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Thursday, June 27, 2019

Bears, bears, everywhere bears!

Tuesday we drove from Seward to Homer and had a delay of about a half hour due to the wild fire west of Cooper Landing along the Sterling Highway.  As we drove up to where the delays started the young lady was just dragging the barricade across the road!  After watching a few locals turn around we were the first vehicle in line to be escorted by the pilot car through the road construction and the smoke.  The smoke was not too bad and the road construction was typical of what we have experienced in Alaska.

We were able to snag a waterfront site right on the Cook Inlet at Mariner Park on the Homer Spit.  It is very windy on the beach, we watched several kite surfers having fun.  There is a deepwater port further down the spit where the cruise ships dock.  We watched one heading out Tuesday night and another one coming in Wednesday morning.
Our coach about in the middle of the others.

It was finally time for our Alaska Bear Flightseeing Trip on Wednesday!  We met our guide, Mark, with Bearfoot Tours at the Homer Airport after lunch.  We knew we would be a small group, he only takes a max of 4 people with him as pilot.  What we didn’t know was the other two passengers with us were a newlywed couple and he is a pilot for a cargo airline flying a 737 and she is an Airline Stewardess for Alaska Air.  So we were well taken care of.

We left the airport with low clouds but quickly climbed up above them.  It was a nice smooth flight along Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet.  We flew across the Cook Inlet and along the beach in search of Brown Bears (Grizzly Bears).  Before long we began to spot several along the beach and our trusty pilot made a smooth beach landing.  Out we all climbed from the plane, grabbed our jackets, cameras and binoculars and off we went down the beach.  Before long we spotted a couple of large male bears in the water digging for clams.  Our guide was armed and ready in case any bear began approaching us.  He has done this for many years and knows the behavior to watch for.

Then on we walked into the grass away from the water.  Just over the berm were several Mama bears and their cubs!  There was a Mama and her triplets to our left.  A Mama and her twins directly in front of us on the edge of a pond.  A Mama and her baby just to our right.  There were Mamas and their yearlings across the pond from us.  There were other female bears here there and everywhere within sight.  At one point we counted over 30 bears within our sight at one time.  AMAZING!  We were able to observe these bears in their natural habitat.  It was so interesting to watch them as Mama grazed and the babies played.  We found out that bears are not social, they each have their own space.  If one bear begins to walk closer to another bear, she will usually just move away.  We watched the baby bears playing but they would not play with the other bears except for their own siblings.

At one point we saw the Mama bear with the twins move away and on up the rocks into a wooded area.  Our guide told us she was moving to a cool place to nurse her cubs.  While we were watching her and the cubs move up we spotted another lone female coming up from the grassy area where they had been.  There was another group of tourists sitting where we had been standing and this bear walked almost all the way up to them, within 10 feet.  We were amazed at how close she came to them and then just kept moving along to the beach into the water.

We walked further up the beach and to another wooded area overlooking a meadow.  We spotted and watched about another dozen or so bears there.  We did not see any cubs in this meadow.

On our flight back we flew over a volcano.  It was a beautiful sight to see.  There were slides of lava and so much snow on top of the volcano.  We could see two areas where the volcano was steaming.

It was a fabulous 4 1/2 hour trip!  We can now check off another item on our wish list.  YES, we saw the Grizzly Bears in their natural habitat.  Such an awesome sight to see.  We were so close to them.  We did not bother them and they were just fine with us being there.  Thank you, Mark, for a fabulous Bear trip!

Just one more item to check off, the Northern Lights!  But we’ll have to wait until September for that.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Thar she blows!

We have enjoyed our time here in beautiful Valdez.  To cap it off we visited the free Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum Thursday.   The museum contains one of the largest collections of Native Alaskan art and artifacts in the world.  It includes Alaska wildlife mounts (including polar bears), carved Ivory and baleen pieces, even a Narwhal tusk!, masks, dolls, fur garments, other Natural History of Alaska, and lots of arrowheads.  Maxine and her husband moved to Alaska in 1947.  She had collected these artifacts and art for many years.  In 1969 she assumed ownership of the Eskimo Museum in Fairbanks and continued collecting until the mid 1980’s. She donated her collection in 1998 to Prince William Sound Community College.  The new museum housing her collection opened at its current location in 2008 after being located at the Valdez Airport for ten years.

We left Valdez on Friday to make our way to Anchorage.  We traveled the Richardson Highway north to Glennallen where we turned west onto the Glenn Highway which would take us all the way to Anchorage.  A nice paved pull out just over the Eureka Summit was a nice overnight spot with beautiful views of Chugach Mountains and the Nelchina Glacier to the south and peaks of the Talkeetnas to the northwest.  Now just another 130 miles to Anchorage.

Saturday we arrived in Anchorage for just an overnight.  Cabela’s allows RV’s to overnight in their parking lot, they even have a dump station available.  So we pulled in to their parking lot and went on inside to grab lunch and do a little shopping.  We also paid a visit to Costco and Target before the day was done.  Yes, we left a few of our dollars in Anchorage.  BTW Cabela's fudge is pretty good!

Onward to Seward Sunday morning.  We were pleasantly surprised to be on some of the best roads yet in Alaska.  We arrived at the Stoney Creek RV Park about noon and got settled in to our site.  Shortly after lunch we were treated to two young moose strolling through the empty camp site right next to us.  Grab the camera!  We finally have moose pictures.

Late Sunday evening, it never gets dark, we drove out to visit downtown Seward and to view the Exit Glacier.  We decided to take the short half mile hike to a view point rather than hike all the way to this glacier, there were lots of people making that hike.  We got back about 9pm with still many hours of daylight ahead of us.  So thankful we have dark shades to sleep at night.

We left the campground at 8:20am Monday for our Whale Watching trip out of Seward with Capt. Nick.  Northern Latitude Adventures has two small boats for these trips; we chose the smaller 26’ one.  We arrived to meet up with a family of four from Michigan who would join us on the boat.  Just 6 passengers, great!  Captain Nick gave us the normal boat safety briefing and off we went.  

Along the way we saw Puffin, Otters, Eagles, Harbor Seal, Sea Lions and lots of Sea Gulls.  We finally reached a spot where there were lots of birds circling and feeding.  THERE, right in front of us, surfaced a whale!  It was a nice humpback and Capt Nick said he thought he knew him, had seen him before.  He said he can tell by the markings on his tail.  I was surprised how shallow the cove we were in, 30-70 feet! Didn't think whales would be that shallow.

Well we were very lucky to spend over half an hour with this whale that continued to surface over and over for us.  It would blow, surface and submerge.  Then a couple of minutes later, do it over again and again.  One time Cindy yelled:  bubbles!  Yes, our whale was blowing bubbles underwater in its effort to catch his lunch.  Then it surfaced very near our boat to treat us.

The word was out before long and other boats began arriving to join in our excitement.  We graciously moved out so they could enjoy time with OUR WHALE.  We sure did.  

Hope you enjoy some of our pictures from today.  It was another fabulous day in Alaska!

Tomorrow we’ll move to Homer.  There is a fire that is causing a problem with the highway so hopefully we’ll be able to get through.  And I just booked a bear viewing flight for Wednesday!