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The Alaskan Wilderness Odyssey - Hidden Identity

Part 6

There will never be adequate words to describe our bizarre encounter with Jilian. We stopped back at our laundromat to pick up a load of laundry we left there while we ran into town. Jen happened to mention to the worker at the counter that we were scouting to do some fishing in the area. That's all it took for an incredibly dominant type A personality Jilian, her name at the time, to engage and start a brief conversation with Jen. As she pressed into the details of what we were looking to do, Jen stopped her and asked her if it would be okay to get Caleb and I from the truck, so that we could hear the information she was wanting to share.

In talking with her, we found out that she travels the country fly fishing with her husband who is an expert fly tier and sells his products to some pretty big outfitters across the country. She started drawing maps on scrap paper, telling us where to fish and for what. To say she was passionate about trout fishing would not be close giving her credit for what she loved to do. As she spoke, we could tell that at bare minimum, she was a state trooper. But, that didn't seem quite right; she acted more like a special agent. As we continued our conversation, she indicated a couple of times that she had worked for "the agency".

Drawing maps for us was becoming tedious, so Jilian offered to show us several fishing spots in the area if we wanted. However, her wording didn't really come across like a question; it was more like we were being given orders.

So, Jen consented and said privately in passing that this looked like a fun adventure for the afternoon. No truer words were ever spoken!

As we exited the laundromat, Jilian took us to her truck, wanting to give us some lures to use while we were there. As we approached the truck, it stood out from everything around it, as it had a detailed river scene painted on both sides of the truck, revealing a current, trout swimming, and pebbles drifting along the bottom. It was beautiful, and in my mind, I was wondering how much it would cost to have a truck detailed like that.

She opened the door and threw in her bags of unfolded laundry to dig out the lures. As she digging around, she pulled out her 50 cal pistol to show us. The pistol too was detailed and was etched. The pistol was practically a piece of artwork in and of itself. But this led to her asking us if we were "packing" too. But, we hadn't been able to get a pistol into Alaska, since we had to drive across Canada to get to Alaska. Canada would allow us to bring across 12 gauge guns but no pistols, so that's what we had in addition to constantly carrying bear spray with us. She also revealed to us that she had clearance to get her pistols across Canada....something that not just anyone can do.

After handing us the lures, she told us that she didn't like to "dilly dally" when driving, so if I wanted to know where to fish, I'd have to keep up with her. We pulled out of the driveway, having a quick private family conversation back in the Yukon. Everyone was starry eyed with meeting Jilian and was super curious as to how the afternoon would turn out. Someone cracked a joke about needing some popcorn to watch this scene unfold. We bulleted down the road with her occasionally flashing her blinkers at us to indicate trail heads she had already mentioned to us as options to fish.

Eventually, we stopped at her favorite fly shop to get us set up on various riggings. We all hopped out as she was ahead of us and going through the door already. As she walked in, she introduced us to Al who was super laid back and easy going. Somewhere along the way, Jilian had decided we really needed to do a float trip to fly fish. We hadn't asked her about this, nor had we even mentioned it. But, here she was, working on Al to see if they had room to squeeze us on with a guide - at no cost! Al was willing to try to figure it out for later in the week, but no immediate trips had room for us to hop and join them. So, since we couldn't get it to work, Jilian decided to book a trip for herself.

Al asked Juliane what day she wanted to do it?

Stop right there, "Juliane"? She had told us her name was Jilian. But Al used the name Juliane over and over again. She had used an alias with us, or she was using an alias with Al, or she was using aliases with both of us? We had know idea, but it was awfully strange and unnerving.

Another odd thing we noticed about Juliane was that she seemed to have a photographic memory. This fly shop had hundreds or thousands of flies all around the shop - three sides of the store and a couple of aisles in the middle. When there were certain flies she wanted us to have, she would look slightly up as if she were looking at something, and then she would tell us what isle, what section, and what specific box to look in. It happened over and over and over again! Truly, it was remarkable. She was never wrong.

And another mannerism was that she constantly placed herself where she could see the door open and close. Every time someone new came in, she scanned to see who it was. After purchasing a few flies, we headed out to the parking lot and were talking about our next destination. She had another idea for us to try, but in the middle of that conversation, there was a loud noise from a car door slamming behind her. She immediately spun and reached for her pistol that was at her side. We just stood there wondering what was going to happen next. After perusing the scene, she turned back to us and explained that she thought it sounded like the "huff" of a grizzly bear before it starts to charge. In my mind, I was thinking, "Of course it does."

This coincided with the story Al shared with us while we were in the store. Al shared that Juliane had been on a float trip the previous day, but she got frustrated that she was sharing the raft with a bunch of "rookies". She couldn't take it anymore, so she asked the guide to just drop her off on a riverbank somewhere, so that she could "bushwhack" her way out. Initially, the guide thought she was joking, but she wasn't, and eventually he acquiesced. They were in the middle of the wilderness and in an area where another fisherman had recently been killed by a grizzly. She didn't care; she couldn't take it. The guide let her off, and without a single trail to take, Juliane had bushwhacked her way out to a road, where she hiked her way back to her vehicle. As Al shared this story with us, he just shook his head laughing at Juliane. She just sputtered about the "rookies" while he told us the story.

The fly shop was on the top of a mountain hill, there was a bend in the road, and the road was flooded with traffic. In assessing the situation for us to take a left hand turn out of the fly shop to get two vehicles through was going to be next to impossible. She told me to just follow her closely behind and keep on going. Juliane then pulled her truck out into the middle of the busy highway, stopping traffic from both directions. She waved me through with her arm out the window, and as I passed her, she immediately punched her V8 to immediately return the favor - passing me again. It was done decisively and with fluidity. Later on, she told us that maneuver was 101 stuff with the "agency". After the fact, we all died laughing.

Who was this woman?

The next stop for us was Prospector John's. She had told us about a hike up to two lakes at the top of a mountain, but that it would take guts to do. According to her, the fishing would be amazing, because the fish up there had hardly ever seen a human before. She said that they would hit on anything.

She wanted to meet up with John, so that if we wanted to do the trip, we could hire him for $100 a person to protect us from the grizzlies that would be roaming the shores on the lakes. Yep! True story! John was a kind old mountain man who spoke with a slow drawl. When we first pulled in to John's shop, he was outside showing some folks how to pan for gold. Of course, Juliane interrupted John to find out his availability.

As we soon learned, John had a tv show on the Discovery Channel called "Devil's Creek". He and Juliane hashed out details as he was willing to help us, but Caleb and I had no interest in this particular fishing adventure.

Back at the fly shop, Juliane had shared her idea with Al, and his response was that it was pretty "gutsy". And that was enough for Caleb and I. When the local fishing guide indicates that he wouldn't have enough guts to do it, that was probably a pretty good sign for us Alaska greenhorns to steer clear from it. Dana had indicated that it was a great hike and awesome fishing, but you really couldn't do the trip if you were "bear scared". She snickered as she said this, like being afraid of close quarters with grizzly bears was trivial.

Again, who was this woman?

As it turned out, John was only available to help us out after we needed to leave our campground and go to Homer to visit some friends there. Regardless of the great trail and awesome fishing, we weren't able to go.

But, Juliane wasn't done. She and her husband had heard that the trout were really biting down in the American Rockies, so they were going to pack up their rig and head down to better fishing. But, her idea was that we should pack up and leave the campground we were in, so that we could take their spot in the Quartz Creek Campground, as they had the best spot in the campground with easy access to good fishing. Again, we hadn't asked for this, but her mind just kept whirling. Not only did she think this was a good idea, she talked to the camp host about pulling off this switch when they left. The campsite was already paid for, so it wasn't going to be a big deal. Again, it was a bit odd.

Along the way to get to the campground, we had pulled over alongside the road to another fishing spot. The only way to fish this section of river was to take a ferry across to the other side. A Fish and Game officer occupied the little hut where people had to pay to get in. She was ahead of us and spoke to him for a couple of minutes and pulled ahead. As we stopped at the hut, the officer informed us to keep on going and that there would be no fee to pay if we were with Juliane!

As we stood on the shoreline of the river looking across, Juliane shared that the ferry only opened up at 6 am for people to cross to fish, but that was way too late for her liking. The last time she had been there, she snuck across the river by herself at about 2 am, so that she could have first dibs on the best fishing spot on the little island. Again, she snickered at the people who showed up later after having waited for the ferry to take them across. Who does this stuff?

Well, before the afternoon wrapped up, Jilian or Juliane, whatever you want to call her, had one last jaunt to show us. From the campground, she took us up a mountain hillside where we stopped at some power lines. The power lines ran down the mountain, over a river, across the valley, and then up over the next mountain 4 or 5 miles away. We stood there looking down the power line. She told us she had a parking spot cut out half way down to the river on the left where we could hide our truck if we wanted to fish this spot. But, she told us if we wanted to fish this spot, that we absolutely had to hide our truck and make sure that no one knew we were there. As she shared her fishing experience with this section of river, a van drove by on the dirt road. She told us that she had seen that van before and thought they were trying to follow her to get her fishing spots. Yep...enough said about that one.

At one point, Caleb and I had our backs turned to the river, and Juliane was looking past us. All of a sudden, she jerked her head up and said there was a bear. Of course, this immediately got our attention, so we turned around to look at the bear. But, we had to scour the other side of the valley before we finally found this tiny little black dot on the other side of the valley where she had spotted the movement of the bear. Her senses were remarkable!

And that was our time with Jilian, Juliane, or whatever her real name was. By the time she left us on that dirt road, she had spent over three hours with us showing us her secret fishing spots and introducing us to anyone who might be able to help. It was surreal, entertaining, and intense!

Before I close this out, I feel the need to also share (backing up in the story) that when we got to Juliane's hard sided camper, it also was detailed with the same river scene that had been on her truck. The camper simply looked like a continuation of the truck - the river just kept right on flowing! Jilian sure did like to fish....and so did Juliane....

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