Dr. Bob’s Alaska story
As a high school student, I often dreamed of building a log cabin in the wilderness. Thoughts of Alaska and the wild, open land filled my aspirations. I went to college initially setting out to become a fisheries biologist, and then somehow, through the pressures exerted on me by college professors, I ended up applying to medical school. I was accepted to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, but before ever going there, I ended up spending a summer in Alaska working in the commercial salmon fishing industry. It turned out that one of my professors from college had a commercial salmon fishing boat and needed a deckhand. I travelled to Alaska arriving on June 21, 1986 with the setting sun drifting below the Alaska Range. That’s when old dreams were rekindled and I knew that I had found my home.
I spent 2 1/2 months on the Kenai Peninsula working and fishing, before starting medical school in Dallas. The last thing that I did in Alaska, before returning to the mainland to start my training, was a fly in remote camping trip at Crescent Lake. My dad and a good friend accompanied me and we camped for about five days. We flew over in a Beaver and were dropped off, and I knew that I had to become a pilot right then. The camping trip was complete with Bears and fishing and all the adventure you could ever want. Back then, I didn’t understand bears like I do now, and we lost a lot of our camp food.
I got home a couple of days later to my new apartment outside of downtown Dallas. Boy that was a tough transition. Leaving Alaska and having to auger into an indoor life in a major metropolitan city with almost no free time was a shocker. I made my way through medical school with really good grades but always found myself dreaming of my future life in Alaska. I utilized every possible vacation or elective opportunity to end up back in Alaska again through medical school and residency. During my third year of residency I completed my pilot training in Indianapolis. By the time I finished my residency in emergency medicine, I knew that I would build a fishing lodge. I just had to find a job.
As luck would have it, the Kenai Peninsula — where I had my first introduction to Alaska — needed an ER doctor right when I got out of residency. I was off to the races. It wasn’t long before I found a nice home on a float plane lake just outside of Soldotna where I would live while practicing my quarter century long emergency medicine career. When the lot next-door to our home on Longmere lake became available, I bought it so I could expand and build a fishing lodge. I arrived there in 1993 and the lodge was completed in June 1996. I hired a log smith, and we cut down the trees for the project. I sort of got my dream of building a log cabin, kind of in the wilderness. It was a little bigger project than what I’ve always dreamed of as a kid, but I learned how to scribe fit a log for building and saw the project from beginning to end.
The original lodge was on a single acre built next-door to my home on Longmere lake. We now have a 4 acre complex with multiple buildings, a conference and dining center and an on-site medical building where I practice my Health and Wellness profession. It’s a family run business, with my supportive but overworked wife, Suzanne managing the clerical duties of both my Wellness Practice and the Lodge. We have five kids, and the lodge has given the oldest three their first work opportunities.
Truthfully, most of it has been a surreal dream. For the last twenty five years I’ve flown a Super Cub, a 185, and my Beaver around the wilderness of Alaska. I’ve taken great people to amazing places and shared with them experiences that are gifts beyond belief. Many of these clients have become close friends. I feel so fortunate to have built, managed and enjoyed All Alaska Outdoors for 25 years. I sure hope the travel industry can survive the current challenges of the world. We’re just plugging away and planning on having another busy season this year at All Alaska Outdoors.