The Journey into Brown Bear (and Bald Eagle) Territory
Well – we’re back from Alaska…almost. I’m writing this sitting on the terminal floor in Seattle as it is the only place to plug in a computer. I thought I’d describe the trip from Anchorage to King Salmon and then on to the Alaska Adventures Bear Viewing lodge. We left last saturday on a Pen-Air flight to King Salmon – we went a day earlier than our departure for the lodge as there are sometimes significant delays getting into the small Alaskan airports. We got to the airport in plenty of time as we did not have to clear security to get to the Pen-Air gates! I don’t know the rationale for that but what the heck. In any case, we were delayed about 2 hours due to aircraft maintenance – not bad considering there were numerous other flights to places like Dutch Harbor that had been delayed for a day or more. In any case we arrived at King Salmon after about an hour and a half flight and it was overcast and cool. We were picked up by a couple from the lodge and took the long drive to the King Salmon Inn – about a mile away. We checked into our very sparse and simple room (at $240 a night) and started looking if there was any wildlife to view in this VERY small town. We thought our best shot may be to look for Bald Eagles since we assumed they were plentiful and we hadn’t managed to find one in Anchorage. The locals told us the best opportunity might be back near the airport where the floatplane docks were on the Alagnak River. We walked back after donning the appropriate bug spray and indeed found a single bald eagle sitting atop an antennae tower above the dock areas – not the pristine wilderness shot I was looking for but at least it was an eagle….
That was pretty much the highlight of the day until we met one of our bear guides, Russ, later in the day to finalize arrangements for the floatplane and boat trip to the lodge. I should also mention that we had one the surprises of the trip when Alex (one of the folks that picked us up from the airport) turned out to be an old time acoustic blues guitarist and was performing at the Inn – it was a pleasure listening to him and it took the sting out of the very expensive room at the Inn. The next morning Russ picked us up at the Inn and took us to a local bar and restaurant, Eddie’s, to wait out a weather hold on our floatplane trip. After a very nice Latte, the ceiling lifted and we all left for Branch River Air and our short (20 min) floatplane trip upriver. The most notable thing that happened as we boarded our plane was that a dead brown bear floated past us down river – Russ told us that was very unusual and that it would surely be investigated by the fish and wildlife service. After a very nice flight we landed on the River and found that we hadn’t needed to search for eagle photos – we saw about ten of them on our landing approach and there were at least five within easy viewing distance of our “port” where we picked up the jet boat. We found out later that “eagle central” was about 500 yards up river and there were dozens of eagles frequenting that location!
As we waited for the second floatplane to come in with our luggage and the other lodge visitors, we met two of the other guides, Pat and Phil – both incredibly knowledgeable and intent on making our visit as good as it could be – more on that later. After a short while we were loaded onto the jet boat for the 35 min. trip to the lodge. Although we got two quick glimpses of brown bears on the trip, the boat was too heavy to slow down and do any viewing so we slalomed our way up the river to the lodge. Our first greeter was Winston – a rambunctious 125 lb. lab who will play a role in tomorrow’s post….