The map was useless. This backroad, like the others we’d driven that evening, had once led to somewhere relevant—a barracks maybe, or a bunker, or an underground hospital—but now it was no more than a groove in the tundra.Continue reading “Adak, Alaska, Part 1: History, beauty and destruction”
We watched through the windows as four bears, a mother and cubs, strolled up the path. These were Alaskan coastal brown bears, one of the largest land carnivores in the world, and Dale and I had just ducked into the bathrooms to avoid them.
It was October 2013 and I was in Charleston, South Carolina, for a three-day speech pathology symposium. At the end of that third day I was fried and more than ready to return to our hotel. 2013 being pre-Uber, I called for a cab. “We’ll have a taxi there in five,” the dispatcher told me.
So this happened: While visiting one of the last Blockbusters in America, I had the opportunity to hold Russell Crowe’s “groin protector” (i.e., jockstrap), and it’s all thanks to comedian John Oliver (and Mr. Crowe himself).
Here’s the story:
We’ve just returned from Adak, Alaska, a place that is equal parts rotting civilization and pristine wilderness. You wouldn’t think the two could co-exist, but they do, in Adak, as evidenced by the the 300 or so bald eagles that call the island home. Not only did we see them soaring high in the air and gliding near the water’s surface, but they also perched on the eaves of decaying buildings and rusted street signs. It was both beautiful and jarring.
Like most visitors, Dale and I took a floatplane to Brooks Camp, which is in Katmai National Park and can only be reached by air or water.
Dale had been on a floatplane before, but this was my first time on such a unique form of transport, and it was very, very cool. When the experience starts out with a photo-op like this, it’s gotta be great, right?
In a recent post, we talked about our trip to Seldovia, a remote town that can only be reached by air or water. There are several options for getting there, and we chose the Seldovia Wildlife Tour, a sightseeing excursion with Rainbow Tours.
This boat tour, which was seven hours round-trip from Homer to Seldovia and back, took us across Kachemak Bay, an incredibly rich habitat that supports many wildlife species, from sea birds to sea otters, seals, and porpoise as well as whales. And the view—of the glacier-carved Kenai Mountains—is spectacular.
While in Seldovia, we watched as five master carvers used chainsaws to transform blocks of wood into amazing pieces of art. The Seldovia Craft Invitational Chainsaw Carving Competition, held annually on Labor Day weekend, was happening while we were there, and it was a treat to witness these unique artists in action. Continue reading “Seldovia, Alaska: Artists with chainsaws and a carving competition”
Seldovia isn’t on an island, but it might as well be—it’s practically surrounded by water, it can only be reached by plane or boat, and its single main street is lined with small businesses owned by locals, with nary a fast food joint to be found. The minute we stepped off the boat, I felt myself relaxing into the place. We were in the hands of the locals, and the stresses of daily life were behind us. There was no place to be and nothing urgent to attend to. The only thing missing was my flip flops (it was too chilly); otherwise, the trip was perfect.
No blog series about the bears of Katmai would be complete without a profile of 410.
Any bear at Brooks Camp has the capacity to cause a human traffic jam (see our recent post), but Bear 410 (nicknamed “Four Ton” because she’s one of the largest females in the park) goes above and beyond. So renowned is her ability to shut things down that she’s been called “queen of the bear jams.” Continue reading “Katmai National Park: Bear 410, queen of the bear jam”