Day 25, Tuesday, June 22 - Katmai National Park, Hallo Bay
I am skipping a few days here because I want to blog on Quartz Creek Campground in Cooper Landing in another post.
We met Chris Day, former owner of Emerald Air and our guide today, at 8:15 at the office. I asked her earlier this year to guide us, even though she and Ken had sold the Emerald Air business to Sarah and Craig Elg this Spring. Chris is a naturalist, a bear specialist, and has been guiding for 24 years. We got fogged out of Katmai last year and didn't get to fly over. We thought her experience would keep us from getting into harm’s way while we were bear viewing. She worked it out with the new owners to guide us. After we arrived at the dock, we got fitted for our hip boots. Us, the Bergers, the new owners, Craig and Sarah, and Chris loaded up in the 1956 Beaver float plane and took off for Katmai National Park. It took about 75 minutes to get there. The views of the snow covered mountains were spectacular. We flew over three glaciers, Douglas, 4 Peaks, and Hallo. As we approached, we could see the brown bears from the air. We landed on the water at the south end of Hallo Bay and waded to shore. We walked in through small streams, over driftwood logs, through high grass to get in to the tundra where the bears could be viewed. Chris is also quite the horticulturist. She pointed out various flowers, let us taste some of the edible foliage, as well as pointed out various items that have washed ashore. To our surprise there is still a layer of oil from the Valdez Exxon oil spill several inches under the sand in low-lying wet areas. We walked and watched bears for four hours. We probably saw 12 to 15 bears, some older males, females with one or two cubs, one female with her spring cub (which was the first viewing this Summer of a Spring cub), and a pair of siblings traveling together that were about 5 years old. Chris was great about getting us close to the bears, letting the bears relax, then moving closer. Most of the bears seemed comfortable with us being there. When Chris viewed a bear’s behavior as nervous or stressed, we didn’t get too close. We were within 20 feet of a couple of bears. They all had names from her previous years of viewings, Peaches, Popeye and Cocoa were a few. It was a fabulous day, just to be there surrounded by brown bears and watching their behaviour. Together, Ed and I took almost 650 pictures. The plane picked us up at low tide, but we had to hurry because the tide was coming in. We held hands as we waded out 100 yards to get to the plane. On the return flight, we saw several whales. We landed in Homer at the Emerald Air dock where we turned in our hip boots and put away our photographic equipment in the motorhome, and began the three hour drive back to Quartz Creek Campground in Cooper Landing. We got back around 9:30. We felt so blessed to have seen so many bears and to have had such beautiful weather while out on Katmai.
The Beaver and Homer Spit from the air.
A female with her twin yearlings. They were just so cute.
The Spring cub and our "lunch log".
The females are fuller and rounder with shorter legs. The males faces are longer and they are more gawky when they walk.