Wednesday, June 18, 2014

These Ain't No Fozzies...

Early morning with the sea planes - I love this shot
It's hard to even explain what an unbelievable day we had last weekend.  It was National Geographic live, right in front of our faces.  We booked a tour on a seaplane to go check out the Brown Bears we live in such close proximity to, but somehow still haven't seen in person yet.

I asked for some recommendations from  local friends, and Sea Hawk Air was the suggested company to go with, so we paid our arm and a leg, booked our day & off we went.

What an experience.  Well worth the scratch!  We ended up flying over to Katmai National Park & Preserve, which is about an hour flight across the Shelikof Strait to mainland Alaska.

 We flew over Kodiak, past the village of Port Lions, & over the notoriously treacherous Shelikof to Katmai National Park
 Photo credit: Karl Musser [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons 

Our flight was smooth, and the weather was perfect. - Clear, sunny, and about sixty degrees.  The scenery was absolutely stunning.  You'll have to forgive my picture overload in this post.  There was just so much beauty and I'm compelled to share.  Case in point...


June is the greenest month, so there was no shortage of vibrant, emerald mountains to gawk at as we cruised along at about 1,500 feet.  We zipped around at a pretty low altitude on the trip over, so the terrain and wildlife were easy to check out.


Gotta love Pilot Willie
I'd never flown on a sea plane before - what a big difference from a regular plane!  The take offs and landings were so smooth, you hardly even knew it was happening.  I'm sure the calm water and clear weather helped there.  That and our fabulous pilot, Willie.

Willie was great - personable and very knowledgeable about the geography we flew over, history of the area, and animals we saw.  And how can you not like a guy who essentially lives off the land in the remote Alaskan bush AND has a walrus mustache?  Classic, crusty old Alaskan dude.

On the flight over, we flew really close to the mountains. I'll just say I was only a teensy bit aware of how damn close we were to them.  And by teensy bit I mean slightly freaked out as I watched the wing seemingly skim by each ridge we passed.  The mountain goats we saw teetering along the edges of the cliffs helped distract me from how near we were to them.

Hubby had the front
I don't know how they don't fall - they stand so casually on the steepest ledges.  I'm thinking clumsy and mountain goat don't go together very well.

We had four other folks on the flight with us. - A couple from Nome and their parents/in-laws who were from Vancouver, Washington.  They were all taking a vacation in Kodiak for the week.

The plane was a de Havilland Beaver, and fit all 7 of us pretty snugly. It's known as a bush plane, used pretty often up here in the sticks. 

The de Havilland and our trusty pilot, Willie

We tooled around looking for bears from the air & landed in our first cove, called Geographic Harbor, once we spotted a few.  It was surreal to be as close as we were to these enormous beasts.  We're talking only 50 feet away at some points.  It was freaking cool.

Pooh bear?  Ummm....no!

We motored around within the coves and took off and landed a few times around the area, too.  At the end of the day, we saw somewhere around 25 bears both from the air and when we were down on the ground walking around in our sexy hip waders.  We rocked the hip waders.

My handsome hubby.  He makes redneck look good.  ;)





At one point, one of the seven or so bears we were watching wandered so close to us, I was able to get some pretty remarkable close up shots.  It was both exhilarating and unnerving to be right there with him.  How about this mother:

This is my favorite shot from the almost 200 pictures I took. - I love that he's looking at me

We were so close to him, we could hear his teeth crunching on
the clam shells he was digging up & eating. - It was remarkable & again a little unnerving.

We also had the opportunity to check out a momma and her cub running along the beach & digging for clams.  The cub was adorable, and kept standing on his hind legs and falling over onto his back.  We couldn't get that close to them, but I was able to grab a few shots with my soon to be replaced, not powerful enough for Alaska zoom lense:

I love the one on the left where he's sitting up watching his momma dig for clams

It's not easy to get across what an incredible experience it was to be in such close proximity to these wild, massive animals in their own habitat.   Instead of fumbling around trying to describe it, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

She was a pretty one

Check out that claw

Taking a drink

This is one that will go down in the lifetime memory book...and if any of you ever make it up to Alaska - cough up the dough for this one.  It's way worth it.

Ta-ta for now.

It was so pristine and peaceful.  Sweet ride - Could be an ad for de Havilland!



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