Friday, June 29, 2012

Glaciers Are Cool, Bears Are Ferocious, Yadda, Yadda, Yadda

Arrived Kodiak on the Monday AM ferry and delivered to the docks via freight elevator. Quite a sight.  Finishing a quick town exploration in a drizzling rain we sauntered over to Fort Abercrombie State Park for our first three island nights in the campground.

Camp setup in a lighter drizzle was no joy but Alaska's famed liquid sunshine ceased by evening. And surprisingly on the next four days we awoke to clear blue skies, contrary to the prior evening's forecast.  Truly a land of surprises. Temps rarely above 70 degrees, expectations of daily rain the norm, and a general attitude that the salmon will be here momentarily.  Fortunately most fishermen we met were of good spirit and patient to stand by creeks and rivers in wait for an errant salmon heading upstream.  More fortunately Island Seafood, the primary fish packer and local retail outlet in Kodiak had a daily fresh supply of king salmon. Moist, succulent, and at the right price of $9.95/lb for steaks (a bit higher for fillets, but still worth it).  Not too shabby with appetizers from Pickled Willies, pickled salmon, halibut, cod and king crab. Yummmmmmm!

Okay,enough hiking about the island trails, and how much driving can be had on 80 miles of island roads even if this is the second largest island in the US ( Hawaii's Big Island being number 1). Time to see island bears. Only problem being is that while those fishermen wait, salmon are still not running on Kodiak and hence the bears are still up in the hills. So, for whatever reason the bears on Katmai Island are of a different mind and content, like the fishermen, to wait along the streams, rivers and shoreline for the spawning season to begin. Meanwhile Katmai bears ( DNA only slightly off from Kodiak bears)  are spending their days munching down grasses and digging for clams.

The float plane trip from Kodiak to Katmai was a little over an hour. A couple of whales guided us through bays below, bald eagles on nearly every point.  After a flyover spotting several bears and a huddle of photo-snapping tourists we landed offshore and slowly made our way ashore thanks to hip wadders.

A rather large sow with two nearly equally sized cubs were joyfully acting out in a meadow. We gathered with the other touring group and began our own clicking party. And yes, bears do poop on the beach.  Many clicks later, not 20 feet from the trio, and not a scare or fright that we might be someone's next meal, we mozied across the field in search of the lone male bear we had spotted from the plane as well.

Again not a note of attention to our approach nor concern for our watching at a rather close distance. The Denali rangers would be horrified to see how quickly we'd lost adherence to their 'keep 300 yards from any bear' rule.

And as if multiple bear sightings and on the ground observations weren't enough our pilot wrapped up the aerial tour with a sweep up a local glacier - one of the few that is still growing.

Lastly, finding a luncheon spot, now 6PM, was a bit more difficult. Our first float plane landing, intending to be proximate to a waterfall, was nixed when another sow and two very young cubs scrambled across the beach and off toward denser woods. Rather than chancing an unwelcome bear meeting we took flight once more to finally land on a high meadow lake midst snow streaked peaks.

Encores? Still five days on Kodiak ahead and sunshine predominates the forecasts.

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  1. those bears are so cute and fuzzy! nice to know that we'll be seeing you again.

  2. those bears are something. I saw a programme about an expert who is studying them and feel far less frightened of them and much more informed. Love Helen x