Rob and Syd's Western Canada and Alaska trip 2012 travel blog

Our plane and pilot Greg

Can't remember the name of this glacier but it was awesome seeing...

Our first bear sighting of the trip. Jumped in maybe 10 yard...

Came up empty. Hard to imagine with all the salmon there.

These are what our bear friends wanted.

Our 2nd bear, a black. Jumped in several times but no luck.

He really tried though.

Our 4th bear (no photo of #3), but this one didn't like...

This one came down with #4, but did ignore us as is...

He jumped in just at the front of our boat.

Syd and our guide Ben with a salmon she caught.

Coop Syd and I in our small boat. What a day!!!!!

Day 58, June 21, 2012

Today, we drove east several miles from Soldotna, first stopping at a chainsaw carver’s place. We saw him last time we were here and couldn’t remember where he was. I still think he is one of the best carvers I’ve seen. His pieces have some personality. The place is Alaska Carousel Carvings and his name is Scott Hanson. They have a carousel on the grounds where all the animals were hand carved by different artists. You can wander around and watch the guys working.

We continued on to the High Adventure Air Charters on Longmare Lake. Our flight was scheduled for 2:00 pm. We watched two of the float planes come in and the passengers (who were on a fishing trip) get off with their bags of salmon. Then it was our turn. It was just the three of us and the pilot, Greg. The plane will hold six. We roared off down the lake and took off. I love to fly, just not on commercial airliners anymore. We flew over many other lakes toward the mouth of the Kenai River (and our RV Park) and out over the Cook Inlet. We could see where the tide met the river water, two totally different colors. When we got to the far side, the pilot flew us over a glacier so we could see it from the top. The river running from the glacier is an opaque light tan, like cream with a little coffee in it, not the usual blue gray. It meandered over a delta like glacier water usually does. It some places, the streams ran red from some kind of mineral, and mixed into the glacier water producing very odd colors. We made a perfect landing on Big River Lake (with beautiful green water) and pulled up next to a small fishing skiff. We got into the boat and the passengers (all fisherman) that were already in the boat loaded into the plane and took off. Ben was our guide for the day. We cruised the lake watching for bears along the sides. None. We pulled up to the mouth of Wolverine Creek where there were 4 other fishing skiffs and 2 pontoon boats. These people are well orchestrated. The fishing boats are lined up in a row, bow to stern. The pontoons stay a little bit further out. Our boat went right up to the front and to the left of the fishers.

We were maybe 10 feet from shore in 2 or 3 feet of water. Red salmon are running this creek right now. The first boat can stay in place for 30 minutes, then moves out to the back of the line and the others move up. The salmon are collecting by the hundreds next to the bank at the mouth of the creek which is rocky and goes uphill from the mouth almost like a shallow waterfall. Apparently, when the salmon make their move, they work their way up these rocks for about a half mile before reaching another lake where they spawn. There were no bears around so we watched the fishermen and the salmon which was pretty entertaining in itself. There were a lot of bald eagles flying overhead too. Then a brown (grizzly) bear came out of the trees hungry for some fish. He checked the rocks first for scraps and found a piece of salmon that he ripped the skin off. Their favorite parts are the skin and the heads since there is more fat in those parts. Then he walked over to the right bank where the fish are gathered, looked at them and leaped in the water, totally ignoring the people in the boats only a few feet away. He kept trying to leap on fish and stuck his eyes under water to see where they were. He came within 10 to 15 feet of us. He never caught a fish and eventually wandered away upstream.

There was no more action for awhile so Ben took us back out onto the lake to a quiet spot and cooked us a couple pieces of salmon for a snack. Ben is from Indianapolis and has lived in Alaska for 13 years. When we went back to Wolverine Creek, everyone else was gone and we had the place to ourselves. A few minutes later, a black bear appears on the shore behind us. We watched him make his way along the shoreline to the creek. He watched the fish and then he leaped in too, jumping and splashing. He came up empty and never caught a fish. He disappeared upstream for awhile and then came back down. Ben moved our anchor and the bear thought it was a fish splashing and came after it. I seriously thought he was coming in the boat. Ben had to yell at him and bang on the boat to make him turn away. In between bears, Ben set up a fishing rod and let me catch and release a salmon. Cooper tried too but didn’t get one. We saw another brown upstream that didn’t come down. Then 2 more browns came out of the trees. The first one went right for the fish but the second, bigger one looked at us and started huffing and growling before moving back into the trees. Ben moved really fast, pulled our anchor and moved us back. He said that was not usual bear behavior and that was the only time in his 13 years he had a bear growl. He said he got a chill up his spine. We watched the other bear try to catch something but he left hungry too. On our way back to the pickup spot, we went by a big waterfall and saw another black bear in the distance. The float plane picked us up and back we flew over the Cook Inlet. It was awesome day. I didn’t even mention the clear blue skies and temps close to 70. I even got hot sitting in the boat in the sun. We all got our faces sunburnt. You never know what to expect around here.

When we got back to the RV Park, they were holding a Summer Solstice Festival in the pasture with music and food and craft booths. Today, Anchorage peaks out at 19 hours and 22 minutes of sunlight. Up north, it would be more.

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