Ode to Katmai Bears

Ode to Katmai Bears

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Make no mistake, the brown bears own Katmai. At best you're a guest on this part of the Alaska Peninsula, at worst you're dinner. Warnings aside, if you're one of those adventurous souls who can't imagine heading to Alaska without seeing one of its most famous residents, Katmai guarantees you won't leave disappointed—as long as you go during the summer salmon run.

I've got a thing for bears, which means I've been to Katmai. I dropped in by floatplane for one day, eight hours, of exploring the area. I went because it was my 40th birthday, and I wanted the iconic photo of a bear catching a salmon leaping into his gaping mouth atop Brooks Falls. The salmon run was slow that day though; it was brutally windy. Still, I saw thirty bears, some sows with cubs, during my time on the ground with them. I had no pepper spray or ranger or guide. No one escorted me across the 1.5 miles of trails leading to the viewing platforms. Heading to Brooks Lodge for lunch, I walked the single track lined with trees, hefting my camera equipment, afraid to miss the action just to grab a bite, but also curious about what I might see along the way. Around a blind corner, a broad face appeared, not 20 yards away, and loping toward me. A cloud of dust flew off the bear's paws. He wasn't attacking. His affable expression told me he was on his way from point A to point B and I was simply in the way. I had a split second to step off the path and turn my back to him. The air moved as he passed. His paws slapped the ground. Dirt swirled at my feet.

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Adventure with a BIG A?

slideshowbearThere are adventures with a capital "A," those with a little "a," and many in between. Adventure remains as subjective as musical taste or restaurant selection and is ultimately defined solely by the participant. So that begs the question: Do you rate your adventures by level of difficulty or danger or the rarity of the experience? Is it an activity or state of mind, a journey or destination? Must it be truly remote or required technical expertise or an extreme level of fitness in order to qualify?

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Navigating through a Living Map

Loving seabirds of the Arctic, a paradise rich with life

It’s still dark when I crack my eyes open in the red light of my shipboard quarters, climb down from the top bunk and immediately work my way to the porthole to investigate how far we traveled overnight. I’m spending three weeks off the coast of Alaska on a 420-foot polar-class icebreaker, the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy. If my calculations this morning are correct, we’re in the lee of the island and I don’t want to miss a moment.

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My View North

Light has Returned

Whether the skies are clear or cloudy, daylight is our constant companion now that high summer is here. If you arrived in Alaska fresh from southern climes where night is dark and day is light, the midnight sun can be a shock.

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The Bridge

Seven-year-old Charlie pulled his red wagon, loaded with dirt, from Fourth Avenue through downtown Anchorage, out across the Alaska Railroad yards to the muddy shore of Knik Arm.

There his father and scores of Anchorage residents and civic leaders pushing wheelbarrows, carts and other dirt-laden vessels dumped their loads onto the mud flats, the symbolic first step toward the construction of the bridge to Point McKenzie. Charlie turns 55 this month and recalled the parade with some humor. “The idea has been around a long time,” he chuckled.

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