both of us, as the plane flights are expensive, and we do not want to waste a minute of our air time. As a consequence, between our camping and flying, we intersperse downtime in available lodging for a few days of rest between adventures. Now on this flight we are headed for Dillingham, the central hub of most of our Southwest adventures, and we are looking forward to taking up residence once again at our favorite, center-of-town digs, the Bristol Inn, then having a way-too-much-food dinner at the local’s restaurant of preference, The Muddy Rudder.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #370, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #370:  My spectacular flightsee to the headwaters of the Kanektok River, bring us to the source, two large lakes, Pegati and Kagati. They are much bigger than the numerous lakes we have passed over downstream, and their blue waters glow in the dappled illumination, shining down through the broken cloud cover. Although there is plenty of weather passing overhead, it is not raining, and there is little turbulence. Although the lake waters show some riffles, there are no waves or whitecaps. It is truly a beautiful day to be flying. As we enter the lake basin, I can see the outlet for the Kanektok, and the curvaceous shoreline of Pegati, which we fly above as we follow it around to its connecting point with its “sister” lake, Kagati. This also carries much closer to some rugged summits that crowd the northern shore. My pilot takes our flight right down the middle of the lake, which allows me dramatic views of the complex drainage. At several points, valleys open up between the summits, allowing fleeting glimpses of other, smaller, distant lakes beneath steep peaks. From those lakes, rivers cascade down to the Kagati shoreline and fan out into broad deltas. Kagati even has some islands, and again I wish we were in a float plane, so we could land and go ashore. I would have loved to have a ground-eye view, from the island in this image. As that will not happen, I certainly can’t complain about my current perspective, except to say, it marks the end of my headwater exploration, and now our flight will leave the Kanektok headwaters basin, passing through several mountains passes in the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, back into Wood-Tikchik State Park, and on to Dillingham, where I will stay for the next few days to regroup. It has been a remarkable afternoon of flying, and I am very sorry to have it end.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #369, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #369:  The shimmer of blue in the distance (last post), grows larger, and more blue, with every mile we fly. We are headed toward Lake Pegati, one of two large lakes that are the headwaters of the Kanektok River. My flightsee has carried me above the entire 75-mile river valley, winding through the Ahklun Mountains and foothills, and now beneath our wings, the mountains recede, and surround, a huge plain, at the center of which are two large lakes, Pegati and Kagati. There have been a myriad of lakes visible in our flight upriver, but they appear as mere “potholes,” compared to the broad expanse of water that now opens in front of us. While these are not the scale of Lake Iliamna, much closer to the prosed site of the Pebble mine development, they are considerably larger than anything we have seen today. This is a stunning, undisturbed landscape, with scrub and tundra growing right to the water’s edge, occasionally allowing pristine little beaches to appear here and there. I am sorry I am not in a float plane at this moment, as I would love to land on the lake and explore the terrain from a ground level view, but hey!, when the view I have from my open window looks like this, how can I complain. Fly on!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #368, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #368:  My flightseeing above the 75-mile long river valley of the Kanektok, has wound through some of the rugged summits of the Ahklun Mountains, and emerged on a broadening plain that spreads between massive, rounded foothills. The play of light across the landscape is quite beautiful, and even my pilot comments that I must be having a good day with lots of great shots. I am still amazed that we have been flying for so long, and have not yet reached the headwaters, at which point he asks if I can see the shimmer of blue, beneath the very pointed peak in the distance. That, he says, is Pegati Lake, one of two large lakes that are the headwaters of the Kanektok River. Although we can see them, they are still some miles from us, and I continue to be amazed at the vast reaches of this large watershed. It is no wonder the Kanektok is a sizable river, considering all of the mountains, hills, and valleys that drain into. Torrential rains, like those that pour in off the Bering Sea likely pump millions, if not billions, of gallons of water into this system in any given storm. Just as amazingly, salmon swim against that current all this way, to spawn in the lakes and surrounding tributary rivers. What a world!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #367, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #367:  The 75-mile long river valley of the Kanektok begins to twist and turn as we draw nearer to the headwaters in the Ahklun Mountains. During one section of the flight, the valley narrows significantly as we enter the range, and offers up some close passes to these dry, rocky summits. Occasionally a small tributary valley will feed in, and provide fleeting views of other distant peaks. With this much weather passing overhead, I would have expected a windy, bouncing ride today, but my platform has been beautifully steady, allowing me to work with some dark, and tricky lighting that is constantly changing. A bit further on, the plain of the valley floor broadens once again, opening to some expansive vistas,..and we still have NOT arrived at the headwaters of this extensive system.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #366, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #366:  The entire Kanektok River drainage seems to meander just like the river. As it retreats to its headwaters, it snakes around numerous mountains and ranges with big sweeping curves of the valley floor. Again, I encourage you to use the Google link provided. Be sure to + magnify the river to see its many meanders, then you can back out a little and see the way the river wanders through various valley floors, as it wends its way over 75-miles, back into the Ahklun Mountains and to Kagati and Pegati Lakes. There is little forest here, this is mostly a tundra environment, and summits are very spare of vegetation. What is clear to me, however, is that this is a massive catch-basin for rain and snow coming out of the Bering Sea, and that is what keeps this river and the myriad tributaries feeding into, thriving.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #365, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #365:  Under a broken sky with an occasional squall of passing rain, my flight from Quinhagak back to Dillingham is going to take the "long way home," and fly there by way of the Kanektok River backcountry, which I have only viewed from distant bluffs along the lower river. Please take advantage of this amazing Google link I have provided. Start at the village, and follow the meanders upriver,..miles, and miles, and miles! Talk about a massive drainage completely surrounded by mountains feeding into it. What a system! The image above is another spot I recognize from the air. The sunlit bluffs of the left, which overlook a beaver-filled wetlands, are the farthest upriver location we reached by boat. From here on, it is all unseen territory,..and there is a STUNNING amount of it.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, September 3, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #364, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #364:  Fueled up on fat-rich food, I finish my meal with the Native family of my ADF&G guide, at their village home in Quinhagak, and very much on time, we can hear the approach of the plane that is coming to pick me up. I am flying back to Dillingham, but because the cloud ceiling is high, we are going to overfly the entire Kanektok River watershed, so that I can make some pictures of that backcountry, which we could not reach by boat. It is a relatively quiet weather day. Although there are many clouds passing through, it is not particularly windy, so may aerial platform is thankfully not bouncing around,..and the view is amazing! About 10-minutes into our flight, I am looking at this (above), and I recognize one of the bluffs we scrambled up, on my first venture out in the ADF&G boat. It is rewarding to me to have been down on the actual river, because now that I am above it, I have a greater understanding of what I am seeing, and what the scale of it is.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, August 27, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #363, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #363:  I am in the village of Quinhagak, at the mouth of the Kanektok River, because I have been invited to share some traditional native food with the family of one of my ADF&G guides, whom I have been working with, upriver. He has also asked his neighbors to allow me to make a few pictures. As with most cultures, food brings people together, so after I briefly shoot some pictures outside, I retire to the company inside, and we begin to eat and talk. I find these villagers hosting me to be curious and quite playful, and they are using their various Native foods to tease me a bit. This happens to me in China quite a lot, and I have been challenged to eat some truly strange things there, but Native Alaskan food is quite different from that. We consume some GREAT smoked salmon and smoked halibut jerky. There is a spread for crackers that I suspect is mostly urchin roe. There is some VERY oily seal meat, that is also tough to chew. There are some REALLY good, REALLY spicy, jalapeno marinated salmon sticks in a jar, and for desert we have something tagged by white people as “eskimo ice cream” - a selection of wild berries picked upriver, are mixed into a gallon container of Crisco, and left outside to freeze. Once solid and cold, it can be scooped and served like ice cream. It even looks like it, the taste is just not as sweet.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, August 20, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #362, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #362:  The morning of my departure from the ADF&G camp on the Kanektok River, where I have been staying, dawns with a dense, but high, cloud cover, and our radio confirms a plane does plan to pick me up in Quinhagak later in the day, so we begin our morning with a good breakfast, and then prepare to head downriver to the village. We encounter an occasional, quickly passing squall of rain, but generally the weather is gray but good, and there is excellent visibility to fly. My pick-up is due around 2p.m., but we arrive in the village much earlier, as I have been invited to the family home of the enforcement officer that has been guiding me upriver. I am to have a noon meal with his family, and I will be allowed to make some pictures in his neighborhood, without others objecting. This (above) is his home. ALL the homes in the village are on stilts, above the permafrost ground. There is no running water. There is no door (for the summer season), just the blanket drape. The oil drum on the pedestal besides the house is their fuel source for heating and cooking, but they also have a wood-burning stove. EVERYONE has an ATV. There are also a number of outbuldings that include a gear shed and a place to dry and smoke salmon. Inside, five Native women are eager to meet me, and share some of their food,..and for one, it is nice to have her son home for awhile.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #361, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #361:  By the time we arrive back at the ADF&G cabin where my hosts are stationed, from our stormy trip upriver, the weather has shifted once again. While not really “clearing,” the skies are broken, and the rain squalls have stopped. Once ashore, dinner prep is underway in the cabin, and I am both packing for departure tomorrow, and watching the late evening light show. As it did last night, just before the sun sets, it gets under the cloud layer, and lights up the landscape with a golden illumination for a few quickly passing minutes. After this fades, I return to finish my packing, and then, dinner. My hosts have already communicated with my pilot-to-be tomorrow, regarding weather, and if the flight comes, what time I should expect it to arrive. The weather is going to be “broken”, so flying should be good, with excellent visibility, therefore it looks like I will get a chance to overview the entire Kanektok river basin from the air. My hosts know I have been hopeful this might happen, so they are glad for me as well, and then, the ranger from Quinhagak makes me a unusual offer. For three days now he has watched me work, and he appreciates what I am trying to do for the/their fishery. He also knows I would like to make some pictures of the village that are not surreptitious, in spite of the fact the village does not like being the subject matter of photographers. The offer, therefore, is that we will leave early in the morning, to arrive well before my scheduled afternoon flight, and he will take me to his house for a meal with his family. There, and in his company, I will be welcome to make some images that depict “the reality of village life."

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, August 6, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #360, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #360:  In several places we passed on the previous day, when we came upriver on the Kanektok, newly fallen trees are now log-jamming part of the flow. Some trees fall at a given spot, then others drift down from upriver and join the pile up. Eventually, they will either be swept away, or they will change the current and course of the river, all things my hosts must consider when they navigate this river everyday. Another thing we did not see yesterday were float groups of fishermen, yet today, in this terrible weather, we come upon one. Last evening, as we were returning to our cabin downriver, these eight people got dropped upriver by a plane. As it was late in the day, they set up a large camp on a legal sandbar, and hunkered down for the night. They were to start their float this morning, but it has dawned such a hostile day, they have just decided to stay where they are until the weather calms down. My ADF&G ranger/hosts chat them up, check their permits, look into their cold stash boxes, compliment them for honoring camping requirements, and remind them as they go further downriver, not to fish or camp on Native land. They seem knowledgeable, and willing to co-operate, and they offer coffee while we talk. With a break in the rain, we return to our boat, wish them good fishing, and launch back into the river. The remainder of our day on the water is uneventful, and REALLY stormy, so we all agree to head home early to eat and warm up. Besides, I need to pack, because in the morning my colleagues are taking me downriver to the village of Quinhagak, where I will meet a plane.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, July 30, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #359, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #359:  During the night, the weather front we could see on the horizon at the rise of the full moon (last post), moves over our ADF&G encampment. At about 4a.m. the rain begins and gets heavier as the minutes pass. By 5a.m., it is torrential, and the wind is howling. My tent is fine, and dry inside, but I am not likely to go back to sleep, so I put on my gear, get out, and wander around our riverbank, watching the storm in the glow of morning. By the time I get back to the cabin area, the rangers are up as well, and a light is on, so I join them to eat and get out of the weather. They are impressed that I have been out already, and explain that the weather report expects it to be like this all day. Nonetheless, they will go out on patrol, and I am welcome to join them, which I agree to do. We eat a “hearty” breakfast, put on a lot of clothing layers, grab our gear, and launch upriver once again. The storm light, the semi-darkness, and various places that have downed trees from wind damage, change the look of locations we passed the day before, so significantly as to make them almost unrecognizable. Aboard, we are fortunately protected by a small cabin, because outside gale force wind gusts cause waves on the river, and squalls rain so fiercely we can barely see out the windows to navigate.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #358, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #358:  After the golden aura of light across the plains fades, I jump back in the ADF&G boat, and we continue downriver to their cabin, now just a few miles away. Clouds continue to stream over us coming in from the west, but just before we tie up for the night, another spate of clear sky opens. Already on land, I grab my gear and take a walk along the upriver shoreline, coming to this moment overlooking a back channel of pools, and meandering braids. The sun definitely alighted the clouds, but the reflection of their color off of the water, dramatically shows off the layered complexity of the “shoreline” - what ever that means. On a river this big, that has SO many braids, and swampy side channels, the actual shoreline can be hard to determine. As the last rays of the setting sun pass into twilight, I head back to the cabin for dinner, where an interesting conversation ensues with the ADF&G ranger, Native to the village of Quinhagak. I ask why the village is hostile to the recreational fishermen because they make decent money off of them. Their fishing of the river is a minimal extraction of the salmon stock, and the super trout are “catch-and-release” only, so it seems to me the fishery is not being damaged. His response takes me in a whole other direction. He points out that the cach-and-release trout are considered “trophy” fish, prized for their size, and their fight. Once caught, the fish is brought in for what it presumes is a noble death to a more wily predator. Instead, it is weighed, measured, posed for a photograph, and then thrown back. Insultingly suffering a life/death experience for someones amusement. He, and his village are not amused.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, July 16, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #357, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #357:  After the golden aura of light across the plains fades, I jump back in the ADF&G boat, and we continue downriver to their cabin, now just a few miles away. Clouds continue to stream over us coming in from the west, but just before we tie up for the night, another spate of clear sky opens. Already on land, I grab my gear and take a walk along the upriver shoreline, coming to this moment overlooking a back channel of pools, and meandering braids. The sun definitely alighted the clouds, but the reflection of their color off of the water, dramatically shows off the layered complexity of the “shoreline” - what ever that means. On a river this big, that has SO many braids, and swampy side channels, the actual shoreline can be hard to determine. As the last rays of the setting sun pass into twilight, I head back to the cabin for dinner, where an interesting conversation ensues with the ADF&G ranger, Native to the village of Quinhagak. I ask why the village is hostile to the recreational fishermen because they make decent money off of them. Their fishing of the river is a minimal extraction of the salmon stock, and the super trout are “catch-and-release” only, so it seems to me the fishery is not being damaged. His response takes me in a whole other direction. He points out that the cach-and-release trout are considered “trophy” fish, prized for their size, and their fight. Once caught, the fish is brought in for what it presumes is a noble death to a more wily predator. Instead, it is weighed, measured, posed for a photograph, and then thrown back. Insultingly suffering a life/death experience for someones amusement. He, and his village are not amused.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #356, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #356:  My trip back down the Kanektok River in the power boat my two ADF&G “guides” operate is a long cruise through an ever-changing landscape. The mountains recede, as the plains and rolling hills continue to broaden around us. Heading west to the Pacific, the river grows in size, also. Weather has been pouring though all day. There has not been much rain, but the clouds have been dramatic. The timing of our return goes well, the sun is beginning to set as we near our cabin. With about 2-miles yet to navigate, something spectacular happens. The sky over our heads is dark and filled with clouds, but somewhere to the west, the setting sun has found clear sky as it nears the horizon, sending low, golden light streaming across the landscape. Even my colleagues are blown away, and they live on the river the entire summer, seeing a lot of nice evenings. Recognizing this might only last a few minutes, they quickly help me get ashore on the low bluff so I can set up my tripod/camera and have an overview of the river and plains. I make two exposures of this, and it then it is gone!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, July 2, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #355, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #355:  My two hosts/guides from the ADF&G have spent the morning, motoring me upriver on the Kanektok. We have stopped at numerous locations to climb ashore and have a look around, and it is helping me to get a better sense of this vast landscape and drainage. The bad weather promised on the radio at their cabin has not yet arrived, but it is definitely rolling in, and every once in awhile we get a short rain shower. Overall, the day is relative mild. We are well past noon when we stop at the foot of a tundra dome that is an easy scramble up. They tell me this will be the farthest point we will reach in the boat, and because at the moment there are some sunspots shining upon us, this will be where we have our lunch. The tundra is spongy and soft, which makes for very comfortable sitting, so we settle in, and begin to snack. The views are encompassing, although we are now surrounded by tall foothills, and I can see little of the larger mountain range just beyond them. Eagles do fly-byes on us, curious I am sure, about these new creatures in their domain. The fleeting spots of sunlight are warm when they are directly upon us, and surprisingly, the insect population is not too bad. While we eat, my host from the village of Quinhagak, downriver, gets up and wanders about, harvesting berries for our “dessert.” About the time we finish our meal, and begin our return to the boat, some “fool’s holes” open in the clouds, and sunspots flow across the opposite hillside, brilliantly illuminating the verdant landscape, made even more so by the passing rain (above). Now, I am told, we will head back to their river cabin, and probably not stop along the way, as we have come quite a distance upriver, and it will take most of what is left of our daylight hours to get home. Understanding the confusion and danger of the shoals and meanders of the lower river sections, it is clear to me none of us want to be out on the water in the dark.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, June 25, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #354, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #354:  As my two ADF&G guides and I work our way upriver on the Kanektok, the meanders and back sloughs decrease, and the river deepens and narrows. For some time it has seemed we were not getting any closer to the mountains that define the headwaters, but they are finally becoming a prominent part of the view. The Native enforcement officer has taken over the choice of destinations, as he knows the river like it is his backyard, which it actually is. We have stopped at several points to climb about for a good POV of the landscape, and they have all been really informative overlooks. Because he is so familiar with some of these places, I am curious to know the “why” of each spot, because I have come to understand that every part of the landscape has some significance to Native hunters, fishermen, and berry-collectors. At this stop (above), we must surmount a tundra hillside, which brings us up onto a huge flat plain, that eventually leads to the foot of the not-to-distant summits. From this vantage point, I am also excited to see a meander below us that hosts a large beaver lodge. When I query about the significance of this location, the response is, “good fishing and many beaver."

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #353, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #353:  In the company of my two ADF&G guides, we are working our way upriver on the Kanektok. Following our first excursion ashore, they now understand the opportunities that I am hoping for, and the one who is Native from the downriver village of Quinhagak, has some very specific locations in mind. The Kanektok is a huge drainage, and a complicated river to navigate, so we spend a lot of time just motoring along. The promised bad weather has not yet arrived, by the clouds are streaming overhead, putting on a great skyshow. The river has become more consolidated, with fewer meanders and confusing side channels, and at the moment, it is quite deep beneath our boat, flowing with a considerable current. We finally reach this point (above), and I am told it will be an easy uphill scramble onto a tundra dome, which we surmount in a matter of minutes. It is a great view, but I amazed that the mountains still seem so far away, because we have been traveling upriver for several hours, and they do not seem to get any closer. When I ask why my guide knows this spot, and how do Natives use it, I am told, “to watch."

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #352, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #352:  In my tent at the ADF&G’s Kanektok river cabin, I can hear the rain when it starts during the night. It lets up before dawn, but I heed the advice I was given at dinner and dress warmly. The three of us have a big/good breakfast, and then board the boat for our day of exploration. They are still unsure of what I want to do, so I explain that I would like to get ashore wherever we can, so that I can climb above the river for an overview. One of the two enforcement officers is a Native from the village of Quinhagak, and he REALLY knows this landscape, so he immediately suggests several locations that will give me such access. At the moment, the hills and mountains are quite far away, and for several hours we just motor upriver through a stunning confusion of meanders and brush-thick shorelines. Weather comes and goes, and strangely to me, we see no other people on the river, even though the fishing is reputedly world-class. Because we are not moving around much, the cold eventually begins to affect us, so everyone wants to join my hike when we reach our first shore-access destination. A little walking around will warm us all, and loosen the stiffness of being cold in the boat. Of course, my hosts are heavily armed when we launch into the bush, so I am not too concerned about bear, and the terrain is so flat, we can do a considerable amount of walking around. After a bit of bushwhacking, we rise onto a tundra dome that is an easy ascent, and for the first time, I have a glimpse of the Kanektok backcountry, but it is still VERY far away.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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Tuesday, June 4, 2019 

NO PEBBLE MINE #351, Pictures from Ground Zero
NO PEBBLE MINE #351:  The ADF&G camp on the Kanektok, where I am now staying, is also a LONG way away from the mountains and headwater, and at our location, the flat plains spread out for miles around us. As before on the Goodnews, I sleep in my tent, near to the cabin, and share meals with my hosts. During dinner on our first evening, they explain that the Kanektok can be a very difficult system to navigate, even for float-fishing, and for a big boat, like theirs, it can be treacherous. Assuring me I need not worry because they patrol the river everyday, they also explain that, unlike the Goodnews, we will never get their boat into the true headwaters, but they will take me as far upriver as we can get. They also know, I will fly over the whole system, after my stay with them, so unless weather interrupts that flight, I will get to see it all, one way or another. For the time being, however, we will start upriver in the morning, and they tell me to dress warmly because the news on their radio, says a multi-day storm is expected.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2019, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd @NRDC @OrvisFlyFishing #NoPebbleMine #LittleBearProd

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