After her bombshell announcement Friday that she was resigning as governor of Alaska 18 months before the end of her first term, and amid questions about her political future ricocheting from Alaska to Washington, D.C., Sarah Palin packed it up, traveled more than 300 miles from her family home in Wasilla and went fishing.
It was there in Dillingham, Alaska, on the shores of Kanakanak Beach, that ABC News joined the former Republican presidential running mate on a salmon fishing trip. Dressed in a white T-shirt and overall waders, Alaska's governor was philosophical about politics and life, all the while plucking salmon from the family fishing nets aboard a boat her husband, Todd, and a buddy built 20 years ago.
Palin said she was surprised by the media storm that followed her announcement to leave office, saying she thought it would not have been "such a darn big deal." But she struck a determined, if vague, note about her future.
"I said before I stood in front of the mic the other day, you know, politically speaking -- if I die, I die. So be it," Palin said.
"Don't know what the future holds. I'm not gonna shut any door. That -- who knows what doors open. I can't predict what the next fish run's gonna look like down on the Nushagak [River]. So I certainly can't predict what's gonna happen in the next couple of years," Palin told ABC News.
Palin hinted that whether she holds elected office again or not, she does not intend to live a quiet life made up entirely of family fishing trips. "I don't need a title to be the one to usher in what it is that needs to be done in our state or our country."
Palin conceded many people are still confused about why she decided to leave office.
"You know why they're confused? I guess they cannot take something nowadays at face value," Palin said.
But she said a major factor in the decision was the mounting legal bills she and the state have had to incur to fight ethics charges from her political adversaries. None of the accusations have been proved but, she said, the costs of fighting them have been enormous.
"You know, conditions have really changed in Alaska in the political arena since Aug. 29, since I was tapped to run for VP. When that opposition research -- those researchers really bombarded Alaska -- started digging for dirt and have not let up. They're not gonna find any dirt," she said. "We keep proving that every time we win an ethics violation lawsuit, and we've won every one of them. But it has been costing our state millions of dollars. It's cost Todd and me. You know the adversaries would love to see us put on the path of personal bankruptcy so that we can't afford to run."
As to whether another pursuit for national office, as when she joined Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the race for the White House less than a year ago, would result in the same political blood sport, Palin said there was a difference between the White House and what she had experienced in Alaska. If she were in the White House, she said, the "department of law" would protect her from baseless ethical allegations.
"I think on a national level, your department of law there in the White House would look at some of the things that we've been charged with and automatically throw them out," she said.
There is no "Department of Law" at the White House.
Another major reason Palin stated for walking away from her first term as Alaska's governor was that after she announced the decision not to seek a second term as governor, she would become a lame duck, and she'd refuse to "milk" that status. She said most politicians "say it's a paycheck, it's a paycheck and I get to travel around. No, that's politics as usual."
Palin spoke openly about her ideas for the country, national security and energy, and she took a dim view of politicians. "No, I don't really like a whole lot of politicians," she said.
Salmon fishing is a family affair for the Palins. Their fourth child, daughter Piper, age 8, was on hand to help. And 1-year-old baby Trig, who Palin said is getting ready to walk, stayed back on shore.
Palin said the family hasn't discussed any plans to move away from Alaska. But when the family discussed whether she ought to leave office, it was her oldest child, son Track, who is serving in Iraq, who voted "hell, yeah."
Husband Todd Palin said, "It's been a topic of discussion quietly for a while. It's never come to an, 'I can't take it anymore.' Let's vote. It's been a few months, and it just seemed that the resistance, the wasted time and the wasted money she had to go through every day."
He said he doubts that his wife's resignation will be a weight off her shoulders. "She's gonna continue to be busy," he said.
Sarah Palin said, "Every mom that we know multitasks. I'm gonna keep working extremely hard, but I am looking forward to having my kids by my side more, without getting criticized for having the kids by my side.
In her first public appearance since her announcement last Friday, Palin appeared on Tuesday in a western Alaskan community called Kotzebue, to sign a bill aimed at improving management of safety officers in rural communities. Afterwards, she said she was absolutely sure Alaska will be better off with Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, her successor.
"I'm extremely happy," she told ABC News. "I know that I know that I know that this is the right thing for Alaska."