Andrew and I visited our fourth Alaskan National Park, Lake Clark.Much like Katmai, this remote park is famous for brown bear viewing.Wanting the full bear experience, we chose to stay three nights in the park at Bear Mountain Lodge, a small family run camp on Chinitna Bay. Our stay at this bayside lodge was quite pleasant with each day consisting of breakfast, bears, lunch, bears, relaxing, dinner and more bears. We even had bear viewing while relaxing after lunch as a bear ran through the camp!
Bear Mountain Lodge supplied us with a fantastic guide, Eberhard Brunner, who is a wildlife photographer and naturalist.Thanks to Eberhard, we were able to capture some beautiful, intimate moments of bear interaction.June is a great time to see mother and cubs, and juveniles feeding on sedge and clamming.Several times we witnessed young adult siblings cuddling or playfully fighting in the meadows and beaches.It is easy to forget that these adorable creatures can grow into fierce, dominate predators.
For our last day trip from Summit Lake area, we traveled into Portage Glacier/Chugach National Forest Visitor Center and Whittier.In order to see Whittier, visitors must travel through a one lane tunnel, shared by cars and trains.The tunnel traffic is metered with preset times, for vehicles and trains, and requires a roundtrip fee of $12.I wouldn’t recommend paying the fee or visiting the town unless planning on taking the ferry or a day cruise.
Being a major seaport, the community Whittier is largely industrial with cargo lined streets and a ship filled bay. It is really small, dense area with few shops and food joints along the water. The largest structures in town are the abandoned Buckner Building, a historic army facility, and a block built condo.
Andrew, Ame and I found a nice green spot for a picnic lunch.After we followed the signs to Horseshoe Falls Trail, which led us by some rundown houses and a gate locked road.Feeling disappointed that we couldn’t hike the 1.5 mile trail or find any interesting shops in town, we headed back through the tunnel to view the glaciers near the Chugach National Forest Visitor Center.
Our first national park for June is Katmai, which is famous for historic volcano eruption and brown bears.This large, remote park is accessible only by boat or plane.While there are a handful of camps/lodges in this park, Brooks camp/lodge area is the only location to offer tours into the Valley of 10,000 Smokes.This valley is home to layers ash and pumice from the 1912 eruption of Novaruptus, which once covered 44 square miles of land with steaming fumaroles.
Since visiting Katmai in early June, well before the salmon run, we didn’t anticipate seeing anybears.Much to our surprise, we were greeted by a bear as our float plane landed in Brooks Camp.For the next four days, we had many spectacular bear viewings, including mating displays, a mother and her cubs (one cub she adopted), and playful, curious subadults.Andrew almost had an up close and personal moment with one new adult.
Along with the hike to see the Valley and view of the bears, we had a wonderful time interacting with the NPS rangers and the Brooks Lodge staff.With only about twenty visitors during our pre-season trip, we were able to really enjoy the friendly, laid back atmosphere of this National Park.
Andrew and I would love to thank the Brooks Lodge staff and Brooks Camp park rangers for welcoming us into the Katmai family.This was really an unique and phenomenal experience!