Category: AHS2019

Leaving Lake Clark

Sadly, it was time to pack and say goodbye to the bears and our wonderful hosts for the week, Shelia and James. Belle, our awesome guide, offered to take some of us out for a pre-breakfast photo shoot, but we all opted to skip the early morning outing, knowing we had seen the best of the best the day before. Once again Chef Tom prepared a great breakfast, and we can’t say enough good things about all the staff at the Alaska Homestead Lodge.

We said goodbye to the garden and greenhouse that had fed us so well
Alaska Homestead Lodge – one of our all time favorite vacation destinations
This truly is God’s Country, and we are grateful for the opportunity to visit

After hugs and goodbyes to our hosts and fellow guests, Belle packed us up and we made one more trek behind the ATV to the beach.

Belle takes Lou and I to our arriving plane. Red Carpet Service. We were so lucky to have Belle as our guide. She knows the bears, and was relentless in her desire to get us to the right places.

We set off, and had a smooth flight back to Anchorage. The visibility was better this time, although there were still fires burning north of Anchorage.

Lake Hood, at the Ted Stevens Intl Airport in Anchorage, is home to more small planes than any other airport.
And look at this …remember when this bear walked right up to our plane when we landed at Lake Clark. Awesome!

That wraps up the fun parts of our trip. We had a long wait at the airport for our flight, direct from Anchorage to Atlanta, then we flew to Portland. Everything was on time, and we made it home the next day. Teresa and the pups greeted us, and we were soon back in our Maine routine.

It’s common to end a report on our travel with a recap of what went well, and what might have disappointed. If you’ve read the previous posts, you already know we thoroughly enjoyed both our Kenai Fjords Cruise on the Darby, and our Bear Viewing at the Alaska Homestead Lodge. Different experiences, but both gave us joy, and appreciation for Alaska and two of its National Parks.

We realize how fortunate we are to be able to take a trip like this. We also appreciate the opportunity to share the story with our friends and family. The only disappointment we had was Lou getting benched for the last few days of our time at the Alaska Homestead Lodge. But so grateful his injury wasn’t worse, and also filled with gratitude at the response from James & Shelia, Dr. Joanne, and the rest of the team.

A special thanks to Belle, who is in her 6th season as a guide, and is committed to showing guests the best experience possible. We were lucky to be able to photograph with some talented wildlife photographers, Tom and Dave. Michael and his fishing prowess provided all the salmon we could eat. Our fellow guests included visitors from Australia, and Germany, as well as the USA.

I will follow up with some photos from our 2015 visit to Silver Salmon Creek, but for now, consider this the end of the report on our 2019 Alaska Adventure. Thanks for following along.

Blondie & the Two Bears – A Fairy Tale Ending

This had already been an incredible day, and we were truly amazed as we kept repeating, “Can you believe everything we’ve seen today?” The next hour did not disappoint.

The guides figured our best bet was to work our way back to the creek crossing, and they urged us to be as quiet as possible, because this sow was still cautious about bringing the cubs out. We were quite a distance out, but could still see the bears as they came into sight. Mama Bear climbed up the bank, and found something to scavenge.

She started to head over the crest of the bank, which would have taken her away from us. We breathed a collective sigh of relief as she turned and came back to the creek, where she crossed over and walked through the fishing area (where Michael had fished yesterday).

The little ones had to stop and play, of course!

They found their way back in the water, near the confluence, where Mama went in to see a fish about dinner, and the little ones goofed around.

This was a beautiful way to end today’s adventure in Silver Salmon Creek.

I couldn’t wait to get back and tell Lou all about our day. He was upbeat about the bears he had seen from the lodge, including one who was checking out the vegetable garden.

Dinner tonight was … fresh salmon!!! If it seems like we had a lot of salmon – it’s because we did. And it makes good sense. It is readily available, doesn’t have to be flown in by small plane, and most people love it. Plus guests rotated into the lodge, some staying for only two or three days. I enjoyed the salmon, and tonight’s delight included a very special Black Forest Cake. No going hungry here!

What a day! Topped off by a delicious meal with new friends, and conversation about the wonders of today and the previous days. Our whole group was leaving tomorrow, and a photography tour group was taking our place. In fact, it was a Van Os Photo Safari Tour – the same group we’d come with four years before.

There was yet another opportunity to do an evening photo shoot. We passed. It couldn’t get better than what we’d already experienced today, and I was very happy to end on a high note.

Thanks so much to all who have followed along. We will wrap up tomorrow, with a report on our flight to Anchorage, then back to Maine.

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A Bear Catches a Fish!!! Day 5, Part 3

We’ve been clicking, clicking, clicking the shutter, hoping to catch the bear and the fish at the perfect second. So far today,, everything has been going our way; would our good fortune continue? The after lunch session started at the creek crossing, which is a favorite place to see the bears.

She splashed a few times, but didn’t stay in this area long. We hopped in our carts and drove over the bumpy track to the mouth of the creek, just in case she showed.

We got set up in our new spot, and saw a bear swimming towards us. I’m fairly certain this is a new bear, one we recognize from our last trip. It is a large sow called “Crimp Ear.” She may have a crimp ear, but she is sporting some sexy bangs.

This bear can fish! We saw her grab this one up in the blink of an eye. After her first snack, she was in for another. Crimp Ear was just as awesome as she had been four years ago, when we first visited the Alaska Homestead Lodge.

Crimp Ear is such a majestic bear. How lucky were we to see her on our last day? But, can you even imagine getting to the point where you have to say, “enough, we can’t take any more bear goodness?” We were almost there.

And it was after 5pm, so I thought we would be wrapping up soon. Then someone said, “Look – over there – by the trees. It’s Blondie and the two cubs.”

Seriously ??? After having a magical morning, and perfect afternoon, we are going to top off our adventure with another Mama Bear, and her two cubs???

Stay tuned for the next post, to see if Blondie went fishing in the creek, or went back into the woods.

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The Magic Continues; Day 5, Part 2

The bears didn’t get far before the antics started again. One of the cubs found a (dead) halibut. He wasn’t quite sure what to do with it; he pushed it down the beach, chewed it, and kicked it.

Finally, the. bear family finished up at the beach and headed back into the woods.

We did get one more push and shove. Don’t know what is so cute about bear cubs standing up and wrestling, but we certainly enjoyed it.

We were so fortunate to spend quality time with the Mama Bear and her three cubs this morning. It was especially nice, because we were there with so few people, as most were still eating breakfast. We did go back to the lodge for a short break, and to grab an apple or a cookie. We saw the Eagles near the lodge.

Back on the trail – it was such a beautiful morning, and we were riding high from having seen the cubs.

Belle followed the tracks and soon found another bear.

We watched some fishing, or more accurately – fishing attempts. We’ve not seen this bear catch a fish yet! I think she might be getting by on her good looks.

Soon there was a second bear. That is our lodge in the background, and these bears were visible from the lodge, so Lou was enjoying some bear action as well.

Put two bears together, and someone is going to get smacked. They seemed to be having a great time, and eventually walked off together:

Amazing!!! Only one bear yesterday, and more than we can count already – it’s not even noon yet. We were all a bit dazed from the non-stop action, and agreed to go back for lunch and a rest. We had sandwiches for lunch, along with killer peanut butter cookies. Oh boy, we might need to ask Chef Tom to send care packages.

I would like to report – no cookies have been eaten while preparing this report. Although I’m not sure I can say the same for Lou.

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Morning Magic – Day 5, Part 1

(24 August 2019) Our last full day had arrived. The previous day was quiet, and we only saw one bear (but also didn’t go out on every opportunity). This is why we prefer to book a five night stay at the lodge. You can take some time out, and you also increase your odds of seeing the bears; if not one day, maybe the next.

Our group decided not to try for a sunrise photo shoot; instead we would have an early breakfast and go out for a longer morning session. Up in the kitchen at 7am, we looked out the window and … there they were!

Crossing the meadow and headed to the beach. Probably don’t have to tell you what happened – stole a few sausage links and ran downstairs to get our boots on. No one in our group was having breakfast today. Lou was still staying in, but he got breakfast and saw a lot of bears from the lodge.

In less than 15 minutes, Belle had found the Mama Bear and her 3 cubs. This was pretty unusual for them to be down on the main beach. I was happy for Dave, who had hiked in but not seen them the previous day.

It was difficult to get all of the bears in one frame, as the little ones were full of energy and always running around.

We were a good ways away from the bears, so maximum zoom and close cropping of the photos was necessary. Belle intentionally stayed further away from the sow and cubs than we have for some of the other bears. A good idea not to crowd them.

These little bears were super scavengers. One found an empty clam shell and was so happy, carrying it around for awhile. A sibling found a remnant of a fish.

We didn’t see a lot of attempts to eat these prizes, the focus seemed to be a game of “you-can’t-have-my-treasure.”

I’m guessing we could stop right here and people would be happy with today’s photo share. But no, there are more. The subjects this morning are too special to just languish on a computer hard drive.

Mama rounded up her mischievous threesome, and started down the beach. We didn’t follow right away, figuring we would see them again if they were comfortable enough to stop at one of the regular spots.

That’s enough for one post – while we do worry about overloading our readers, we also want to document this unique experience to the best of our abilities. That is foreshadowing … the Magic Morning is not over, and there will be more coming.

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A Quiet Day – Day 4

(23 August 2019) We were out at 6am, hoping to catch another beautiful sunrise and maybe some early morning bears at the beach. We did see a bear as soon as we made it to the beach. We then went further north, hoping to set up for sunrise, and maybe even have some bears in the photos. Kind of a bust … the sunrise photos aren’t even worth sharing. We headed back for breakfast, which did not disappoint.

Set out again after breakfast, hoping we’d find some active fisher bears. We came across a lone bear, being observed by some of the people who fly in for a few hours or the day.

This bear found some salmon – either left overs from another bear or washed ashore from a fishing boat. The fishermen are allowed to use nets on certain days of the week, and apparently this sometimes works out to the bear’s advantage.

A confession – I’m not crazy about taking photos of a bear eating a fish, but it is interesting to see how they use their paws and claws to hold the fish.

I much prefer to take photos of bears walking, especially when they are walking right towards us!

And then she started to run faster …

Right on by … no interest in us at all

There she goes again; check out those forearms!

Not the best morning from a photography viewpoint. The light was harsh, and no fishing bears; but we did have a pretty bear by the beach, eating fish heads. Yum. Time to search for more bears. Some of the guys decided they wanted to hike out to the area where we’d seen the three cubs. I passed on that option, and had an extra hour or two to relax before lunch (PS – they didn’t find the cubs, after walking all the way out).

Lunch was chicken salad wraps, all the usual accompaniments, and Cookies! I was pretty good about skipping the cookies the first few days, but I could not resist the oatmeal cookies, fresh from the oven.

We had a nice long break until the afternoon session, and there may have been some napping involved. Lou was feeling good, and went out for a couple of walks during the day – sticking close to the lodge, but getting some fresh air and stretching his legs. He actually saw more bears today than we did.

Here are a couple of our folks, waiting to hear if anyone has spotted a bear. This went on for quite a while – waiting, moving to a new location, waiting some more. It isn’t all that unusual for this to happen, and we’d been quite lucky our first three days.

We went to scope out the confluence area, but no luck. So everyone decided we would watch Michael and Belle fish. Michael said he had just been thinking how wonderful it was to be fishing in the quiet, with no one around. Well now he had about six people telling him what to do 🙂

Heidi has the right idea …

I decided to take a photo of the ducks.

We visited with the Rangers for a few minutes before going back to the lodge for dinner. There is a full-time ranger who lives in a cabin by the creek, and she sometimes has help from a visiting ranger, and a couple of volunteers. The visiting ranger was an archeologist, or maybe he was an anthropologist. Whatever he was, it sounded interesting.

Tonight’s dinner was lasagna, salad, fresh made garlic bread, and cheesecake with caramel sauce … a nice change from salmon (ssshhhh … don’t tell, but I was over salmon by this time in the trip. I do like grilled salmon, but we’d already had it twice, not to mention watching the bears, foxes, and gulls eating it)

I had skipped the last couple of after-dinner photography sessions, choosing to relax and get an early sleep. This was the one night I should not have missed – they saw the other Mama Bear with her two spring cubs. Can’t win ’em all.

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