Saturday, August 19, 2006

Back to Katmai

Katmai National Park is an incredible place. Even if you have never heard of it, you've seen the pictures of bears catching salmon at a set of falls. That scene is why most people come to Katmai.

It's a spectacular place that, like a lot of Alaska, you can't get to by road. We took a plane from Anchorage to King Salmon on Pen Air, then onto Katmai by floatplane.

Honestly, the flights are incredible. I'm always stunned by how colorful Alaska can be -- from the Caribbean blue of a volcanic-fed lake to the vivid green of the muskeg. On this flight, you get to see both of those as well as fly over some of the most dramatic mountain ranges you will ever see in your life.

We eventually landed on a misty beach in Katmai National Park, gateway to the "Land of 10,000 Smokes". The first thing that we all needed to do was to listen to a bear orientation video. It was pretty basic -- don't feed the bears, don't get close to the bears, don't run away from the bears, etc.

I'll tell you, though, I'm very glad we had that orientation, because we saw a LOT of bears, up close!

Some of my favorite parts of the trip:
1) Imagine walking out of the bathroom like Frank's mom and seeing a bear walking across your path about 10 feet away!
2) Watching the bears for the first time at the falls. A mom (pictured above) was teaching her younger cub how to fish.

3) The Land of 10,000 Smokes Tour was incredible! If you don't know, the land of 10,000 Smokes is named after an botanist viewed the aftermath of the Novarupta eruption. Just a huge amount of ash has built a strange "Grand Canyon"-like scene in this unlikely place:

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