“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.
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.
Katmai National Park is known for its brown bears, but the origins of the park are centered around something entirely different, an event you’ve probably never heard of even though it was one of the most significant geological occurrences of last century.
I’m referring to the volcano Novarupta, which erupted in 1912. As part of our visit to Brooks Camp, we took a tour to the site of the devastation, a place now known as the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. We also learned a great deal about the most powerful volcanic eruption of the 2oth century.
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.
Alaska’s Katmai National Park is an immense, wild place, and there is much to see here, but most of it is undeveloped and challenging to get to. That’s why the destination for most people is Brooks Camp, a little bit of infrastructure and comfort in all that wilderness. The camp, which consists of a lodge, campground, and other facilities, is the most accessible part of Katmai, but “accessible” is a relative term. Even a place as established as Brooks Camp takes effort to reach, and here’s some of what we learned as we planned our trip.