Always a favorite adventure for me each year is our return to Katmai National Park & Preserve for some amazing bear encounters and photography. As we have for the past 3 years, we enlisted the services of Dave Bachrach of AK Adventures to serve as our guide and Wes Head of Beluga Air to get us there safely.
On this trip to Alaska so far it had been pretty good weather, so we hoped that our luck would continue. Sure enough, on the day of our departure for Katmai, the skies were clear and we were psyched to board the Beaver floatplane for the leisurely trip over. Beluga Lake was just about as calm as could be.
Of course, I kept some gear in the cabin with me, ready to take some aerial shots along the way. This image is of Homer Spit which is a road that extends into Kachemak Bay, with the amazing mountain and glacial views as a backdrop. Gorgeous! Mt. Augustine, situated in Cook Inlet, is the most active volcano of the Eastern Aleutian arc. On our way to Katmai, we always fly over it, but don’t always have such a clear view. Last eruption was in 2006, which can play havoc for aviation in the area. Once we landed in the interior of Katmai NP & Preserve, Tom was able to pull up his hip waders as he exited the floatplane. His steady hands and feet are always appreciated, especially by me as we transfer our backpacks, camera gear, and tripods.Almost as soon as we began our hike from the lake to the river and creek where the bears were congregating, we saw evidence of their presence … the bear print … one of my favorite sightings. 🙂
Once we reached the river, our first glimpse was that of this sitting brown bear … stationary in the waters and just chillin. Though it’s hard to judge the size of a sitting bear, once they stand up, it’s much easier to tell that this was no mini bear. LOL As we hiked off the beaten path, in search of bears a bit more secluded, we ran into this beautiful, yet scruffy looking, bear fishing for salmon in the creek. My favorite part of photographing bears is when they look at us … and our eyes meet and we become unitied in place and time. Bears eyes are so captivating to me, I find it hard to get behind the lens because I want to see them firsthand. While we remained still, simply observing this bear, it decided that fishing was a bit slow and it would sit along the creeks bank and wait for some salmon to swim close enough to it, that it didn’t have to exert too much effort. Again, the stare vacillated between looking for salmon and checking us out. Eventually, it found what it was looking for and in a quick lunge, it was over for the poor salmon. Many different solo bears were out and about, staking a little bit of geography as their fishing spot … all the while the occasional human fisherman were out there as well. Everyone was catching salmon, but none more proficiently than the brown bears. 🙂 Preferentially, the bears seek out the female salmon, since the eggs are quite the delicacy. When they find one, they go straight for the roe. In this image, you can see the eggs flying out of the fish as the bear tears into it.For some strange reason, I had just asked Dave about an unforgettable boar from a few years back. To my surprise Dave said that he had seen him earlier this year. I was quite thrilled because he was quite large and older, so I was happy that he had made it over the last two years.
Tom called out a large bear coming around the corner of the creek, so we watched for it as it approached. I couldn’t believe my eyes … it was my long lost friend, Flapjack! The same boar that I had just asked about. Now I was over the top ecstatic as he got nearer and nearer.
I know it sounds crazy, but he got pretty close, then just stared at us, and I felt that perhaps he remembered us. LOL. People tell me that I humanize animals a bit, but it was truly a magical moment for me. I remember the first time, 2 years ago, when we encountered him. He was, by far, the largest boar I had ever seen. Quite identifiable by its right ear injury, which left his ear split and flat … like a pancake … hence the nickname “Flapjack”.
A proficient fishing machine, as you can well imagine by his size, he still had great technique and was catching more than his share of salmon. He was also quite quick in devouring it. 🙂 Yes, we were quite happy so far with our adventure … especially since it was my birthday! I considered Flapjack’s visit as my present, as well as the amazing brown bear activity and the awesome weather. So many images this year, so the blog will feature 2 more posts of these amazing creatures.Not to be outdone by the bears, we celebrated our bear viewing with some sushi of our own. 🙂 Oh, and I can’t forget about that amazing appetizer of brussel sprouts too!
Next Up: Cubs, Cubs, & more Cubs!
© 2015 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography