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We rode in a boat that looked like the Minnow from Gilligan's Island on our journey back from Fox Island. The ride launched the second half of our journey, taking us back to Seward where we caught a bus to Anchorage by way of Turnagain Arm and a short stop at the entrance of Kenai Fjords National Park.
The "three hour tour" refrain from the Gilligan's Island theme song played in my mind during our short ride on the "Minnow." Threatening skies provided an interesting back drop to our trip but the seas remained manageable and we arrived in Seward shortly after we left without incident.
Part two of our Alaskan Safari was going to be all about bears and logistics. The next morning we would travel from Anchorage by commercial jet to King Salmon on the Alaskan coast. This tiny town would be our home base for several days as we road float planes back and forth into the Katmai peninsula along the southern coast of the main part of Alaska.
Katmai and the surrounding areas, you see, are famous for a natural phenomena involving grizzly bears. Normally solitary by nature, ranging across miles of territory alone or in small family groups of mother and cubs, grizzlies nonetheless congregate together during salmon spawning season to fish and bulk up for winter hibernation.
It's the salmon that bring them, massive numbers race into the streams of Alaska to spawn and die. The bears, and other wildlife, gather at the streams to catch them. Katmai provides the perfect environment for people to watch these bears as gather to catch salmon.
The male bears in Katmai reach nine feet in height when standing and the females, while smaller, are also massive. The spectacle at Katmai includes bears catching salmon as they leap up the falls. You may have even seen an image not unlike the one below in a nature magazine. We are standing on a raised platform next to the falls, not 100 feet from the bear.
Exciting to witness, to be sure, but this was not the highlight of our trip to Alaska's coast. Our guide, who has studied grizzlies for two decades and observed them on foot in the field many times, took us outside Katmai National Park to walk among a group of grizzlies.
On foot, walking single file through high grass and along a lake shoreline, we spent the morning observing and photographing the 29 grizzlies who were feeding, resting, playing and interacting in the grass, the water and along the shoreline.
The three below were on shore next to the grass less than 20 yards from us when I snapped this image. They seemed every bit as curious about us as we were about them.
So, stay with us as we journey into the wild center of Alaska and then journey down to the coast. Join us in Denali National Park and along the Alaskan Railway to Talkeetna and Girdwood. Witness the northern lights with us north of Fairbanks and the belugas in Turnagain Arm.
Visit Fox Island on the edge of the Kenai Fjords National Park. And, of course, stay for the finale as we become veteran Alaskan float plane commuters and visit the great grizzlies of Katmai National Park and walk among them in coastal Alaska.
* Photo note: While most of the images in these posts are taken with a Sony full frame camera, the first two images above (along with the first and last three images from last weeks post) were taken with an iPhone. The first image above is a composite of four images stitched together in post processing.
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The venture moola blog comes to you from Atlanta, Georgia. Find it at readjanus.com. Copyright Clinton Richardson.
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