Month: September 2019

The Rest of Day 1 – Bear Yoga and More

After lunch, we had time to rest or take a nap, as we wouldn’t go out for the afternoon shoot until 2:30pm. Timing for exploring is built around meals, but also influenced by the tides.

It didn’t take long to find a sleepy bear at the beach. A little hard to see, but she is doing the “frog sprawl’” also a favorite position of cocker spaniels. Not sure whether she was growling at us, or simply yawning. She then proceeded to do her version of bear yoga.

 

After watching this bear, we headed up to the creek crossing area. This is a favorite fishing location for humans and bears. The National Park Service has declared that bears have first dibs, so the people fish at the discretion of the bears.

It is not uncommon to see the bears napping in the afternoon, especially in the warmer weather we experienced. After rousing from her nap, this bear decided she needed a snack. Fortunately, she happened to be lying on a fish, so not much energy expended. The bears will eat as many calories as they can when the salmon are running, as they prepare for their winter sleep.

Yum! Note – the fish didn’t just hop up on the bank. We saw quite a few of the bears catching fish. Then depositing them in a cache nearby.

As usual, we saw birds hanging out nearby, hoping for the leftovers. This bald eagle is most likely one of the two who have a nest near the lodge. Their fledgling just left the nest earlier this month.

We watched the bear some more, and searched for different ones without much luck. Lots more photos were taken, but no need to see every bear photo we took. And WARNING ⚠️- there are going to be a LOT MORE bear photos as we cover the next few days. So skip ahead if you are tired of bears.

Here is a shot of another group crossing the creek, and one of the reasons to monitor the rise and fall of the tide.

Dinner was served at 6pm, and freshly caught salmon was on the menu. We always had a salad at dinner, as well as some scrumptious dessert. This wasn’t the week to worry about calories.

A wonderful dinner, must be time for bed. Nope, not when there are bears waiting to be found! We saddled up for another photo session. We started out at the creek crossing and saw a bear checking out the creek. They will walk along the edge, then jump in and splash madly at the fish. At least that is what it looks like. Some are more skilled when it came to fishing. They will either trap a fish on the bottom with their giant paws, or snap it up in their jaws. Paws & Jaws – good name for the Silver Salmon Creek Diner.

Didn’t see a lot of successful fishing action, and we were losing the light, so we went back to the Lodge around 9pm. What an awesome start to our 5 day adventure.

Click HERE for the next post.

On to Lake Clark National Park

Note – if you arrived here via a link we provided to read about our Bear Viewing Adventure, you will find a link at the bottom of each post that takes you to the next post in the series.

(20 August 2019) We can bearly wait to get to the Alaska Homestead Lodge at Lake Clark National Park. The plan was to take a small plane out of Anchorage. The folks at Alaska Air Service were planning to pick us up at 7:30am … assuming the smoke was not too bad for take off. We hadn’t heard any bad news, so were up and out on time, and sure enough, the AAS van was soon there to take us to the airport.

Once our luggage (all our luggage) was loaded, we hopped in the Cessna 206, anticipating the hour+ flight to the Lodge.

Fortunately, we aren’t afraid of small planes, and looked forward to the flight. We chose to charter a plane for just the two of us, because we knew we were going to be overloaded with luggage on this trip.

We visited the Alaska Homestead Lodge in 2015, as part of a photography tour group. This time, we were on our own, since we knew the ropes and knew the Lodge would provide everything we needed.

 

Visibility was poor during the early part of the flight, but then we got away from most of the smoke.

 

As we neared our destination … known as Silver Salmon Creek … I actually saw a bear – look on the bottom right of the photo.

We landed on the beach, easy peasy. Belle, who would be our guide for the week, was there to pick us up with the ATV cart – our mode of transportation for the week.

After we had unloaded the bags, and hopped in the cart, Lou was quietly trying to get my attention. Then he hit me over the head, and I realized there was a bear. A bear very near.

Holy Moly!!!! There is bear approaching us.

I’m sure everyone got tired of me sticking my phone in front of their face, and saying, “See, see … look, look. This bear. We saw this bear. Right when we got off the airplane. Right when we freakin’ got off the plane!!!”

We could NOT have had a better start to our adventure. The bear – probably about 4-5 years old and considered a juvenile – circled us and the plane, just ambling along. Kyle, our pilot, stood there being chill, capturing video on his phone. Belle told us this wasn’t all that common, so he was probably more excited than he let on.

You may be saying, “why so excited, they are on a bear viewing vacation.” True, but we expect to have to work a bit harder to find the bears, and we will during the rest of the week.

Belle took us over the beach, through the stream and meadow, and to the Alaska Homestead Lodge. Ahhh… home again.

We cannot say enough good things about this lodge, and the owners, James and Shelia. This is a top notch operation, and I hope we get to go again!

It was only 9:30am, so we dropped our bags, and met up with a couple other guests to head out and find some bears! We were matched up with Dave, a very accomplished wildlife photographer, and his son Michael. Very nice guys. After a safety briefing, Belle took us out to find bears.

The way it works is, you have to look for bear tracks, then you follow them to the bears.

Haha … while that might work, we have a better way to find the bears. Belle (and Ken, our other guide), know a few places where bears might be hanging out, and they have a route they follow. They also communicate with the guides from the other lodge in the area – Silver Salmon Creek Lodge. This benefits guests from both lodges – more about this later. The guides learn the behaviors of each of the bears, and that helps them predict their location, which will either be out at the beach, in the creek, or at a few key spots in between. Adhering to a predictable route is also good for the bears, and helps them to see humans as nothing special.

We came upon a bear, and had the chance to get some photographs. The guides do their best to keep everyone in a tight line, and they regulate how close we get to the bears. They can’t always control the bears, as they occasionally walk right past the photographers.

This bear seems pretty far away, but most of us have long range zoom lenses. Some are quite happy to shoot photos and video with their phones. And then you have the guys with 50 pounds of camera equipment, often times these are professional photographers or dedicated enthusiasts. Believe it or not, some people don’t take any photos at all; they are there to simply experience seeing 🐻 up close. After click, click, click, I would often put the camera down and just soak in the views.

On our first trip, a big Mama Bear made this same move – running towards us. Actually, she was running right at me. I freaked and could hardly get the shot. This time, I was a cool cucumber, and managed to snap a few frames.

We enjoyed watching this bouncy bear fish, but not catch anything. She kept us entertained for some time.

That was a wrap for the morning session, and we went back to the Lodge for lunch. Chef Tom had set us up with freshly baked rolls for sandwiches – cold cuts or salmon salad. plus, to die for Chocolate Chip Cookies. The owners hire a chef for the season, and he (or she) prepares all meals for the guests. There is a nice garden and greenhouse for fresh vegetables, but everything else has to be brought in by small plane.

Wow. What a heck of a start to our first day. When I booked this trip, I told James and Shelia our previous trip was one of our top vacations. It certainly looks like this week is off to a good start as well.

And, while we wait, lemme show you this amazing bear …

Click HERE for the next post.

Travel Day: Seward to Anchorage

(19 August 2019) Our original plan was to take the Alaska RR back to Anchorage, but it didn’t leave until 6pm. Changed to the Alaska Park Connection Motorcoach. Fancy words for a bus that travels between the major tourist areas. The bus left at 10:45am, giving us time for breakfast and checkout.

The Windsong Lodge hosts some of the cruise ship passengers, so occasionally it would get crowded. Most of the time, we had the place to ourselves.

The bus ride was just over two hours long, and it was fine. We saw some of the same sights as we did on the RR, but visibility was poor. There were wildfires all around, and the smoke was getting worse as the week went on.

This was an uneventful travel day, and we checked back into The Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage. We had dinner at the Crow’s Next atop the hotel. I thought I had a photo showing how smoky it was in Anchorage, but apparently not. Let’s just say, it was so smoky we weren’t 100% sure we would be able to fly to Lake Clark the next morning.

Lou chose the Bison Fillet, and he said it was quite good.

This concludes our first week’s adventure. We loved our time on the Darby with Captain Colin and Alex. We weren’t too excited about the RR trip from Anchorage to Seward, but glad we did it. The Windsong Lodge didn’t quite live up to expectations, but we had a clean room and delicious bar food – not all bad, for sure. The Alaska Sea Life Center certainly exceeded expectations. Our second night’s stay at the Hotel Captain Cook was excellent, and we won’t hesitate to book an extra day or two in Anchorage. A great place to relax and either prepare, or recover from the rigors of our extreme adventuring. (Yes, that was said tongue in cheek.)

Click HERE to board Alaska Air Charter’s Cessna 206 as Kyle flies us to Silver Salmon Creek. A second week of fun awaits us (and you, hopefully).

Alaska SeaLife Center

(18 August 2019) If you are ever in Seward, we definitely recommend a visit to the SeaLife Center. It has all the usual suspects … fish, sea stars, seals, and an otter. But the stand out exhibit is the Aviary. You can walk into the enclosure, and watch the birds with no net or screen on front of you. Lou finally had to drag me out, ‘cause ——— Puffins!!!

Most of the puffins were Horned Puffins … referring to the small “horn” over their eyes. The other is the Tufted Puffin … with the slicked back yellow hair on the sides of their heads.

 

We enjoyed the SeaLife Center, and accomplished our other goal for the day. The shuttle dropped us off at the local laundromat. We were lucky enough to find out they also did wash and fold, meaning we could drop the laundry up and pick it up at the end of the day. Score! Sure glad we brought all that luggage.

We just go from one exciting adventure to another! We ate at the Hotel Restaurant again, making another early night. There are lots of good restaurants in Seward, and the shuttle service was easy to use – we just enjoyed staying in as we rested for the next segment of trip.

Click HERE to read about our rather uneventful travel day

Seward – Just Hanging Out

We had a day and a half to spend in Seward. Upon leaving the Darby, we caught the shuttle back to the Windsong Lodge. Didn’t do much, took showers and naps and walked over to the Resurrection Roadhouse for drinks and an early dinner.

It was nice to grab a cold Alaskan Beer, and have some fun food. This was the best pizza I’ve had in forever! And that cheeseburger looked good, too. We enjoyed chatting with the bartender about life in Alaska.

It was an early night for us. We had the next day in Seward, with no definite plans except to find a laundry mat (edit – I am guessing we were looking for a laundromat, not a laundry mat – the joys of autocorrect). Quite surprised to find the Windsong Lodge had no laundry service, not even a self service option.

Click HERE to see what misadventures we get into tomorrow.

Kenai Fjords – Adventure on the High Seas

(17 August 2019) We had an interesting night. Sometime after we’d all gone to sleep, the boat started rocking and rolling. It wasn’t an uncomfortable motion, but definitely a change from our previous smooth water anchorages. The forecasted winds had come up, 40-60 knots per hour, and we were moving around accordingly. The other boat shown here is a 65 foot Bertram that shared our anchorage with us. We actually saw very few boats during the second and third day of our cruise.

Alex prepared our breakfast, scrambled eggs, muggins (edit: that is a new term for English Muffins), fresh fruit, and salmon. This is Natasha and Stitch’s most favorite breakfast!

Captain Colin wrestled with the anchor and successfully brought it up as the boat wanted to move around more than usual. We set the course back to Seward, fingers crossed the winds didn’t get any worse. The original plan was to spend the morning doing more photography and searching for wildlife.

We were okay with the plan to head back to port, as conditions weren’t good for photography. We did actually see a few of the day tour boats going out as we were coming in … with quite a few people hanging over the railing. Winds were in the 30-40 kph range and we had some ups and down, but the ride wasn’t all that bad. I even managed to take a nap and read a few chapters in my book.

Laurie commented on the brightly colored moss and lichen – this is another example. The colors are not retouched from the original.

We arrived back at the small boat harbor in Seward shortly after noon. Alex had offered to make our lunch as we were cruising, but we excused him – figured it was best for all if we waited til we arrived at the dock.

And, there you have it! Our 4 Day Cruise on the Kenai Fjords. As Amy mentioned in her comment, this was really unlike other cruises we have done in Alaska. Reminiscent of charters in the Caribbean, but different because it was just the two of us and a crew of two. The trip exceeded expectations, and I’m happy to have found Alaska Fjord Charters on TripAdvisor. Captain Colin was professional from the first inquiry, and it was a pleasure to cruise with him. Alex was onboard for the summer, having come from Oregon, and he was so helpful and nice. (He now heads home to start college.)

I think Lou would agree; our favorite aspect of the adventure was getting away from people, away from the hustle and bustle of cell phones and emails, and away from the ongoing projects Lou was managing at home. The scenery was spectacular, being able to spend quiet time so close to the glaciers was a privilege, and watching wildlife pop up around every corner was a treat.

Thank you for sharing our journey. I’m hoping Lou will share some of his favorite photos as well, once he has a chance to go through all of them.

Click HERE to spend the day with us in Seward. I mean, what else do you have to do?