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Archive of our Alaska Trip -

                    Brooks River Lodge 

We arrived in Alaska on June 17th.  As of July 4th, here's where we've been:

 

Brooks Camp, Katmai National Park

 

After an exciting evening in King Salmon (yes, that really is the name of a little town in Southwestern Alaska!  Can you guess what they are famous for?), we headed for the float plane terminal for our flight to Brooks Camp.

 

Katmai Air flight

 

Katmai National Park is famous for three things.  First, there was a huge volcanic eruption here in 1912.  It was the largest of the 20th century.  (If it had taken place in New York City, we would have felt the tremors and heard the blast in Chicago!!!)  As a result, the Valley of the 10,000 Smokes was created.  It is this valley that brought Katmai its National Park status.  However,  Katmai is also one of the largest spawning grounds for sockeye salmon.  Fisherpeople just love this place.  As do fisheranimals - the bears of Katmai are supreme fisheranimals.  And now tourists like us love to come to see the bears!   

 

 

 

We took a 4-wheel-drive school bus through the beautiful, lush, green hills and forests of Katmai and emerged in the Valley of 10,000 Smokes.  The devastation of 92 years ago is still evident, and impressive.  We hiked down into the canyon and got our feet covered in some of the ash which covered the area.  Almost nothing will grow in ash.  There are pockets where a few very hardy plants have started to emerge, but as you see it is mostly just barren.   

 

 

 

Okay - enough of the geology lessons - bring on da bears!  

 

The salmon swim upstream and try to jump this waterfall.  The bears, sometimes as many as 14 at one time, stake out strategic positions at the falls in an attempt to thwart the salmon's best efforts.  Watching the staking out process is very interesting.  Obviously the strongest bears get the best spots, although I don't think they would all agree which spots are the best.  You have the top of the waterfall crowd, the whirlpool hunters, the under the falls gang and the shallow pouncers.  You also have the lousy hunters, who scavenge leftovers a little ways downstream from the most successful hunters.  

 

9 bears for dinner

 

On our first day, the fish were running.  They were jumping so fast, you couldn't keep count.  (The following 2 days - no fish - apparently, the commercial fishing in Bristol Bay wipes them out periodically and it takes a few days to recover.)  We watched one large male catch 13 fish in under an hour.  He had probably been at it for some time and was becoming quite choosy - he would take 2 bites and then send the carcass downstream.  The mother bear pictured below was almost as successful.  She caught at least 10 while we watched.  Of course, she had 4 mouths to feed, not just one...

 

All you can eat buffet

 

Hey mom - share!

 

Dinner family style

 

 

The interesting thing in Katmai is that the National Park Service has managed to make the park so safe, despite the many bears in and around Brooks Camp.  Everyone entering the camp must attend Bear Awareness training.  We were taught how to minimize our encounters with bears ("Hey Bear" and lots of hand clapping as you travel through the woods) and what to do if we encountered a bear (Stand tall, look down, talk calmly and move out of the way slowly) and how close was too close (less than 50 yards for a bear, or 100 yards for cubs).  We did encounter many bears, some at a safe distance, and others much closer.  The sow below with her spring cubs came out of nowhere as we were getting ready to board a bus.  She was 30 feet away when we saw her.  We took evasive action!  But aren't those cubs cute?

 

 

 

Tasha's wish since Denali has been to see a wolf.  She has been reading about wolves whenever the opportunity presents itself.  Wolves are very shy animals.  They keep to themselves and are hard to see in the wild.  However, her wish finally came true.  On the bus ride to the Valley of the 10,000 Smokes, a wolf came out on the road in front of us.  And then he tried to stare down our bus!  He was beautiful, don't you think?

 

 

Well, that's all from Brooks Camp, unless you want to hear one of the two new songs we made up.  Repeat after me to the tune of the traditional bear camp song (Bear in Tennis Shoes): 

                            The salmon jumped

                            Into the air

                            Into the mouth

                            Of a waiting bear

We won't bore you with the other 15 verses - Yannis says it won't make sense to anyone anyway... 

 

The other is:

                            Hey there, hey bear

                            What'cha doin' over there?

 

                            Hey there, hey bear

                            {insert your rhyme here}

 

                            Repeat until out of the woods and out of bear danger.

                           

 

  Anika and Yannis - probably singing Hey There Hey Bear.

 

Next -  The Homer Spit and Gustavus 

 

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