West Bloomfield Fishing Trip to Alaska

Members of the WBHS ski and golf teams (both JV) traveled to the far-reaches of the United States for our annual gathering. As mentioned before, this group goes back to kindergarten/elementary school. While we normally do a ski trip, this year we mixed it up with a fishing trip to Alaska. Chris wasn’t able to make our last big trip to Austria, which ended right as the pandemic was unfolding in March of 2020.

Chris did a great job of organizing our travel after hearing about it from a friend. We all flew to Kenai, AK, which is a 20 minute flight from Anchorage. We stayed for 5 nights at the Tower Rock Lodge, which is on the Kenai River where we fished for a couple days. I had no idea what to pack, so I packed all my ski gear. It turned out to be a lot like skiing … cold, rainy skiing.

Our first day of fishing was the most scenic. We headed to Crescent Lake in Lake Clark National Park, which is only accessible by float plane or boat. We took the former, which was an adventure in itself. Once landed with our gear unloaded, we took a couple boats down river. Immediately we saw a couple bear cubs playing along the shore, with their mother nearby. This was only the first of many bear encounters and sightings throughout the day.

We were fishing for Silver Salmon, but caught some Pinks and Dolly Varden trout, which are not good for eating. The fishing was tough and we didn’t get our limit, but two other guys in another group didn’t catch anything all day. The challenging fishing was made up for by a very scenic and thrilling plane ride home. Our pilot seemed to be inspired by Top Gun Maverick, as we flew up and over the crest of a range and descended down a narrow canyon. I wished I had some video, but most importantly we lived to tell the tale.

We generally had breakfast and dinner at the lodge, which was always prepared and served beautifully. The food was really good. Thursday after breakfast, we walked a hundred yards to the river and fished the Lower Kenai all day. We were split 3 and 3 into two boats and neither boat hit their limit (3 Silvers per person). The limit just prior to September 1st was only 2 per person, which we did achieve.

Our Halibut charter on Friday was cancelled due to high winds and rough seas. We ended up on the Lower Kenai again with the same groups, but we switched guides. This meant we got to spend the day with Bear the dog, who comforted us through tough times. I think our boat only caught four keepers that day, though we did throw back a couple Pinks.

The weather and seas on Saturday were much nicer. We got up for a 5am departure and a 90-minute drive to Homer. I haven’t been on that many boats, but when we boarded Big Dan’s fishing vessel, we knew it was something special. He said it was the nicest sport fishing boat in Alaska and I don’t have a reason to doubt him. It was an almost brand new all-aluminum catamaran with four outboard Yamaha 425 V8s.

We cruised about 90 minutes to our fishing spot. We did an experiment where half the group took Dramamine and the other half didn’t. I didn’t, and honestly, I didn’t feel great. Nick, it turned out, wasn’t feeling 100% either, but we both gutted it out.

Halibut fishing seemed to be a lot easier. We started pulling up keepers almost immediately. There are a lot of regulations in fishing. For halibut, you must catch one smaller than 28″ and the other can be any size, so the goal is as big as possible. All of us got our big ones except Nick, which meant that every time there was a fish on, he had to reel it up. Nick caught 3 skate and a flounder while trying to get his limit. He was grinding hard and digging deep to bring up those fish.

It turned out to be surprisingly difficult to catch our last few small ones as the tide and conditions changed. I think we ended up being just one short when a line got caught in one of the props and we had to limp home on 3 engines. Once that was sorted in the marina, we made our way back to Kenai. Someone caught a halibut that was almost 7 feet long and 300 pounds, which we saw on the way out.

The cook prepared our halibut cheeks as an appetizer and cooked some of our halibut as our final entree. The rest of our fish was sent to the processor to be cleaned, packed and frozen for our return trip home. Five of us split up the fish and I’d guess it was about 30-35lbs each.

Even though I live the closest, it still took me 3 flights and about 15 hours to get home. I can’t really complain because Nick just got home and Mike might still be flying to Laguardia.

This was another epic trip in the books. I mostly came to hang out and take pictures of these guys fishing, but I had fun getting mine, too. One of the kids asked me if I was having fun and I said it was fun, but not pleasant. Fishing is hard work. I wouldn’t normally stand out in the cold and rain for 7 hours, bouncing bait off the river bottom about 12,000 times. But, it was worth it to spend some solid time together.

We’re already talking about our next trip. Chris feels like we missed out on King Salmon season and Nick is wondering why we don’t go somewhere warm to golf. I’m always game for anything and hope we can try it all (before we can’t).

West Bloomfield Ski Trip to Austria

During last year’s West Bloomfield ski trip to Whistler, we discussed doing something more adventurous in 2020 as we are all turning 50 years old (50!). We discussed somewhere in the Alps. I’ve been wanting to ski in Japan, too, but haven’t yet made it happen. As the plans were coming together, the best week for some of the group just happened to be right after the kids’ ski week, which was still a priority for me. Therefore, I told them to just go ahead and plan without me.

After seeing Nick over the holidays, we discussed the trip and inquired with the rest of the team about the details. Grace was super cool with me going. I even talked to my team about my reservations about being gone so long and they encouraged me to press the “F***-it button.” Once I confirmed with the powers that be, Nick and I both made our arrangements to join the trip.

The group had been discussing various itineraries in Europe and had settled on skiing in Austria in St. Anton am Arlberg. There was some consideration for adding another location, but thankfully we avoided a lot of additional logistics by sticking to one spot. Most of the group arrived just before Nick and I met up at the Zürich airport. We were like lost kids once we got to the Zürich Main Station. We had just missed the earlier train by a few minutes, which was fine because it took us about an hour to figure out where to get our tickets (mobile app) and the proper platform, which was more elusive than getting to Hogwarts on 9 3/4.

Once aboard, we settled in for our 2h 20m train ride to St. Anton. It was a shame that it was dark out and that we couldn’t see any of the Swiss and Austrian country-side. Unbeknownst to us, we also passed through Lichtenstein. Even though the walk from the train station to the hotel was short, it was still a huge pain in the ass with us each carrying skis, boots, gear, etc. At the hotel, Mike, Steve, Scott and Herb were already waiting for us. The 25th was Mike’s actual 50th birthday, but we arrived a little too late to celebrate properly.

Every morning, we were treated to a beautiful Tyrolean breakfast at the hotel. It had apparently not snowed for 5-6 weeks, but we were lucky that it just started snowing as we headed out to ski. The weather was so severe that the lifts to the other areas of the mountain were closed. This region is unique in that about 6 different towns/ski areas are all interconnected by trails and lifts, making it one of the top five largest in the world. We were, however, land-locked in St. Anton for a couple days, which mean there were a lot of people to dodge and sometimes long lift lines. I will say that one of the downsides of skiing there is the chaos on the gondola and lift lines. There is just one big crowd that inches their way towards the front, which leads to sharp elbows and an un-relaxed experience.

On the first day, we got caught in a white-out high up on one of the mountains. It would be exaggerating to say zero-visibility, but it was really more like 10 feet. I’ve never experienced anything like it. We got separated and I was just trying to make my way down as fast as possible, which wasn’t very fast. There are signs to mark the trail, presumably for this very situation, but even those were hard to find. At one point, the snow was moving past me so quickly that I thought I was moving backwards, which was completely disorienting. I had no idea where to go or where I was. Thankfully, the group was able to rendezvous lower on the mountain. The rest of group had rescued a young woman who was separated from her family and asked to ski with them. Just 100 yards from a lodge in which we took shelter, we got separated again from Mike and Steve who completely missed it.

Day two was less treacherous. We had lunch on the mountain at a place recommended to us and it was excellent. Even by this time, however, I realized how heavy the food was in Austria, and I couldn’t take another schnitzel, gröstl, burger or frite. I had to opt for a salad for dinner at Fuhrmann-Stube, one of the best restaurants in town.

On the evening before our third day of skiing, it snowed about 11 inches. After skiing another morning in St. Anton, Mike was very curious to try Rendl, the area on the other side of the train tracks. I’m thankful for his persistence because as we headed over there, the skies opened up for a bluebird, knee-deep powder day with the most spectacular scenery. It really can’t be described, but from top of every lift, there was a different breathtaking view and vantage. I was in awe all week.

On the fourth day, we decided to explore more of St. Anton and beyond. We went much higher up on the Valluga lift. Scott has a healthy survival instinct, so he didn’t go, but the reality was he could have easily skied down from there. Once again, there were amazing new views. We skied all the way to Lech, Stuben, and finally down to St. Christophe. Our terrible lunch that day was made up by the best meal of the week at Hazienda. I’ll be honest that I didn’t find the people to be the most hospitable and friendly in town, but our servers at Hazienda couldn’t have been more kind and gracious. I also had one of the best “sandwiches” (beef tenderloin club) of my life.

On day five, it snowed again overnight. Herb headed home after breakfast. It didn’t seem like as much snow, but we went back over to Rendl. We had the most amazing groomer run of the week until we skied into a cloud and low visibility. We decided to head up to the top (Scott excepted), and found blue skies and deep powder. I had one of my best powder runs of my life. I’m not going to lie. It was scary to get over to the fresh snow as there are exposed rocks everywhere off-piste. I had a slight code-brown staring down from the narrow traverse down the steep hill to rocks below. Once we were in the clear, Steve took a little tumble and while we waited for him, I noticed a small avalanche had happened right above his friend, Ramin, who was right above me. I thought it best not to wait and took the ride of my life (thanks for the video, Mike!).

As it warmed up, the snow became a little mashed potatoes and sticky even on-piste. We called it a day a little early to avoid injury and get ready to pack and head out. Our train was surprisingly delayed to get back to Zürich. Despite researching a nice dinner for us in Zürich, it turned out to be better that we didn’t and we ended up just having dinner at our hotel. I headed out by myself for a few minutes before to take some pictures. We also went for a short walk together afterwards and then watched the end of a terrible Michigan game. Spartan-helmet-wearing Nick couldn’t bare to watch for other reasons. 

We didn’t have much time on our last morning together. Nick headed out early after breakfast. Steve, Scott, Mike and I took a short walk near our hotel. Steve was staying an extra night and the rest of us took a car to the airport (which was great because I was tired of schlepping all of my gear). The silver lining of being delayed a few hours at the airport was that I was able to process all my photos. Sorry, but I chose the best 143 of them.

This was no doubt our best trip ever. That said, not all of the team could make it, for very good reasons. They were missed. We’re already planning for next year, and while it probably won’t be as epic, with this crew, it will be just as memorable and fun. Here’s to the next 50!

Skiing with the WB Guys in Austria

Skiing in Whistler with WB Guys

Last weekend, the annual West Bloomfield ski trip went international, as we met up in Whistler, BC. We had a pretty good turn out this year, as Mike joined the regulars and Chris returned after missing last year. Steve, Herb Chris and I last came to Whistler together in 2006.

Looking back, not much has changed with us since then, including Steve’s coat. Yellow snow still follows Chris wherever he goes. We’re mostly there for the food.

We were lucky to receive 19″ of new snow over a couple of days. However, the low altitude and warmer temperatures meant rain at the base and knee deep mashed potatoes up top. Still, nothing to complain about. Mike obviously came prepared for the cold temperatures he’s used to back east. Scott continues to leave us in search of double-black runs. Eventually we always find him.

Herb’s specialty in Urology means he gets the most questions throughout the trip. Thankfully, he’s not performing any surgery in the room and no one needs a prescription from him (yet). Mike might have needed something to relax him for the glass-bottomed peak-to-peak gondola.

After a big mountain trip like this, I’m equally happy to see these guys as I am that everyone went home safely and in one piece. Thanks to all the SOs who continue to support our reunions. There may be something big in the works for next year, which is a milestone year for all of us. Looking forward to it regardless of where we meet up.

Dinner with Seth in Palo Alto

WBHS 30th Reunion

This past weekend the WBHS class of 1988 celebrated our 30th high school reunion. Jen, Randy, Stephanie, and Jodi did an amazing job or organizing this event at the Red Dunn outside the Trumbull & Porter hotel in Detroit. Brad was our awesome DJ. It was a great venue for all of us to catch up after too many years.

Like so many of our other reunions, it just never seems like enough time to catch up with everyone. Aside from so many good friends who weren’t able to attend, there were people I saw with whom I didn’t get to speak to, which is regretful. That said, I’m so thankful for all the meaningful connections I made over the weekend. It’s hard to catch up on decades of being apart. The best was reminiscing fun times and remembering our dearly departed friends.

As my kids grow, I get more and more perspective on how great my childhood was in West Bloomfield among so many great people. I feel fortunate for the friends we had, the space we had to explore and roam, and all the mischief we had up and down Orchard Lake Road.

Sorry for some out of focus photos included here – the softness was unintentional. Thanks to Ross for cropping me out of the photo with Nancy – fair warning for anyone needing an amputation below the ankle. Until we all meet again, take care, everyone!

Colorado Ski Trip with WB Guys

This past weekend Steve, Scott, Herb and I met again in Beaver Creek for our annual ski trip. We had a great time last year in Colorado, so we decided to head back again. We were missing some of our regulars, but four was still a great number on the slopes.

Friday was Steve’s birthday and although we didn’t convene until Saturday, his request was to watch the Michigan Basketball game. This year, we had a large suite at the Westin (where we usually stay). Rather than go out, we just watched the game in the room and ordered room service. It was a stressful game right up until Poole’s buzzer beater. We went nuts.

On Sunday, we skied at Beaver Creek. The conditions were a little firm, but the snow was infinitely better than it was back in December. We had dinner at Splendido, which I had been wanting to try for a while.

It snowed a lot starting Sunday afternoon and throughout the evening. Although it snowed 7″ in Beaver Creek, we opted to go to Vail, which received 5″ of fresh snow. We covered a lot of ground and had a great day on the mountain as it continued to snow. Sunday night, we had dinner at Grouse Mountain Grill, where we celebrated Nick’s birthday last year.

On Monday, we skied again at Beaver Creek, which receive another couple of inches overnight. We did some laps on Larkspur in the morning, which we hadn’t tried yet. The snow was amazing. Before lunch, Steve, Herb and I went up Grouse Mountain and skied Royal Elk Glade (at Eddie’s suggestion). It was the best run of the week – lots of run and everyone made it down safely. We met Scott for lunch before heading up again for one last run down Royal Elk Glade again.

Herb was staying an extra night, so Steve, Scott and I left around 3pm to get back to Denver for our flights. Another great trip is in the books. We’re already talking about next year and hope more of the team will join us.

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