This week we have a wonderful family of 3 from Long Beach California, a teacher from Texas and a pilot from Idaho. They want to photograph bears, hike, take some fly fishing lessons and do a little fishing. They are here for true Alaskan Wilderness Adventure. It will be our privilege to provide them with that opportunity
09-04-2017 Day one
We all flew to Brooks Falls in one of the lodges float planes a DHC-2 Beaver. We Landed on brooks lake in the beaver and proceeded to put our lunch in the food cash and have a lecture on bear safety. None of our guest had ever seen a grizzly in the wildernesses before so Brooks is the perfect place to start.
10 min after we started walking to the falls we had our first bear encounter with a big momma bear and her 2 large cubs.
Jessica the teacher from Texas spotted the heads of 2 bears on the side of the trail. 2 bears 20 feet away were just looking at us from the brush. We were close but with the vegetation all we could see was their face and ears.
Everyone gathered into a tight group and we slowly backed up to a safe distance putting our backs to the brush/trees then started taking pictures after 2 minutes both bears disappeared into the trees.. Every one thought that was a cool way to start the trip.
Just as we started putting camera gear away a very large sow stepped out of the trees to our right and only 15 feet away from us. She started huffing and looking back over into the trees. She knew we were there but was not paying any attention to us. 30 seconds later 2 big cubs came out of the brush 15 feet to our left. We could not back up because of the heavy brush behind us. Now we were Between a huge momma grizzly and her cubs. As soon as the cubs were on the trail they walked rite past us and came within 8-10 feet of us. They were aware of us but did not care as they walked past us to rejoin mom who was already heading to the falls.
All the guest were in delighted shock. What a way to start a week of bear viewing and wild Alaska adventure
After a bit everyone gathered them selves up and we continued our hike to the falls.
There were 3 boars at the falls when we arrived. 2 standing below the falls and one on top. No fish jumping today and the bears were not moving a lot.
During the day we saw 3 sows with cubs and a few single bears. One cub on the shore down stream from the falls used a small tree as a scratching post. He stood on his hind legs with his back to the tree and was doing squats up and down rubbing his back against the tree.
Late in the day the sow with big cubs that we encountered on the trail came to the falls. Her and the cubs all fished 50 yards below the falls then took a nap in the tall grass. Total we saw 17 different bears today.
09-05-17 Day 2
We flew into Katmai and landed on a high alpine lake in true wilderness way above treeline. Not a sole around except for us and the bears. We arrived there early but got distracted eating blueberries.
One of thees days I may describe in detail the different methods of berry picking. But for now I will just list a few of the more popular techniques and let everyone use their imagination
Novice bent back style, Side crawl, 2 elbow belly slither, one kneed speed picker, Backwards blue butt slide and 2 kneed circle pick.
After turning our tongs and lips blue Chuck one of our guides led the group to the creek where the bears came and went all day. Nice images of 9 different bears were captured as they were in the creek eating fish
6 or 7 other bears were seen on different berry patches or in the distance walking on the tundra.
09-06-17 day 3
Last night we planed our next adventure and everyone wanted to fly into a remote part of Katmai and land in a pothole lake then do a traverse hike down a small salmon stream. Get picked up at a larger lake. The stream still has lots spawning salmon and a large number of bears fishing the stream.
The weather this morning was marginal for flying so we decided to go by boat from the lodge and fish until mid day. Our guides gave everyone fly casting lessons and soon all the guest were catching and releasing both salmon and huge rainbow trout.
After lunch the weather was still not good for flying so we headed up river. Stopping at the headwaters waterfall on the Tazmina river made for interesting landscape images. A short hike to the waterfall was also nice. Bald eagles and a nesting pair of Peregrine falcon were fun to see but not easy to capture good images.
09-07-17 Day 4
Today we flew in the beaver to a remote part of Katmai and landed on upper pothole lake. A traverse hike down a small salmon stream that was full of bears fishing. Over 30 different bears were seen and most were close enough to shoot with a 70-200 lens. The 500 mm lens that one guest had never got used. There were a few times that we had bears approach us closer than 20 yards but they were chasing salmon across the stream and did not care about us.
Everyone was picked up at a larger lake 2.6 miles from the drop off point. A 20 minute flight back to the lodge in the beaver and we were all eating sushi, smoked salmon, select cheese and other goodies from the snack table.
09-08-17 Day 5
Today we headed to Twin Lakes in Lake Clark National Park. On the :45 min flight we flew past 4 different bands of dall sheep. It is easy to see the brilliant white sheep against the dark shale or green grass slopes. Flying past them close like an eagle is something to experience and can not be described with words. We flew over and past rugged peaks and valleys filled with glaciers. The weather was perfect and very calm.
After a breathtaking flight we landed at on the calm turquoise waters of upper Twin Lake. We taxied to the shore near a small cabin that was built by Dick Proenneke
The story of the cabin and Mr Proenneke is captured in the documentary “One Man’s Wilderness and also a book. We explored the cabin and had a personal tour by a Park service employee that Knew Dick personally and has been the caretaker there every summer since Dick left. This is both a historic, unique and interesting place to visit.
From the shore of the lake we could see 17 dall sheep ewes and lambs grazing on the hillside. they entertained us while eating our picnic lunch.
After lunch we continued exploring and taking photos for a while then got back into the float plane. a 1 hour flight took us back to the north shore of Lake Iliamna where we landed at the lodge.
Dinner was prime rib and salmon. The vegetarian had a eggplant and tofu dish that also looked good. Desert was peach cobbler with homemade ice-cream.
We have all had a lot of fun together and are sad that we must say good by to our new friends tomorrow morning.
Travel Safe My Friends
Richard Proenneke built his cabin during the summers of 1967 and 1968 using mostly local materials and simple hand held tools. For many of these, he brought in steel parts and made the handles with local wood. When tools broke, he chose to repair them, rather than to buy new replacements. While his cabin is neither the first nor the largest ever built in the Alaskan Bush, it does stand out for his remarkable craftsmanship in building it, and the fact that he filmed the entire construction process. The cabin is a 10-foot by 12-foot structure built of peeled, round spruce logs, carefully saddle notched at the corners. It has a gable roof made of spruce poles, covered by sod and moss.There are three windows. One on the west side, 23 inches by 14 inches, is a single thin plastic panel. The other western window, also thin plastic, is the largest in the cabin, measuring 26-inches by 30-inches. Along the east wall is a 26-inch by 15-inch window. The handmade Dutch door includes beautifully worked wooden hinges and a wooden lock. A beach stone fireplace rises from the south wall.
Richard L. Proenneke’s cabin at Upper Twin Lake stands out for the remarkable craftsmanship that reflects his unshakable wilderness ethic. He built the cabin using only hand tools, many of which he fashioned himself.
Proenneke had originally covered his cabin and woodshed-outhouse with moss that he obtained within 25 yards of his site.However, moss requires a great deal of moisture to sustain itself on a roof and the relatively dry Twin Lakes environment was not conducive to that. Over thirty years Proenneke added more moss, dirt, and grass seed to his roof resulting in a thin amalgamated mat of all three components.
In keeping with his wilderness values, Proenneke lived in this cabin for 30 years without electricity, running water, a telephone, or other modern conveniences.
NPS Photo/ Kevyn Jalone
The log cache, or raised storage shed, is located eleven feet south of the cabin. It is 6-feet by 4-feet, built of peeled locally harvested spruce logs that are saddle notched. The cache sits on 9-foot poles. Proenneke accessed the cache with a ladder he hand crafted using local materials.
Traditional Athabascan caches in the region sit on much shorter poles, but they are typically located in busy villages where the activity of people and dogs help to keep wildlife away. Knowing that he would be alone in the wilderness, Proenneke chose to build his cache on taller poles to help decrease the odds of a bear breaking in. The tin wrapped around the poles is designed to prevent smaller rodents from climbing all the way to the top.