Last week, KTNA’s Phillip Manning went out to the Montana Creek bridge on Yoder Road to see the area before what was expected to be a very busy holiday weekend. Over the weekend, he went back, and found something he wasn’t expecting:
The first thing that struck me as I drove over the Montana Creek bridge is how few people were in the area. I have heard stories of the massive crowding that happens on busy weekends, and have seen photographs to back up those claims, but only a few campsites were visible. The next question in my mind was, “Why?” It was a beautiful, warm day, and the water level did not look high enough to discourage campers. I met up with area resident Brian Hauge, who was thinking much the same thing.
“Typically, there would be six or seven in there, and they would be all the way down the deal in here…I’m surprised.”
Only three campsites were visible from the Montana Creek bridge. One was near the head of the Luthman Trail, which is not permitted, one was downstream on state-owned land, and one was upstream, on land owned by Cook Inlet Region, Incorporated. As Brian Hauge and I walked across the bridge, he spotted something that may have contributed to fewer campers.
“Now, see, that’s new”
“Yeah, that wasn’t here when I was down here with Pete the other day”
“See, they did the same thing down here.”
What we saw were narrow ditches on both the upstream and downstream sides of the road. They were steep enough to make it difficult for anything but a four-wheel drive truck to make it through. Neither Brian or I knew who had dug them. We then walked off the road to the upstream side of the bridge, onto CIRI land, which I had obtained a permit to be on to cover this story. Brian took me down a well-worn four-wheeler trail, and we passed behind the camp that we had seen from the bridge. In the area, we also caught a distinctive odor on the breeze. We had found what served as the campers’ bathroom.
“There’s a bunch more…Hide it a little bit…I mean, you wanna come down here with dogs, or even small children, and to have them see that…it’s gross.”
Those campers weren’t nearby to speak to, but, further up the trail, we did encounter three campers from Anchorage. They didn’t want to be recorded or give their names. The campsite was in reasonably good order, and there was no tell-tale odor of human waste open to the air, though there was a makeshift “toilet” inside the camp. When I asked if they knew who owned the land they were camping on, one man told me that he believed that it was state land, and thus public. When I told him the land was owned by an Alaska Native corporation, he was surprised.
A little further up the trail, Brian Hauge and I saw two more trucks, but again nobody was stirring in the area. As we walked back to the road, he again expressed his surprise at how few campers there were in the area. We did see a few people fly-fishing in the creek, but none had any stringers or buckets visible.
Whether or not the downswing in camping in the area on holiday weekends is now the trend or just an anomaly will remain uncertain until Labor Day weekend at the earliest.