“Point, you’re going to want to retreat; Point, you need to retreat.”
During the day, park rangers stood sentry at various places throughout Brooks Camp, monitoring bear activity and sharing details with one another via radio. We were on the Lower River Platform, and the ranger had his binoculars trained on a spot across the Brooks River known as the Point. He was letting his counterpart know that a bear was headed their way.
In January, Dale and I experienced our first real earthquake, so now is as good a time as any to talk about a much more famous quake and one of the most significant events in Alaskan history—the Great Earthquake of 1964.
The shower doors clattered obnoxiously, waking us up. Wondering what our neighbors—normally so quiet—could be doing to at this ungodly hour, Dale climbed out of bed and wandered into the living room. Even in the dark, he could tell that the blinds and other objects were also shaking. This was no noisy neighbor; we were having an earthquake.
We stood on the Lower River Platform one afternoon and watched a family of bears for some time. The mama, a beautiful sow with blonde ears and a distinctive, upturned nose, occasionally lifted her head to check her surroundings and then returned to napping. One of her cubs lay beside her.
The other cub, however, had no intention of taking an afternoon nap.
It was September 9, and we were on the Brooks Falls Platform, where two Katmai Park Rangers, Dave and Becca, were broadcasting a “Play-by-Play” streaming video for the Bear Cams audience, with Becca narrating the activity. Dale and I were listening as well, hoping to learn a little more about Brooks Falls bears.
While staying at Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park, Alaska, we ate breakfast every morning in the lodge, and it was here, just outside of the dining room, that we had one of our more memorable bear encounters. Perhaps my favorite story from our trip, it precisely captures the wonderful chaos that is a visit to Brooks Camp.
The first leg of our trip to Utqiaġvik was a 100-minute flight to the oil town of Deadhorse. Barely a dot on the map, Deadhorse is one of three cities above the Arctic Circle to which Alaska Airlines flies, the other two being Kotzebue and Utqiaġvik (formerly known as Barrow).
We celebrated when we landed; we’d left Anchorage at 7:39 that Saturday morning, and now, not even 2 hours later, we were above the Arctic Circle! The plane sat on the runway for a few minutes, allowing us time to revel in this knowledge. A few people disembarked the plane and others got on; then the pilot made his usual pre-flight announcements, saying that we were “number one for take off.” This made us laugh—we were the only commercial plane in the airport. It wasn’t long before we were back in the air, and Utqiaġvik was just a short flight northwest along the coastline.