(fp note: since this piece was published as my submission to the TU Blogger Tour competition, I was selected by a panel of magazine editors, writers and other industry folks as one of the two writers that will fly to the Tongass this July and experience it firsthand.)

Dear Alaska—

I’m writing to you because I’m at a crossroads…and quite honestly, it’s about damn time we met.

You intrigue me, Alaska. You have for a long time. As a kid you were stories of sled dogs and Native people, hunting and fishing and smoked meat, caribou and salmon and grizzlies, rivers and mountains and daylight at night. You were adventure and frontier mythology. Life and existence and culture as pure and honest and close to the bone as the tendons and muscles under my own skin. I loved you for that—all of it—and held hope that there would come a time when I was able to place my feet on your soil and add my own weight to the heartbeat of your landscape and story.

Today as I write this, I read about the struggle you bear, as I’ve read for years now, and my hope to see you is even more intense. There is no way to feign awareness. Your story echoes from dirt road to marble hall. The burden of special interest and ruthless speculation carried on the backs of your precious and pristine resources, and my hope to join you is even more intense. You rise immense and proud and rugged and brawling, while the shortsighted reach into your heart and take and take and take shovelfuls in their never-full gluttony, and my hope to protect you is even more intense. Your people stand together. Your cultures stand together. Your mountains and rivers and forests and wildlife fight on, only knowing existence and survival in a smaller and smaller universe. And my hope to stand and fight with you is even more intense.

I read about the Tongass and her 17 million acres of spruce and hemlock and cedar and thousands of miles of pristine rivers and streams and breathtaking runs of salmon and trout. Your gem. A gracious open hand, sustaining her people and the world that extends from her feet. I’ve huddled and discussed over beers with others who have witnessed her beauty first-hand—like Beat poets wrestling with the philosophy of words and immortality—the immense value of her resources and her conservation. The importance of the Tongass 77 and The Last Salmon Forest and Southeast Alaska raising their voice in one unified and vital cultural song. I’m thankful that history has given us the wisdom to protect what we have in her instead of waking to suddenly find that we need to claw and fight to restore a fraction of what we’ve lost.

Alaska, I am at a point in my life where fighting for what’s important is not simply a good idea, it’s a necessity. Surveying the landscape of the next 40 years of my life, I have finally made that decision. My kids are old enough now that they have their own dreams and understanding of who you are. They talk about your landscape and your wildlife. They talk about going there to fly fish and explore with me, and my heart soars. They’re learning—and value you—because you are in our everyday conversations about the importance of respect and passion and care for the natural world we’re blessed to occupy. I think about the idealistic perspective I held at their age. At the end of the day, I know that my actions will speak louder and influence them more than any amount of talking I do. That is the point I guess, isn’t it. Our actions do matter.

It’s time we met, Alaska. I hope to see you soon.

Matt Smythe


This is my submission to the Trout Unlimited 2013 Blogger Tour, sponsored by FishpondTenkara USA and RIO, and hosted by the Outdoor Blogger Network.


Filed under Fatherhood and venison jerkey, In the woods, On the water

26 responses to “DEAR ALASKA

  1. Jordan

    I highly recommend Kenai. And one little-known fact about Denali: It’s a trail-less park! So practice up on your wayfinding skills for some good hikes.

  2. I’ve been twice, and I’m going next year. I’m about 20 trips behind where I had hoped to be at this point, but I’ll still fit in some more.

    You’ll want to stay.

    • fishingpoet

      Hey Rick! I figure, like tarpon fishing, that there would be a high potential for “ruin” with a trip like this. And I’m OK with that 🙂

  3. Beautiful, Matt – here’s hoping you take the prize.

  4. Heather

    So beautifully stated. Alaska needs all the love letters she can get…and she needs all the people she can get who CARE and GET what’s at stake. I, for one, hope you experience the Tongass this summer–and that you visit (and join the fight) again and again.

  5. Sweet! Good luck, Matt.

  6. That was tremendous Matt and Ill have to say i echo your sentiment loudly. Here’s to you getting there quickly, and to me not being too far behind. Cheers.

  7. Great piece. I felt your conviction and soulful connection. I’ll be there one day. Thanks to people like you who are willing to fight for it. I’m a proud supporter of Ducks Unlimited for similar reasons. Restoring a fraction is the name of the game. Alaska has a better option than that. Roll strong bro and know you’re fighting for me too.

    • fishingpoet

      I appreciate the good words, Pete. There’s a lot of places on this planet I’d love to see and experience, but AK has just held this really special spot in my heart. It’d be very cool to get up there. Even cooler to get up there with the kids eventually too.

  8. Well done Matt – this resonates with me. Good luck in the contest.

  9. Pop


    You have captured what many never fully realize. Your children will always cherish the gift you share with them.


  10. Hey Matt, you won!

    Congrats buddy.

  11. Awesome, Matt and congrats! Well written and well deserved trip to the great state of AK. Enjoy!!

  12. Hey, Matt. That was a great piece and I enjoyed reading it. It was very well written and passionate. The Tongass needs all the support it can get, and yours is a voice that will carry.

  13. Good man, Matt. Congrats!

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