Nothing, Nothing, Nothing Like Katmai!

Nothing says “bears” in the vast open wilderness like Katmai National Park & Preserve.  From our first visit in 2007, and every year since, we have indulged in the natural beauty and magical moments of the various places within Katmai.  Every year has been different – all have been exceptional!  It’s always a nail-biter situation, for not always are you able to fly out when you plan to, as unplanned weather delays and cancellations are a way of life in Alaska.  We arrived at Beluga Air on the Beluga Lake Seaplane Base and were concerned when we saw it through a thick layer of fog … but luckily as the sun made its appearance, it quickly burned off the fog.

Beluga Lake Sea-port

Beluga Air waiting on Beluga Lake

This year, we were treated to a special side trip to pick up a couple at a remote location within Sadie Cove, in Kachemak Bay & Cook Inlet.  Such a beautiful piece of paradise over there.  We know because we took a sea kayaking tour over there on a past trip.

Remote paradise encountered within Sadie Cove - totally "off the grid"

Remote paradise encountered within Sadie Cove – totally “off the grid”

Off we were to Katmai NP & Preserve … to wherever the bears happened to be congregating in the greatest numbers.  The bears follow the salmon run & being later in the salmon season, that means that they’re more inland than on the coast.

Aerial view of the beauty possessed with Katmai

Aerial view of the beauty possessed with Katmai

What a gorgeous landscape - meandering streams, glacier carved valleys, glacially fed lakes ... heaven on earth!

What a gorgeous landscape – meandering streams, glacier carved valleys, glacially fed lakes … heaven on earth!

Once we landed and our “business” was taken care of, we began to hike towards Funnel Creek.  Our guide, Dave, suggested that we hike about a mile or two before we began our bear pursuit.

Tom leads the pack as we hike out to photograph the brown bears

Tom leads the pack as we hike out to photograph the brown bears

But it didn’t take that long before we saw our first brown bear grazing  for berries on the tundra just ahead of us.  Of course, we were in hiking mode and I only had a wide angle lens on my camera at that point.  We hiked to a respectable distance, then let the bear have the right of way.  Once it went by, we continued on our hike.  The other couple with us had never seen wild bears before … never been to Alaska.  How fun it would be to watch their excitement grow.

Nothing but open tundra covered in berries and bears!

Nothing but open tundra covered in berries and bears!

We began hiking through the creek, as it winded back and forth in an on-going “S” fashion.  Soon we encountered our first close bear in the water … and he was quite the big guy.

This boar surprised us as it emerged through the dense brush from one turn of the creek

This boar surprised us as it emerged through the dense brush from one turn of the creek

To be quite honest, I think that he was the BIGGEST boar that we had ever seen!  Our guide estimated that by the end of the summer, he would be ~1200 pounds!

Look at the size of this guy!

His belly was practically hanging in the water!

Our guide knew this bear well – even had him nicknamed “FlapJack”, earned by the pancaked ear, a result of an injury some time in the past.

"What was that?"

“What was that?”

This was a big healthy boar all right.  He didn’t get that way for no reason … he was quite a skilled fisherman and though he looked like he couldn’t get around easily … that was not the case!

First interest peaks and plan of action is determined

First interest peaks and plan of action is determined

The sight of this big guy readying to stalk its dinner, then the sound of it splashing … not more like thrashing through the creek waters was undeniably eerie.  I definitely had a moment of questioning my sanity being in the water with the bear, but he had one thing on his mind and it wasn’t me.

The chase sequence is activated

The chase sequence is activated

Success!!!

Success!!!

Can't imagine how hard it was for this bear to haul itself out of the water!

Can’t imagine how hard it was for this bear to haul itself out of the water!

"I have no idea what happened to that salmon ... honestly"

“I have no idea what happened to that salmon … honestly”

Every so often, he would shake himself off … like a dog when it gets out of the water … and it was quite amazing to watch that big boar shake!

S-H-A-K-E !!!

S-H-A-K-E !!!

Of course, there were many other brown bears in the creek.  It seems like at every turn of the creek, we could either see or hear one racing up and down the stream chasing the salmon.  It was literally excitement at every corner!

Well, hello there ... as we encounter another big boar!

Well, hello there … as we encounter another big boar!

Triple Trouble!  Not!  Triple the FUN!

Triple Trouble! Not! Triple the FUN!

The landscape of Katmai is spectacular in itself … with so many bears calling it home – and moving around the landscape following the salmon.  Such a special place, for the bears and for us as visitors to their home – a privilege that I take seriously and with great pleasure.

Beauty in the wildlife ... and the surroundings

Beauty in the wildlife … and the surroundings

More to come in the next Blog post!

Do you think that we're happy?

Do you think that we’re happy?

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12 thoughts on “Nothing, Nothing, Nothing Like Katmai!

  1. Debbie, it’s truly a pleasure reading your blog and seeing your photos. It’s the next best thing to actually being there! I can feel your excitement! 🙂

  2. Looks like a fantastic experience! What great sightings you had! This made me think of Tiimothy Treadwell…have you seen Grizzly Man or read ‘Grizzly Maze’ by Nick Jans? I highly recommend reading the book if you haven’t, no matter what thoughts you have about Treadwell (if any). There’s a lot of great information and insight in the book!

    • It was fantastic! You know, we obviously have heard many stories by people who knew him personally. I haven’t read the book … not sure that I want to. I love the bears of Katmai and have a hard time imagining them ever doing harm. Maybe that sounds crazy, but I feel comfortable around them, but I respect their place in the wilderness and know that I’m a visitor in their home. 🙂

      • It doesn’t sound crazy. I think it’s good to have a healthy respect for all wildlife, or all life period. I also don’t think animals (other than humans) do harm maliciously, so I don’t think the bear/s that killed Treadwell were doing it out of any kind of premeditation or anything like that. I think when animals act on instinct and in accordance w/ their needs (to eat, protect their young/home, and procreate), they are not doing harm, even if attaining one or more of their needs leads to the fatality of another animal. I’m not sure if any of that is making sense, haha, but in essence, I agree w/ you that I don’t think they’re capable of doing harm, b/c they act w/o malice. At least in my opinion. I think the book is great, and really, whatever your feelings on Treadwell, Katmai, the Katmai bears, or just bears in general, it’s well worth the read!

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