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 …
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