Day 10 – Bear Viewing Journey to Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Number one on my bucket list was to finally enjoy a bear viewing trip in Alaska. Four years ago I had booked the same trip, but two days in a row the trip was cancelled due to high winds and we could not fly. I was devastated. I had convinced one of my sisters and my friends to go with me four years ago. This time, no takers. I cannot explain the fascination I have in seeing bears in the wild to anyone who can ever understand unless they feel the same way.

I have no fear of flying nor of wildlife as I have tremendous respect for animals and their environment.

While there are multiple bear viewing operators and multiple ways to view the coastal brown bears, I chose Alaska Bear Adventures. I am partial to small business owners and this company is locally owned. My sister and I previously flew K-Bay Air (which is a part of Alaska Bear Adventures) on a Denali Glacier Landing tour four years ago and enjoyed the trip.

Our bear viewing trip was not an easy adventure but one of my most memorable experiences in my lifetime.

Warning! This is a long, two-part posting.

  • To just see the bear pictures now, then just click here.
  • To read about the entire journey, continue reading and see the bear pictures linked at the end.

Before the trip started, I had to:

  • Pay for trip in full, 30 days in advance. (They sell out quickly)
  • Fill our lots of paperwork, read and sign a lot of releases.
  • Weigh in. (We travel by small plane and the pilots had to balance the weight)

The day of the trip:

  • Weighed my back pack and camera. We could not carry anything over 10 pounds. Like really? My back would break with any more weight.
  • Our groups were told to empty our backpacks of things we could not take, such as a plastic bag, any aerosol products (plane is not pressurized), any fish smelling stuff.
  • Put on on waders (to cross streams and walk in mud)
  • Put on personal flotation device.
  • Reviewed all rules again.
  • Signed another release that we understand there is a chance for injury or death. 😳
  • Watched an in depth safety video on how to operate emergency equipment including SOS radio and plane emergency beacon (we were flying get over an open body of water and landing on a beach).
Waders and personal floatation devices on the floor that look like fanny packs.
Review of rules and we watched a flight safety video. A great deal of time spent on learning how to operate the emergency equipment like the SOS radio, satellite radio and emergency plane beacon, in the event the pilot was incapacitated. 😳
We found out we would be flying to Katmai National Park and Preserve, the red string. This was an hour flight each way. Sometimes they go to Lake Clark.
Our pilots for the day for four planes, five passengers and a pilot in each plane. I think the pilot uniforms must be plaid shirts.
Getting ready to board. I had to crawl over the pilot’s seat. How absolutely graceful.
I sat in co-pilot seat. 😃 Roger that, good buddy.
Our pilot, Ben, from New York.
My fellow, very patient bear adventurers from Poland, including two, young and enthusiastic girls.
Ready.
Off we go to the wild blue yonder.
Flying above and beside another plane.
Mt. Douglas
Closer.
Closer.
Our landing site is below somewhere.
Here we are, landing on the beach. Really!
Our first bear viewing stop. All four planes landed here and parked along the beach.
This is where we are headed. Tromping through the rock and sand. Ugh.
Then over the sand dunes and through grass.
See this stream, yep, we are going there. Has to be a bear there somewhere, right?
This is why we wear waders. I was thinking how much my grandson would love splashing in the water.
One of what seemed like hundreds of fresh bear paw prints along our path. Bears are around here somewhere.
Bear scat. According to our pilot/bear guide, because it has been so warm and such a lack of rain, the bears are eating more berries earlier, rather than grass.
This is another indicator that bears are nearby.
No bears were along the stream after walking what seemed like a mile. So, we headed about mile in the other direction toward the bay. It was hot and very hard to walk in the rocky sand. We had to peel off some of our clothes from being so hot. We were told to layer our clothes.
It was 69 degrees.
We could not find any bears at a Village Creek, so we piled in the plane and flew to Hallo Bay. As we flew over, my fellow passengers spotted two bears on the ground by the stream. We landed a long way away from the bears. This is where we landed.
A little different scenery and slightly easier walk. We first walked along the beach and then through massive grass areas.
Like I said, MASSIVE grass areas. Grass, grass, everywhere. Where are the bears?
We did have neat little paths. Relatively flat but uneven.
Our first bear sighting, Hallo Bay, Katmai, Alaska.
Click on this link to go straight to the bear photos.
As the bear moved downstream to the bay, I captured this picture of one paw print compared to the size of my foot. I am no expert, but based on the information. about bear paw print size, this bear was around 800 pounds.
Bear paw prints in the sandy mud, . . .
. . . continuing down to the water. This was not the bear we were following, he is the little speck way out in the distance.
These looked like cub prints to me.
Last bear picture of the day as he napped. It is hard work chasing and eating salmon. He reminded me of my chocolate Labrador, Marshall when he naps.
I thought this was poetic. After our long day of bear viewing, we walked along the ocean floor at low tide in the mud. Another reason for wearing waders.
Where is our plane?
After what seemed another mile, we finally saw our plane.
A sight for sore eyes and worn out legs.
Looking WAY back to where we walked to see the bear.
I seldom include my picture in my blog, but completing this journey was
very important to me.
I have survived many challenges in my life and this granny had to prove to herself she could do this too. A little slow and definitely worn out, but finished the adventure all the same.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”.
2 Timothy 4:7 NIV
As we flew back to Homer, my eyes watered up thinking about how blessed
I am to have had this opportunity.

“There is the sea, vast and spacious, teaming with creatures beyond number-living things both large and small”.
Psalm 104:25 NIV
Port Graham, Alaska, tribal community. Accessible only by air or water.
Seldovia, Alaska, birds eye view.
Seldovia, Alaska, birds eye view.
The Homer Spit.
Our bear sighting was in Hallo Bay of the Katmai National Park and Preserve.
Our safe pilot and bear guide extraordinaire, Ben, of Alaska Bear Adventures.

Where I went for dinner when my legs just didn’t want to walk anymore. (Thank you Don and Dorothy. 😉)

Link to the bear photos.

Remember, “not all who wander are lost”. J.R.R. Tolkien

The RV Lady

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