6/13: Are There Any Bears in Alaska?

June13-1We were picked up at 7am by a nice young lady from Rust’s Flying Service.  We knew we wanted to increase the odds of seeing bears on this trip, so we booked a fly in – fly out tour at the Lodge on Redoubt Bay.  This wasn’t the best time of year to see bears, and we knew that going in. (We did see bears on our cruise, but were hoping for closer viewing.)

On the way to Lake Hood, where we would catch a float plane to Redoubt Bay, we spotted a moose as we got close to the airport. Our driver stopped and backed up so we could get a better view – still hard to see, but fun nevertheless.

It was red float planes-a-plenty at Rust’s.  We were on a large DeHavilland Beaver, and the skies were clear as we took off from Lake Hood.  Lake Hood is the world’s busiest sea plane base, and is located adjacent to Anchorage International Airport:









Not long after lift off, our pilot pointed out Beluga Whales below us:



Uh Oh, what happened to clear skies and sunshine?





I had the co-pilot’s seat, so had a good view as our pilot was deciding what to do.  He tried to find a way through the dense fog, and circled for about 10 minutes.  Did this mean we had to abort and go back to Anchorage?  He tried to get under the fog, but gave up and flew back to better visibility.





He told us we were going to divert to Lake Clark National Park; we would do some sight seeing and check back to see if the fog had cleared off the lake.  This turned out to be an unexpected bonus to our adventure.  Another National Park checked off the list, and some very interesting views, since there are glaciers here:


15 minutes later we were going to try again for Redoubt Bay.  This part of the flight was not for the weak – we made quite a few ups and downs while turning to get under the clouds.







We made it!  There’s the small lodge where we’ll start our bear hunting tour.  We were all relieved to arrive safely, and had a short time to collect ourselves before getting in a small boat to search for wildlife:



There goes our plane – hope he makes it back to pick us up this afternoon.



The lodge is an upscale backcountry lodge.  Not fancy, and no indoor plumbing, but they obviously cater to their guests.  Our guide (I can’t recall his name, and when zooming onto the name tag on his shirt, all I see is “Staff.”), said he was optimistic about our chances today – they’d seen a small black bear on the porch of one of the cabins just this morning:



There were 6 of us going out to catch some bears this morning.  There were 3 guys from Sweden, and a lady from Australia. They were all Travel Writers and their trips were sponsored by one of the Alaska Tourist Agencies; Lou & I were probably the only ones there on our own dime.  The boat we were on was plenty big enough for our group (we’re on the second boat – not the little fishing skiff):





The weather was just perfect, and we started seeing wildlife right away.  First, a loon:



And then a juvenile bald eagle, very close to the boat:





The first place we stopped was a prime location to see bears, and it was also a prime target for fisherman.  We (maybe just me?) were surprised to hear the Silver Salmon were already running in this area, and several times a day they would fight up the small falls in this part of the bay.  That was the most likely time to see bears.

We watched the fishermen:



And, I got a lucky shot of a Silver Salmon leaping from the water:







We cruised around the bay, saw some more wildlife – only birds or water fowl.  We did see a beaver lodge, but no beaver:





The trumpeter swans were enjoying the sunshine, as were we:



A giant mossie –



We stopped at a boggy area – this is where there was about 2 feet of “land” floating on top of the water.  Our guide invited folks off to jump around on the bog – this was a big hit:





A bald eagle flew over us to see what all the frivolity was about:



We cruised around some more, going back past the lodge and then back to the “sure thing” bear location:







No bears for us today.  One of the other guides said they’d seen a Mama black bear and two cubs at this location about 30 minutes before we got there.  We made our way back to the lodge, where we used the facilities and were treated to a nice lunch of salmon burgers.





After lunch, it was time to return to Anchorage, and our pilot did return for us.  The journalists were discussing how to write up their article, because they’d had such a nice time and they didn’t want the lack of bears to reflect poorly on the Lodge.  We felt the same.  How ironic – we thought we might not see bears because it wasn’t salmon season.  Then we see a Silver Salmon and no bears!  We had a good laugh, and no regrets at all about taking this side trip.

The flight out was uneventful, and the gallery below shows some of the interesting patterns we saw coming back into Cook Inlet.



It was late afternoon by the time we got back to the Clarion.  We were both whacked.  Later that evening, we decided to just grab something to eat from the vending machine in the hotel.  Oops, only sodas.  I slipped over to Benihana and they kindly prepared some take-out sushi rolls for us.  Less than $20 and we had a great last dinner – they were the best and freshest sushi rolls we’ve had in a long time:



Early to bed on our last night in Alaska – we have a shuttle to catch in the morning … groan … now that we’ve adjusted to the time change, a 4am departure time was not appealing.

Categories: Alaska, Land Tour, Week 4

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