How One Visit to Alaska Changed This Traveler’s Life
Just how inspiring can an Alaskan vacation be? For Eric Fisher, it was life-changing. His one visit to the 49th state has turned into a 5-year seasonal job as a bear-viewing and fishing guide at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge in Lake Clark National Park.
We caught up with him in Florida, where he was spending the off-season working remotely and living with his girlfriend. Here’s his story.
Q: What first inspired you to visit Alaska?
A: Growing up in Ohio, I absolutely loved the outdoors: hiking, fishing, hunting, and photography. So it was always a dream to visit Alaska—the Last Frontier—with all the fish, bears, and adventure.
Q: What was that first trip like?
A: I had just graduated from college and had a job, so was able to afford a trip there in 2017. Alaska’s so big and has so much to do, I didn’t know where to begin. It was overwhelming. But I knew I wanted to see bears and catch fish.
After a lot of research, I found a YouTube video showing the bears and the fishing in Lake Clark National Park and knew then that’s where I wanted to go. I decided to stay at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge on Cook Inlet and convinced a couple buddies to come with me.
On the plane ride there, I sat next to a father and daughter going to fish in Alaska for the 7th or 8th year in a row. They told me, “Once you experience Alaska you’ll always want to come back.” I thought, “I know I’ll love it, but doubt I’ll come back every single year.” Little did I know!
We flew into Anchorage and then out to the lodge. It blew my mind! Bears were everywhere, I caught tons of fish, and the people were so nice. Then we took an air taxi to Port Alsworth, sort of the access point for backcountry exploration into the national park. We kayaked across Lake Clark, spent a few days remote camping, then did another backcountry trip near Lake Kontrashibuna. We spent about two weeks total.
Q: How did you end up coming back to Alaska?
A: I got home in August and was working in investment management. But Alaska was never far from my mind. In December, on a whim, I looked on Craigslist to see what kind of guide jobs were available in Alaska. Came across a job posting for a lodge that included being comfortable with bears and fishing for silver salmon—it sounded exactly like where I had stayed.
I emailed them and asked if it was indeed Silver Salmon Creek Lodge. I knew I didn’t have the right qualifications for the job, but said I’d do whatever it took to work there. The owner's son, Oliver, remembered me; we chatted on the phone and he agreed to take a chance on me as their fishing guide the following summer.
So when the time came, I took a leave of absence from my job and moved up there for the summer. It was my greatest dream come true! I loved the fishing, but the lodge is primarily a bear-viewing lodge, and the bears really captured my love and attention. I eventually transitioned from being the main fishing guide to being a bear-viewing guide.
Now, every year since 2018, I travel to the lodge at the end of May and stay through September, then take 2 weeks after the guiding ends to travel around the state.
Q: What keeps you coming back to guiding each year?
A: The people I work for are incredible; everyone there is always happy and cheerful. And I love helping visitors have the trip of a lifetime. A couple times a week I get a new group from whatever state or country, and some of these people become really good friends who I keep in touch with.
Also, I love seeing things in their pristine state, and that’s what the lodge is. You can walk out in these massive meadows surrounded by huge mountains and watch bears just grazing there—it makes you feel so small.
Q: Where have you traveled in Alaska during your season-end trips?
A: I’ve visited Denali 3 times, gone to Kenai Fjords National Park, fished the Russian River for rainbow trout, spent time in Homer, and checked out moose in the Chugach Mountains outside Anchorage. But I still think Lake Clark is the greatest place on the planet. The scenery, the wildlife—it checks all the boxes of everything you could ever want to experience in Alaska.
Q: What took you back to Denali several times?
A: It’s such an incredible place. Come mid-September, you don’t need a permit to go to mile 30 of the park road, and there’s hardly anyone there. It feels like you have the park to yourself—along with the moose and Dall sheep, of course.
Q: Where else is on your Alaska bucket list?
A: Round Island to see the walrus haulouts, St. Paul Island for birding, Kaktovik for polar bears, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to see caribou, and Nome for the musk ox. Clearly I love wildlife! I consider myself a wildlife photographer, and to see these animals in their natural habitats is incredible.
Q: What cool wildlife experiences have you had besides Lake Clark?
A: I’ve photographed rutting moose at Powerline Pass outside Anchorage in late September. Moose blow my mind—I’ve seen bulls sparring and crashing through the trees. I’ve also seen bears in Katmai National Park, more rutting moose in Denali, as well as Dall sheep up on mountain cliffs, moving about like it’s no big deal.
Q: What happened with investment management?
A: Well, funny story, my old boss recently called me up and offered me my old job back. I said yes, and was able to work it out that I’d be 100% remote and also take time off to guide in Alaska this summer. Sort of perfect. But I’m at a different place in my life now. The 4 months away from my girlfriend in a place with limited cell service is hard. This will be my last summer in Alaska as a guide, but I’m at peace with that. I never thought I’d have guided in Alaska in the first place, or for as long as I have.
I don’t even know why I looked on Craigslist that day, and I was very lucky the lodge let me work for them. I consider them some of my best friends, and hopefully will be able to visit far into the future. My life would have been completely different if I had never gone to Alaska or taken the leap to apply as a guide. I’ve come full circle, but with these incredible experiences in Alaska.
Q: What advice can you give someone looking for their own Alaskan adventure?
A: Do it! You won’t regret it. Life is so short. Always try to take advantage of what’s in front of you, whether it’s for a long or short time. You can usually go back to what you were doing before, but perhaps with a different perspective.
Q: Has Alaska changed you in ways other than your career?
A: Alaska definitely made me more self-sufficient and resourceful, and my time there has taught me there’s always a way to solve a problem. I was recently canoeing in Florida with a fellow Alaskan guide—one of the boat’s pontoons was missing a bolt, which affected the performance. We weren’t going to find a bolt, but we did have a rubber band and were able to fix it. We knew that if we hadn’t worked in Alaska we probably wouldn’t have thought about an alternate solution.
Also, talking to people and guiding them all summer long has helped me to be more understanding of people. Learning about different people’s cultures and backgrounds has made me a more well-rounded person, and it’s helped my relationships with family and friends, as well as new people I meet.
Importantly, Alaska also taught me that the weather is never as bad as it seems. Just bring good gear!