5:26am I am up and almost ready.  Barbara is getting there….. 6:00am And yet another very nice buffet style Breakfast. 7:45am Bags out and ready for pick up by hotel staff.  Two of the bags will be stored here and one of the bags will go with us. 8:08am We’re on the Magic Bus again and heading to the airport. 9:50am We are at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.  We made it through check in.  Check in was a touch strange.  Not only did they weigh our suitcase but they also weighed us.  I still had my backpack on so the woman told me to just get on the luggage scale with it on. While waiting someone noticed a large bird on the runway.  Far enough away to be tough to see and Id.  Binoculars were packed for travel so I took a photo and zoomed in.  It was an Osprey.  Once it took flight we couldn’t tell if it was carrying a branch or had netting stuck on it’s talons. 10:50am We are on the plane.  A fairly small plane.  One seat on one side of the aisle and two seats on the other side.  It is flight #203 to King Salmon.  The flight is supposed to be about 55 minutes air time. The Pilot came over the PA system to say that we would be seeing the Kenai Peninsula on the right side of the plane (the side I am seated on).  Beautiful scenery.  Could see glaciers from up here. 11:13am The plane is in the air and we are on our way to King Salmon. Noon: We have landed at King Salmon, which is on the edge of the Katmai National Park and Preserve. 12:20pm We are now on a shuttle bus (not the Magic Bus) that takes us to the Katmai Air Office on the river.  That is where we will pick up a float plane.  What I would normally call a sea plane. We got to the Katmai Air office, got off the bus with all our luggage and they weighed our duffel bag outside and put a tag on it.  Justin watched every move and ensured our stuff went where we were going. Then we all headed into the office and gave them our names.  They checked their list, then each of us, with all our equipment and hand carrys got on another scale.  At that point we were done and checked in and just waiting for them to call our name to get on the float plane. 12:50pm We are on the Otter Float Plane. 1:00pm We have taken off from the King Salmon River and are in the air on our way to Brooks Falls. Thanks to Barbara I have the following information about the float plane we were in (she took a photo of the sign).  DHC3 Otter, #434, delivered on Feb 18, 1963.  It was shipped in crates to the Congo, then flown to Yemen where they were assembled and entered into RCAF service flying UN missions. In January 1964 the plane landed near Saudi Arabia with engine trouble.  The Saudi government bought the plane and used it for 16 years. In early 1980 it was put up for sale and bought in 1989 by an Air Canada captain.  The plane was disassembled and shipped to Calgary, Alberta then reassembled.  The plane was then put in storage until purchased by Katmai Air in April 1990.  It has had several upgrades (engines, electronics, floats…) and still flies for Katmai Air. Note: Because the wings are mounted on the top of the fuselage and my seat is directly under the wing my GPS is not working.  I won’t be able to ID the spot photos were taken. 1:16pm We have just landed on Naknek Lake near Brooks Lodge.  The plane then taxied to the beach near the lodge. 1:28pm We are standing on the beach next to the float plane, as our bags are passed out to us.  We have already seen 5 Brown Bears.  In fact a couple Subadults wandering the beach kept us on the plane for over 5 minutes waiting for them to move on. FYI:  Subadult is the term used to describe a young Brown Bear.  It is weaned and it’s mother has recently pushed it out to fend for itself.  This is at about 2 – 3 years old.   1:30pm Justin guides us directly into a safety video.  Everyone has to view the safety video on Brown Bears and safety.  At the end of the video they give everyone a pin that is supposed to be worn at all times to prove that you have seen the “Bear School” safety video. 1:51pm We left the video cabin and walked directly into the dining room for lunch.  We were a little late but they were kind enough to bring out some more hot food for us.  Buffet style meal.  All the meals are cafeteria/buffet style.  Nothing great but not bad either. 2:20pm Lunch is over and we are going to our rooms to drop off our stuff and kinda get settled in. The building our rooms are in is a large building with 5 or 6 room on the front of the building and the same on the back. Our rooms are very rustic.  Each room has two sets of bunk beds, for 4 people per room.  Justin divided us up into a men’s room, a woman’s room and our room with Justin and Barbara and me. The main part of the room has the bunk beds and a table and chair.  The back of the room is separated from the main room by a curtain where there is a sink, shower and toilet in it’s own room. 2:53pm We are walking, as a group, to the Brooks Falls viewing platform. 2:57pm Brown Bear scratching post/tree, Spruce bark beetle damage and the boardwalk out to the viewing platforms. 3:15pm We are at the platform watching the Brown Bears catch and eat salmon. Note: Due to the amount of action, and the fact that it would take many pages of text to spell out what we saw from the platforms, I will let the photos speak for themselves.  Each photo will have a caption but no entries in this running itinerary. Note: On some of the photos you will see a name associated with a particular bear.  I am not psychic nor do the bears have name tags.  When Justin was just recently out of college he got a job at Brooks Park as a Ranger.  Part of his job was to sit and watch the bears from a tree stand next to the river, a little downstream from the falls.  He was to record which bears he saw and their activities.  He got to know them and, years later, can still ID some of them. Warning: Some of the photos show Brown Bears ruthlessly tearing into live Salmon.  It looks pretty savage and I did feel sorry for the fish being torn apart while alive. Warning II is the number of photos.  I try to make this a photo journal of our trips, not just travel pictures.  But when there is this much to see it is very tough to pick just a few photos.  I did whittle the 2273 photos we took down to just 120 pictures here.  Yes, the 2273 photos is what Barbara and I took between 3:15pm and 5:30pm during one visit to Brooks Falls Platform.  Sorry. 5:30pm We are heading back to the lodge with plans to return after dinner. 6:13pm Photo of Brown Bear from the porch of our cabin and we are starting to gather for the walk to the lodge for dinner. 6:45pm Dinner was pork loin or Sockeye Salmon.  While we were finishing up dinner the staff started singing Happy Birthday.  Most of us at the table started to look around to see where they were going.  What a surprise that they headed to our table and were singing to Carol.  It was her birthday and Justin arranged a cake for her. 7:37pm We are across the foot bridge but almost didn’t make it.  The whole attitude of this park is that not only do the bears have the right of way at all times, but, all interactions are to try and not change a behavior or deny the bears a meal. If there is a bear or bears in the area of the bridge the Rangers close it down to all foot traffic until the bear moves on… which can take a long time.  They have plans to build a new, elevated boardwalk so that the bears can come and go as they please and so can the people. 7:43pm While walking on the trail to the falls we saw Alder Flycatcher & White-crowned Sparrow and Common Redpoll. 8:00pm Photos of an interesting looking Dragonfly on the handrailing while walking back to the Brooks Falls platform. 8:03pm We headed for the Riffles Platform first.  Slightly different view of the falls and better look at the bears that that aren’t big or strong enough to maintain a place at the falls. Note: While at the platform a few people around me counted all the Brown Bears they could see at one time in/on/near the river.  The counts that I could hear were between 15 and 20. 8:12pm We migrated from the Riffles Platform to the Falls Platform for the rest of the evening. 9:30pm We spent 1.5 hours at the platform and are now heading back to our rooms. Note: The way the lodge does the rooms is that they are set up for 4 people.  Each room has 2 sets of bunk beds.  Justin has to figure out the room assignments.  We had 9 people and 3 rooms.  The way it ended up was there was Women’s room:  Chris, Carol and Charlene, a Men’s room: Ari, Milton and Howard and the last room was Barbara, John and Justin. 9:50pm We are diverting to the tower at the end of the bridge because there is a bear near there.  The Rangers are only on duty on the trail during the busy hours.  Now it is up to us, and Justin, to follow the rules. 9:52pm We are now headed back to the bridge because, from the tower, we could see that the bear we were watching turned and headed back into the woods.  It is safe for us to cross the bridge.  You have to stay at least 50 yards from all bears.  If it approaches you, you are expected to back away. 10:06pm We are back in the room and we are trying to figure out how to spread out enough to be able to find what we need but to still give Justin room and some privacy.  Would be so much easier if the rooms were for 2 people and we could be slobs (just kidding… kinda). .
July 30, 2017: Day 12
“Leave only footprints, Take only memories’ (…and maybe some pictures)
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Alaska Vacation
July 19, 2017 to August 2, 2017 The Ultimate Alaska Wildlife Photo Safari Barbara & John on Natural Habitat Adventures
July 30, 2017 Day 12
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