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Old 10-14-2015, 04:40 PM   #1
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Alaska 2015 - Bears, Bears, Bears, More Bears, and a Mountain

Hello All,

We did a fun trip this summer, and I thought you might enjoy seeing the photos. For those of you not familiar with my past reports, we are a retired couple who tries to take at least one trip a year to concentrate on photography. I'm Sharon, and my husband is Lou. Neither of us are serious photographers, we just enjoy the chance to get out and see nature and hopefully some wildlife.


We first went to Alaska in the summer of 2013 ... that report can be found here. This first trip was mostly on the water, as we cruised the Inside Passages for 3 weeks, with a short visit to Denali National Park at the end. One of the things we missed was bear viewing up close. We saw several, but always at a distance.


The plan for this trip came about on a whim. Back in June of 2014 we were contemplating a summer trip for 2015. We happened to be looking at a brochure from Van Os Photo Safaris - a company we've traveled with before. They just happened to have two trips - back to backs - that would take us bear viewing and into Denali to see fall colors. Sold!


We flew from Maine to Anchorage on August 22nd - a very long day as we were stuck in planes and airports for over 20 hours. But we arrived safely into Anchorage and a quick ride put us into our hotel for a few days - the Lake Front Anchorage Hotel (previously known as the Millenium).


The hotel is located on Lake Hood, home to the largest sea plane base in the world. A couple early morning shots of the lake, with the Anchorage Int'l Airport in the background:













The hotel is nothing fancy, but is very close to the airport, and has the benefit of a large open deck that looks out over the lake, where the sea planes are continuously taking off an landing. We enjoyed an afternoon snack on the deck:























We arrived in Anchorage two days early in order to give ourselves time to adjust to the jet lag. I know many of you would have been out and about, but we just took it easy as we prepared for our upcoming two week's of photo tours.


We met up with our first week's Tour Group at the Hotel on Saturday evening for dinner and introductions. It was a small group with 8 members and our leader. The plan was to fly out early on Sunday morning to Lake Clark National Park. We were going to be staying at the Alaska Homestead Lodge in Silver Salmon Creek.


This first map gives an idea of where Lake Clark National Park is located.


Lake Clark National Park is one of three very large National Parks in the Southern half of Alaska (Denali and Katmai being the other two). Lake Clark NP was established in 1980 and includes over 4 million square miles of wilderness – including glaciers, volcanoes, forests, lakes, and coastal wetlands. It is twice the size of Yellowstone but is one of our least-visited National Parks because you can only get there by small plane or by boat, and there aren't many places to stay if you aren't a backpacker or camper.



We will be staying at a small lodge on the coast called The Alaska Homestead Lodge. The reason most people come here is to see and photograph Coastal Brown Bears in their natural habitat. Salmon fishing also draws people to Silver Salmon Creek and Lake Clarke NP. More about how that works out once we get there. Coastal Brown Bears are technically not Grizzly Bears. but the terminology is pretty loose. Grizzlies are a type of Brown Bear, but typically they live inland. When we think of a big bear, we probably think of a Grizzly Bear. But, Coastal Brown Bears are usually larger than Grizzlies and can weigh 1,000 lbs. Coastal Bears have access to more protein, especially salmon – so they tend to outgrow their cousins, the Grizzlies.



The first part of this trip will be all about seeing bears. The second week's tour took us to Denali National Park. It was with an all-new group of people and a new leader, but was conveniently scheduled just one day after we returned from the bear viewing adventure.


Up Next: Less Text and More Photos !!!

Last edited by shazza; 10-14-2015 at 05:53 PM..
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Old 10-14-2015, 06:28 PM   #2
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Oh boy! A Shazza report! Thanks so much for posting this. Looking forward to the photos of the bears and of Denali, too! Sounds like a fantastic trip.
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Old 10-14-2015, 07:32 PM   #3
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Woo hoo! Excited to see another of your TR's! And how cool to go on a trip to see/photograph bears!
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Old 10-14-2015, 08:18 PM   #4
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Signing on! We just did an inside passage cruise this summer and it's made me want to see much more of Alaska at some point.
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Old 10-14-2015, 09:35 PM   #5
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I was so excited to see that we'd get to follow along on your return to Alaskan. I love bears as much as giraffes so I can't wait for the photos to begin.
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Old 10-15-2015, 12:58 AM   #6
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Great start! We did our second Alaskan cruise with Disney this year and we want to go back and do a third and perhaps see a bit more of the state, so your trip report will be really helpful as I start to think about that trip, even if it is probably about three years away.
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Old 10-15-2015, 05:25 AM   #7
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I am so excited about your report and to see more of your stunning photography.
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Old 10-15-2015, 06:03 AM   #8
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Great start Sharon! Can't wait to hear (and see) all about it!
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Old 10-15-2015, 11:43 AM   #9
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Oh boy! A Shazza report! Thanks so much for posting this. Looking forward to the photos of the bears and of Denali, too! Sounds like a fantastic trip.
Thanks, Laurie - I'm hoping the process of sharing will motivate me to go through these way-too-many photos!

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Woo hoo! Excited to see another of your TR's! And how cool to go on a trip to see/photograph bears!
Thanks, Pam!

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Signing on! We just did an inside passage cruise this summer and it's made me want to see much more of Alaska at some point.
That's exactly what got us interested in seeing more of Alaska - it's a wonderful state.

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I was so excited to see that we'd get to follow along on your return to Alaskan. I love bears as much as giraffes so I can't wait for the photos to begin.
Well, I do believe you might be tired of bears by the end of this report

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Great start! We did our second Alaskan cruise with Disney this year and we want to go back and do a third and perhaps see a bit more of the state, so your trip report will be really helpful as I start to think about that trip, even if it is probably about three years away.
I imagine our time in Alaska overlapped, but we never saw any cruise ships. You definitely need to save some time for land touring.

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I am so excited about your report and to see more of your stunning photography.
Thanks! Hopefully you'll find the subjects of the photography interesting

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Great start Sharon! Can't wait to hear (and see) all about it!
Thanks, Marnie. And, here we go ...
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Old 10-15-2015, 12:12 PM   #10
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Our First Day with the Bears at Silver Salmon Creek

Let me get this out front - there will be a lot of photos in this report. And, I've culled many more than I am showing. So, do feel free to do a quick skim when/if it gets repetitious.

We were up early Monday morning (I may have been off a day in my first post) to take a short ride to the airport where we were catching up with Alaska Air Taxi for our 1hr 10min flight over Cook Inlet to Lake Clark National Park.



Seriously, I thought we were taking this old DeHavilland. Nope, apparently it's used mostly for freight hauls. We were in an eleven passenger Otter - and it wasn't a sea plane. How were we landing??? Oh ... we were landing ON THE BEACH






The flight was uneventful and we had some nice views as we flew over Cook Inlet. We had good views of Mount Redoubt, the volcano that occasionally drops ash on Anchorage:








Coming into the Silver Salmon Creek Area, we could see the Coastal Area where we would be searching for bears, as well as miles of beach:










We landed safely (and quickly - the Otter drops fast and can take off fast due to its large engines). As soon as we unloaded, another group hopped on for their ride back to Anchorage.





We hopped into these carts - pulled by a 4-Wheeled ATV - for the journey to The Alaska Homestead Lodge. These carts would be our best friends in the coming week, as they were used to haul us and our gear around the area as we chased the bears.





Some of our friendly group members - the fellow in red is our leader (Perry Conway - an experienced wildlife photographer), and the rest are a Canadian family - the nicest folks! Dad, son, and Mom. Mom was not a photographer, but was along to see the bears. We had another father/son duo, and a gentleman from North Carolina. Couldn't have asked for a more compatible group.





Our first view of the Lodge, our home for the next 5 nights. Our group were the only occupants. They did have a couple of day tours where people flew in for the day, and they served lunch - but it never impacted us. I'll have more photos of the interior later in the report.





After a quick visit to our rooms, we met up again for our first venture out into the wilderness. We had the same guide the entire time - Chris was a sweetheart who went out of his way to help us see as much as possible.





Lou has apparently entered story-telling mode and it's only Day 1 ...





Looking back towards the Lodge; there are two main lodges here that take in clients for bear viewing (and fishing). There is another lodge near the beach that also hosts fishing clients. And then, there are a number of flights that come in for day tours, but it was never crowded.








We drove up and down the beach, and all around the creek, but didn't see a single bear. Hmmmphhh ... what's this about practically being run over by bears when you get off the plane??? We did see an eagle as we headed back for lunch:





Here we are, scanning for bears. Actually, I think the guys were checking out the abundant salmon in the creek. We had to ford this stream several times a day, and often the guys would have to get out of the carts and walk. Lou grumbled so much about it, we named it "Lou's Crossing." (and laughed hysterically by the end of the week, every time we came to the creek).









Disappointed, but still filled with anticipation for the rest of the day, we arrived back at the Lodge for lunch. And, what a treat. Chef Michael had created a lunch menu with bar-b-que'd pork with freshly made rolls, several salads, and COOKIES !!! This young man was super talented, and did wonders with limited ingredients. (We had no vegetarians in our group, but were told it was no problem to accommodate most dietary requests).



So there we have it ... the first part of Day 1. Wait, no bears ???!!!! What kind of a bear trip report is this? Hold on, I need a brief break, then we'll be back to see what the afternoon brings.
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Old 10-15-2015, 12:27 PM   #11
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Great start! Excited to see all your wonderful photos!
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Old 10-15-2015, 01:00 PM   #12
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Great start. Love the pix
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Old 10-15-2015, 01:35 PM   #13
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What a shame you didn't see any bears immediately, but I'm hoping that's soon rectified....
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Old 10-15-2015, 01:36 PM   #14
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I agree - what kind of bear TR is this - I haven't seen a bear yet! A great start Sharon and I look forward to reading and seeing more.
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Old 10-15-2015, 02:40 PM   #15
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Great start! Excited to see all your wonderful photos!
Thanks, Mayra!

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Great start. Love the pix
Thank you for joining in.

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What a shame you didn't see any bears immediately, but I'm hoping that's soon rectified....
I know ... I promise you we will see a bear ... sometime ... somewhere ... before this trip is over!

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I agree - what kind of bear TR is this - I haven't seen a bear yet! A great start Sharon and I look forward to reading and seeing more.
Ha! I guess it is a barely there bear TR
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