I saw the flash of silver as the fish broke the surface of the water. I jerked the rod up sharply and then let the line play out as the big salmon bucked and arced in its dance to shake the hook from its mouth. I called out to the guide, Ryan, to come with the net and soon I had landed my very first salmon on the Kenai River.
|Ceiling mural at the Bass Pro Shops Anchorage Outpost|
"Welcome to Alaska!" said Ryan as he gve me a high five.
This once-in-a-lifetime experience came on the heels of our new Bass Pro Shops Outpost store opening earlier that week in Anchorage. I had been determined to see and do as much as I could in this beautiful state on my day and a half I had after the store opening event. I learned quickly that you couldn’t experience all that Alaska has to offer if you spent a lifetime there.
The Bass Pro Shops Anchorage location was the 67th store I’d had the privilege of being part of the grand opening team. One would think that if you’ve seen one Bass Pro Shops store, you’ve seen them all. But this isn’t the case. Each store is customized through the use of hand-painted murals, museum quality wildlife dioramas, large aquariums and water features stocked with native fish species, fish and wildlife mounts, photos, and artifacts that all pay tribute to that particular region’s great outdoor heritage. In other words, if you walk through the new Bass Pro Shops Anchorage Outpost, you get the sense of being in the Alaskan wilderness.
|Alaska Native Heritage dancers performed at the Bass Pro Shops Anchorage Outpost opening.|
After a quick ribbon-cutting ceremony that included a performance by the Alaska Native Heritage dancers and a special blessing by Eklutna village president, Lee Stephan, thousands of people came through the Bass Pro Shops Anchorage Outpost doors Wednesday evening, July 9. They got to see first-hand what sets this outdoors store apart from the others.
The store’s clerestory, or area near the ceiling, is a beautiful representation of the many beautiful mountains, forests, lakes, and wildlife that make up the region. Special lighting techniques seem to make the hand-painted murals come to life. In addition, the murals are unique in the fact that what starts out many times as a simple painting extends into an actual fish or wildlife mount or some other property creating a 3D effect. For example, at the Anchorage store, reindeer are seen plunging through icy waters as they ‘emerge’ from a mural depicting a snowy mountain scene.
The 12,000-gallon freshwater aquarium is a focal point of the store and is stocked with approximately 100 fish native to the area--arctic grayling, northern pike, burbot, rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, arctic char, lake trout, and king salmon. The mural painted above the aquarium features “The High One,” Mount McKinley, or Denali, as the locals call it.
The lobby features displays of the native Alaskan heritage with many locally acquired artifacts such as baskets, snowshoes, whale baleen, whale ribs, native outfits, and dog sleds.
But the attention to detail doesn’t stop with store design and imagery elements. The same consideration is given to the merchandise selection. Hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, outdoor cooking, bird watching or whatever you want to do in the outdoors in Alaska—visitors have the area’s largest assortment to choose from.
What made my fishing trip even sweeter, was the new camo rain jacket I purchased at the store to wear while fishing. The weather had turned cool and rainy so I chose the new Performance rain jacket from SHE®. It was perfect—kept me warm and dry, had a zippered chest pocket, and a hood that came in handy when it started to rain. What I liked best about the jacket though, was that it fit me to a tee.
|Me and my very first salmon on the Kenai River, Alaska.|
Lee Leschper, an outdoor writer friend of mine, helped arrange the fishing trip. He sent me a quote that sums up perfectly my Alaskan outdoor experience. Paraphrasing John Muir, (naturalist, author and early advocate for wilderness preservation) Lee said: "A man headed to visit southeast Alaska has but two choices...to stay forever, or to accept that anyplace else for the rest of his life will be something less."
The raw beauty, grandeur and majesty of the Alaskan wilderness offers much to those that want to experience the ultimate outdoor adventures. I’m just glad Bass Pro Shops is there to make sure they get the proper clothing, gear and equipment to maximize those adventures.