Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. No, we did not take our Airstream here – that would be hard without swimmies or wings. But I did fly over in a small plane from Soldotna for the purpose of shooting wildlife photos!
We camped at Klondike RV in Soldotna, which was a very nice campground, and only a mile from the airport where you go to fly into the park, and in my case to Silver Salmon Creek Lodge (Karen stayed back at the trailer with Dottie while I took off for my photo shoot).
With over a million frequent flyer miles in my career, I was unprepared for this flight, or more specifically, the landing. After a short 30-minute flight in a five-passenger single engine plane over some beautiful terrain, we made our approach towards a few buildings near the beach.
With my practiced eye, I looked for the airport – nada, emptiness, null set. Suddenly we banked around and made our approach – on the beach! After deplaning, I asked the pilot what he does when it is high tide. “Oh, I don’t come in here at high tide.” Duh. What was I thinking?
Lake Clark NP is a backcountry national park, meaning it is off the road system entirely, and only (realistically) accessible by small plane. Small planes are allowed to land on lakes, rivers, beaches, and other postage stamp sized landing areas. There are no roads in this national park. You can get to the park by boat via the Cook Inlet, but tides and weather will determine that very limited access.
I joined other photography enthusiasts at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge to explore and photograph bears in their natural setting. Like as if we haven’t been living in their natural setting for the last two months… David and Joanne Coray, Oliver and team do a fabulous job of making sure everyone who visits feels part of the family. Well done!
By the way, there are a lot of bears in the area, and pretty much they go where they please.
Anyway, this was an extra special event for me, and I got to experience grizzly bears up close. Because there is no hunting within this national park, and access is so limited, they do not (as I experienced first hand) see humans as a threat. Of course, this is not a license to be stupid – you still need to treat them with respect. But what an experience!
Typically photography is an individual sport so it was nice to share time, stories and ideas with others. I am also calling my broker next week and telling him to buy me stock in Canon and Nikon. Yikes – there was some bodacious camera equipment here!
What an enormous opportunity! For a photo-enthusiast like myself, this was close to nirvana. These bears do well because of the protections they are afforded, as well as their food supply, which includes grasses, berries (in a few more weeks), clams at low tide, and of course salmon which have not quite arrived here but will soon. Let’s let the big bears speak for themselves…
The juvenile bears were fun to watch as they just liked to play… oh, and eat.
And sibling cubs were just so adorable you’d like to cuddle with them… well, some of them…
Not exactly sure where we will be next, but we will keep you posted!
Post-script to Chapter 9: I grilled one of our Silver Salmon filets recently that we had fished from Resurrection Bay out of Seward. OMG!! This was SOOOO good! I hate to say it, but in my humble opinion, this was way better than the Copper River Red that we cooked up back in Chitina. The Silver Salmon tasted almost like swordfish – it was simply delicious and melted in your mouth. Ooh la la!