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ROANOKE BUZZ: A lot like Alaska

I am happy to report that I recently took the first real vacation I have had since starting my job as the director for Roanoke River Partners, back in 2013. My husband and I traveled with some friends to Alaska for a combined cruise and land adventure. For someone who loves beautiful vistas, being outdoors and interesting, authentic food—our trip did not disappoint.

We began by flying from Raleigh to Vancouver, Canada to board our ship. Ironically, this was the reverse trek that four guys from Canada took last year to come and spend five nights camping on the Roanoke. My recent trip helped me appreciate just how far they had journeyed to sample the outdoor adventure that our Roanoke River Paddle Trail provides.

As I immersed myself in the beautiful surroundings, I couldn’t help but see parallels between the Alaskan experiences we were enjoying and the ones we are cultivating here to draw folks to the Roanoke.

A chance to experience new outdoor offerings was certainly a big attraction for us. The guys—who routinely hunt and fish here along the Roanoke—enjoyed the chance to do a little salmon fishing. It was a bucket list item for them and I couldn’t help but think about how this experience compares to the migratory run of stripers on the Roanoke. As those of us who live along the Roanoke can attest, our annual “rock season” draws folks from far and wide.

In addition to seeing some breathtaking scenery from our ship, we had the chance to take a multi-faceted boat ride outside of Fairbanks. Our water excursion included: a hearty meal which featured hunter’s stew; tasting and seeing how salmon are preserved; learning how sled dogs are trained and cared for; and hearing an overview of local history and culture while we cruised.

This boat ride reminded me of the two-day run behind Plymouth’s replica of the Ram Albemarle that I enjoyed several years ago. While following the replica on a large passenger boat, we heard stories about the history along the Roanoke—including some from the late Harry Thompson, a beloved local historian and storyteller. We also got to see the Roanoke from Scotland Neck all the way down to Plymouth while experts shared their knowledge about the Roanoke and the communities along the river.

I can’t help but think there is an audience that would come to learn more about both the past and present of our waterways and our river communities. I am thinking they are just waiting for us to package these experiences— experiences like the one we enjoyed in Alaska.

And then, there’s local food. We loved getting to both taste and learn about local foods like salmon and reindeer sausage. We had salmon more ways than I could count. A few I remember are: salmon chowder, salmon tacos, a tasty smoked salmon dip on crackers and, of course, just beautifully prepared salmon filets. Eating local food is such a great way to learn about a place and its traditions.

I always love seeing local fare featured here along the Roanoke and I think that we could do even more to expand how we utilize local foods in “telling our story.”

Our Alaskan adventure provided lots of “food for thought” about how we could develop more experiences to draw folks to our region to taste, see and experience new things. As it turns out, our region has more in common with Alaska than I ever would have thought!

Carol Jones Shields is the Executive Director of Roanoke River Partners, Inc. You can contact her at (252) 798-3920 or director@roanokeriverpartners.org. You can learn more about Roanoke River Partners at www.roanokeriverpartners.org.