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Found 7 results

  1. In early July 2017, the missus and I spent four days at the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary in Alaska. Access to McNeil River is via permit only, with permits issued following an annual lottery held in mid-March. Only 10 guided permits are issued for each four-day permit block. For the past five years, only 3% of applicants for our time block, July 5 through 9, won a permit. As first-time applicants, I guess we got lucky. Over the next few weeks, as I pour through and process way too many images, I'll try to give a summary of the sights for those who may be interested in visiting some day. What we were there to see, of course, was brown bears, like this fellow with a chum salmon: In the next installment, I'll try to provide a little more background and give an overview of the location and the practices in place to enable safe, close-encounter viewing of very large furry critters. -tom a.
  2. Inspired somewhat by @Swazicar's current trip report and some excellent BBC footage I am seriously considering a 7-10 day trip to Alsaka next year. I would like to spend time observing and photgraphing bears but would also like to take to opportunity to observe whales and orcas if possible. There a number of operators availble from an internet search but would be grateful if anyone had any specific recommendations. I have had a look at the trip reports forum and there are a couple of helpful reports there but with the exception of the report from @Spalding there is not too much that is recent.
  3. My wife and I were supposed to go on our 20th wedding anniversary to the Congo to see the lowland gorillas - but the political turmoil of the recent election had the guide we were using stressed enough that we thought visas etc would make the trip to risky for the investment; so we scrambled and managed to get a room at North Face Lodge (http://campdenali.com/) at mile 89 of the Denali NP road from Monday 8/1 through Friday 8/5. I have been to AK 4 times prior fishing at Bristol Bay Sportfishing in Iliamna (www.bristol-bay.com or www.alaska-grizzlies.com). I like to fish is an understatement! My wife had never seen AK before - so I twisted Jerry Jacques' arm into letting us stay at his lodge for a couple of days of (essentially private) bear viewing in Katmai NP/Preserve. We flew into Fairbanks on Saturday 8/30 and stayed for two nights. We stayed at a Best Western Chena RIver Lodge that is pretty close to the airport and backs up to the Chena River. The rivers were at flood stage - so swollen you couldn't fish them - and most road overpasses would need to be portaged as there was not enough clearance to get under the bridges. We rented a car and 'drove the area' as best we could. we had pretty miserable weather for most of our trip.....mid 50's during the day and 30's at night with a fair amount of rain and showers all week. There is an REI in Fairbanks - and we stopped and doubled up on our rain gear! we had dinner the first night at: Chena's Alaskan Grill....right on the chena river. was nice! food is not inexpensive in AK either! it was raining the next day - so we got in the car and drove to http://www.chenahotsprings.com/ Chena Hot Springs. we didn't see much on the drive! Chena Hot Springs is cool to see I guess.....you aren't getting a lot of enthusiasm out of me for this drive. We also drove through North Pole AK.....was miserable weather - and honestly off season and not too much to see on a rainy Sunday.....we had lunch at the Cookie Jar... http://www.foodnetwork.com/restaurants/ak/fairbanks/cookie-jar-restaurant-restaurant.html a DDD location - and well worth the small wait we had to get seated. the weather broke a bit in the afternoon and we stopped at Creamers bird center... http://www.creamersfield.org/ we managed to see some sand hill cranes and other waterfowl. Dinner the second night was at Brewsters: http://brewstersalaska.com/ this was actually a fun place to eat for us. we like to sit at the bar - and the bartender was a Russian immigrant.....he and the others at the bar made for a memorable dinner...was a lot of fun. We dropped our rental car off on Sunday night back at the airport - so we could take the hotel shuttle on Monday morning to the AK RR train station........... ..... Honestly - the AK RR experience was OK....we scratched it off of our life list of things to do......and probably won't go out of our way to do it again. we upgraded to first class on the 4 hour ride to Denali. ....if you want to see the first class experience - do it on the shorter (less expensive) leg of the trip between Fairbanks and Anchorage - and mostly sleep on the 8hr leg from Denali to Anchorage. We got to the parking lot / bus pickup on Monday at noon. The bus left about 1pm to make the 89 mile journey to North Face Lodge (about 7 hours with rest and animal sighting stops). Unfortunately there had been a major land slide (news worthy size in the lower 48) that had taken out a good section of the park road. This meant the drivers had a small window of opportunity to get through road reconstruction spot - and canceled the normal en route picnic that Camp Denali provides......bit of a bummer as it is supposed to be a neat picnic experience. but - it is what it is! if I forget to post some pictures - here's a link to a google photo album of some of the 5100 pictures I took on the trip: https://goo.gl/photos/A63JwBHQwEPkTndw9 https://goo.gl/photos/A5SVrDbpYZe3u4M4A Mammals and birds were sparse in Denali! Every sighting was an event - and everyone had their eyes peeled on the bus trying to find things........we lucked out and saw Denali the first morning of our stay at North Face Lodge (NFL). It is an amazing sight. The staff and amenities at NFL are really top shelf. Access to canoes on wonder lake....really nice hiking poles, gators and mtn bikes.....and the food is awesome....not to mention heat and flush toilets! Camp Denali is a little more rustic with personal cabins and outhouses.....and a more elevated view of Denali.......the hiking is really cool....and NFL/CD offers 3 levels/grades of hikes each day to choose from......it's really a wonderful place. We had nice sightings of caribou, moose, ptarmigan, loons, and misc other animals......the blueberries were EVERYWHERE - and they were delicious.....walking on the tundra is also cool.....tundra walking is encouraged and you are encouraged to walk so as to not make a path/trail (scattered). OK. So we took the bus back to Denali (town) on Friday - and caught the noon AK RR down to Anchorage...coach....and slept a good chunk of the trip..... We stayed in Anchorage at a Ramada......not the greatest - but worked. You can read all my reviews on tripadvisor.com if you are really interested. We walked the streets of Anchorage for a day....it's cool to see - but nothing amazing (if you ask me) (maybe I have been to Anchorage too many times now and I am starting to get a little biased. We walked the sunday market.....looked in some of the art galleries and had some brew pub food.....yadda - yadda......can't wait to get on Iliamna Air and get to the next stop!!! The bears were clearly the highlight of the trip...by this point my wife had unfortunately come down with bronchitis and was not feeling well. Fortunately she pushed through! Bristol Bay Sportfishing is a great place to do a lot of varied things off of the grid. Fly in - fly out everything (weather permitting)...if socked in - there are just enough roads to explore and fish locally if need be. Fortunately we managed to get to the bears for two days. For all you nature photographers - Art Wolfe spends 2 or 3 weeks every year at the end of July photographing the bears and walrus. That's right. Walrus! The walrus are a pretty decent flight away (90 miniutes to two hours) from the camp - and I think only the super cub (wheels) can make the trip to land on the beach...that means only you and the pilot in the plane. Jerry may have another plane with more passengers and wheels - I am not sure. speak with Jerry if you want to try and see walrus. Not too much to say about the bear experience except it was the highlight of the trip. the places we went we were basically all by ourselves....we were even dropped off with camping gear in case the weather socked in and he couldn't get the plane back in to pick us up. not that far fetched on the first day as it was raining and cold.....just as we got the tent up to get out of the weather some, we heard the beaver coming in to get us..... One last note: Mooses Tooth Pub and Pizza is well worth it in Anchorage....we stopped coming and going http://moosestooth.net/ was really good!!!
  4. This is my first trip report. I July of 2015, I spent 6 nights in Alaska. Three nights were spent in Denali NP and three in Katmai NP(Brooks Camp). Denali NP: The highlight of Denali was seeing the amazing Mt.Denali(McKinley) without any clouds over it. We camped in Wonder Lake Campsite, the closest you can get to the mountain without climbing it. Other than Mt.Denali, the overall area was very scenic. Wildlife of Denali: On our bus ride we had two bear sightings, one too far way to photograph, and one crossed the road too quickly to photograph. We spotted several caribou. Our best wildlife sighting was a moose in a lake right in front of Mt.McKinley. Do not go there expecting to see too much wildlife. Our bus driver had been driving for three months in that year and had seen wolves only twice. Next up, the bears of Katmai.
  5. We traveled to Alaska from August 2 through 11, 2013. Itinerary: Fly from SFO to Anchorage at 8 pm (a 5-hour flight but we got an hour back). Arrive in Anchorage at midnight - sleep at motel near airport Day 1: back to airport by 8 a.m. for 9:30 flight to King Salmon, then King Salmon float plane to Brooks Camp - arrive by noon. Day 2: Brooks Camp Day 3: Brooks Camp - fly back to King Salmon then Anchorage; drive to Seward Day 4: Seward Day 5: Seward then drive to Soldotna Day 6: In a.m. Fly to Lake Clark National Park, Silver Salmon Creek Lodge Day 7: Silver Salmon Creek Lodge Day 8: Fly back to Soldotna; drive slowly back to Anchorage, stopping at scenic points and spending time at AK Conservation Center. Fly home at midnight Our family, consisting of me, husband and our two daughters ages 11 and 14 spent a wonderful 8 days in Alaska in early August. We were not lucky with weather (rain or drizzle almost constantly - when the sun came out on the last day it almost seemed strange to see it there!) but we were pretty lucky with wildlife sightings. There were some weather-created problems and a mechanical problem causing a plane cancellation leading to a bad travel delay but still, it was an excellent trip. Day1: After not a lot of sleep at our motel, we boarded a 30-seater plane from Anchorage to King Salmon, about an hour flight. We then had to switch planes which entailed taking a little van from the main airport (which just consisted of one room with very little in the way of amenities - more about that later as we were to become intimately familiar with that room) to the even smaller room with even fewer amenities by the water to wait to board our float plane. Little waiting room by the float plane dock: IMG_0933 Sign in above room re max occupancy, evidencing local sense of humor: IMG_0932 Float Planes: IMG_0935 The float plane was a fun experience. This is coming from the person who’s very anxious about flying in small planes. But someone who was on the plane with me told me she looks at it this way: float planes feel much safer than other small planes because they can actually land on water, and we’d be going over so much water that there was a really good chance that if the plane had to make an emergency landing, we’d be over water! The take off and landing were really smooth, and it was a very pleasant half hour or so flight. We were excited to arrive at Brooks Camp, in Katmai National Park, where we hoped to see bears. And actually, it wasn't very rainy that first day. Here's Mr. SafariChick and the SafariChick kids: IMG_0944 As soon as we’d had lunch and put our things in our room, we set off to visit the Falls and look for bear. We’d been watching the bears on the wonderful bear cams run by Explore.org for weeks prior to the trip, and had become familiar with some of the bears that visit frequently. The Rangers there come on to the chat under the cameras and answer questions, and have a bunch of resources about the bears online, including a list of the most commonly seen bears there with the ID number (and sometimes nickname), photos, and identifying marks or characteristics. I was hoping to see some of the bears I had come to “know” from these cams. Before getting to the Falls, one must cross the Lower River floating bridge. At this time of year, we didn’t see any bears in this area, but in September, when the bears come back for the dead and dying fish, apparently there will be many there. We took some photos of ourselves in this picturesque spot. P1120927 P1020912 View from viewing platform at the other end of the floating bridge: P1020913 I had told some of the other folks who watch the bear cams that I’d be at Brooks, and the days I’d be there, and that I’d try to wave at the Lower River camera. I had to ask a Ranger where the cameras were as they weren’t readily apparent. (Hanging off of the viewing platform seen in photo above). I waved to the camera a couple of times during our stay, feeling a bit foolish and wondering whether anyone would actually see it. Turns out that they did and they took quite a few screen caps of us! I was touched. Here are a couple: Bridge 4 Bridge 6 To get to the Falls it’s another mile or so walk, through pretty woods. We’d had bear safety training - the path we had to walk on to get to the Falls is the same one the bears take to get there - but we didn’t see any bears on the trail. IMG_0949 Before we went to the main Falls viewing platform, we stopped at the other platform at the spot called the Riffles where you get a longer view down to the Falls - didn't see any bears from that vantage point, but it was pretty and fun to see the spots we'd seen on the cams so many times but now in person P1120984 There is a long, raised walkway to get to the main Falls Viewing platform P1120979 and some educational displays along the way P1120981 When we finally got to the Falls Viewing platform - well actually, just before we reached it while still on the walkway, we saw a crowd of people pushed against one of the railings and looking over at the embankment. There was our first bear! He (or she?) had caught a salmon and was eating it off on the side of the river, parallel to the walkway that leads to the Falls viewing platform. It occurred to me that if one were watching the cam, one wouldn’t see this and it made me wonder how much happens beyond what the cams see. We watched this one bear for an hour or so. s/he went back in the water and caught another salmon, took it off to the same area to eat, then lay down and spent quite a while licking his/her paws and eventually settled down for a nap. We watched the napping bear for a bit, and then went back to the Falls, but nothing else was happening and the kids were antsy so we headed back to our cabin. Here are a few pix: P1130015 P1020954 P1130069 P1130078 P1130082 P1130087 Nap time: P1130126 This one is not a good shot of the bear but shows our vantage point and where it was compared to the walkway - this was when it was heading back to the Falls after eating the first fish IMG_0958 and the crowd - including me in the brown fleece happily peering through my binocs - watching the bear while it was eating: Looking at Bear from Walkway with Binos Next post: a little more information about Brooks.
  6. In case you're interested in seeing bears fishing for salmon in Alaska but can't make it there this summer, there are some live cams run by Explore.org that are now live for the summer. 2 out of the 3 are live and the one at the Falls should be live within about a week I believe. Links here for the two that are live now: http://explore.org/#!/live-cams/player/brown-bear-salmon-cam-lower-river http://explore.org/#!/live-cams/player/brown-bear-salmon-cam-the-riffles and this is the one at the Falls, not live yet but should be in about a week http://explore.org/#!/live-cams/player/brown-bear-salmon-cam-brooks-falls There are reports of a couple of courting couples being seen and there is at least one mama bear with 3 yearlings that all survived from last year. More bears should be showing up in the next week or two.
  7. I thought I started this already..but I guess not. Below are the first videos of Safari Alaska..when you get caught up, then I shall take you into Denali National Park where the bears are The first video takes a look at all the wildlife they help at the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center..part zoo (the ones that can't be returned) and also part rehab. They have a very interesting Bison program that will soon see these animals released, which as we know often programs say they are intending to release animals but it is all talk, where this one seems to be on the up and up, and most likely easier to do since they are bison and not predators. In Seward, we stayed at "The Farm" a very nice B and B just minutes out of town and we did the 8 hour Whale Watching tour through Kenai Fjords Tours which was excellent. All food in Alaska is $$$ (most has to be brought in as well as all prices up there are expensive to the lower 48, but the Whale Watching cruise/dinner was a good price and well worth it. and more Humpback whale action... And then the wife and I just walk around Exit Glacier and drive to Denali..(hence the low views for this video..) If this series doesn't get good views my wife will be fired as really I never needed a co-host anyway * all filmed in Aug 2012 in very good warm weather for Alaska.

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