Goldilocks+30 bears

Up at the crack of dawn this morning and were off for what we hoped to be an amazing trip. Today we were going to go fish with the bears. I know that earlier I said that we’d leave fishing to warmer climates and the bear tours were on the pricey side but today we’re doing both. We figured we’re in Alaska, so we may as well go big or go home.

2011-08-28-Here we go.jpgHonestly though, just the short drive north from Homer to Soldotna really changes the tour prices drastically. Plus, we get to go fishing in an area packed with brown (grizzly) bears. To me this sounded like a no brainer – instead of walking around staring at bears we would be fishing on the same lake as them. It also gave us a whole bunch of reasons to be extremely excited about the trip. If we caught no fish, at least we would see bears. If we saw no bears, at least we would fly in a float plane! The icing on the cake this morning, was that for the first time in several days it was looking like it was shaping up to be amazing weather. We really couldn’t ask for more.

2011-08-28-Adventure calls.jpg2011-08-28-Preparing to leave.jpg2011-08-28-Ready to go.jpgWe arrived at the tour operator, picked up our fishing licences, got geared up, and hopped on a float plane with 3 other folks, our pilot and our guide. I think this was my favourite part. The flight was fantastic and the views were 360 degrees of amazingness. We spotted a couple of moose and bears from the air. I was intent on looking for whales as we crossed the bay but I think what I actually saw was only rocks or sand in the water.

2011-08-28-Fog on the water.jpg2011-08-28-Mount Iliamna (10 016 ft).jpg2011-08-28-Sandbar.jpgOur flight across the Cook Inlet took about 45 minutes and landed us on Crescent Lake in Lake Clark National Park. The landing itself was so smooth you barely knew you were back on the water. Once we disembarked, we found had been transported to another world – aside from being surrounded by towering mountains we had a glacier and Redoubt volcano in our sights. Pretty stunning.

2011-08-28-In a fog.jpg2011-08-28-Mount Redoubt (10 197 ft).jpg2011-08-28-Picturesque.jpg2011-08-28-Smoke on the water.jpg2011-08-28-Sun cresting over the mountains.jpgWithin minutes of landing we spotted two bears, and on the boat we spotted several more.

2011-08-28-Bear in the fog.jpg2011-08-28-Bear watching.jpg2011-08-28-Sleepy bear.jpg2011-08-28-Breakfast.jpg2011-08-28-Fishing by the glacier.jpg2011-08-28-Boating.jpg2011-08-28-Got a fish.jpg2011-08-28-Keeping an eye on us.jpgMost of the bears were still pretty quiet and lazy as the sun hadn’t yet crested the mountain and burnt off the fog. We went down the lake further into the fog and found our fishing spot. A quick tutorial on how to fish and we were off. As the day went on everything got more vibrant – you just can’t imagine hanging out in a more beautiful spot. In the warm sun we were surrounded by mountains with a glacier to our left, a volcano in front of us, bears fishing across the lake and paw prints everywhere. Just top notch.

2011-08-28-Bear tracks.jpg2011-08-28-Baby bear.jpg2011-08-28-Yogi.jpg2011-08-28-Close for comfort.jpg2011-08-28-Eagle volcano.jpg2011-08-28-Scratching post.jpg2011-08-28-Getting ready to fish.jpg2011-08-28-Ducks.jpg2011-08-28-All baited.jpgPretty early in the day I caught a silver salmon. Andrew followed shortly with his. We were both pretty proud of ourselves as first time fishers. We had no clue what we would be doing with all the food so we tapered off our efforts (or at least thats what I’m saying as we didn’t catch much else). The other three gents on our tour were pros, hauling them in one after another.

2011-08-28-A keeper!.jpg2011-08-28-A helping hand.jpg2011-08-28-Catch of the day.jpg2011-08-28-Silver salmon teeth.jpgCome lunch time, our guide broke out the grill and cooked us up a half of our salmon there on the spot. Throw in some corn and trout for good measure and man, were we ever happy.

2011-08-28-Cooking lunch.jpg2011-08-28-Looking for a meal.jpgWe continued fishing and were ultimately unsuccessful. I did catch a little trout but we released it. The whole day was peaceful and zen. I can see the appeal to fishing, not to mention the feeling of accomplishment when you actually catch one and filet it. I tried my hand at filleting and it turns out I’m reasonably decent at it – good to know.

2011-08-28-Casting for another.jpg2011-08-28-Monkey see2011-08-28-Monkey doBefore we knew it it was time to pack it in – we hopped on the boat and headed back to the plane, seeing more bears along the way. Our flight back was just as great although I was fighting the urge to sleep all the way back – I didn’t realise how exhausted I was!

2011-08-28-Ready for takeoff.jpg2011-08-28-A thousand lakes.jpg2011-08-28-Broccoli trees.jpg2011-08-28-Waterfall.jpgThe whole trip was fantastic. Over the course of the day we had seen about 25-30 bears, many jumping fish, some amazing sights and we got to fly in a float plane – one fabulous experience.

For the remainder of the afternoon we took a drive along the Kenai Spur Road up to Captain Cook’s Park and to find a spot to have a fire and couple of trees to hang a hammock. First things first, we grabbed a sushi snack and a bit of a nap in the sun. By dinner time, we broke out some wood and cooked up our catch for dinner. It turned out really well – we each had about two helpings before being absolutely stuffed. We watched our fire and the sun dwindle as the day wound down.

2011-08-28-View from the mainland.jpg2011-08-28-Sashimi (sort of).jpg2011-08-28-Amazing salmon dinner.jpg2011-08-28-Enjoying the sunset by the fire.jpg2011-08-28-Sunset over the Aleutian Range.jpgI think this is what we would call a perfect day.