A note about this post, which describes several bear encounters we had during our 2017 trip to Brooks Camp, Alaska: I published a shorter version about a year ago. Since then, I’ve contemplated doing some freelance writing, so I took an online writing course. I removed the post from our blog and used it as my submission, and, with some helpful feedback from the instructor, I fleshed out the article, creating something that might encapsulate the Brooks Camp experience for the average newspaper or magazine reader. In the end, the instructor felt it was ready for submission and gave me the contact info for several publications that I could submit it to…but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t give away ownership of a piece that I love so much, a piece that describes my favorite Katmai experience. So here it is, rewritten and with A SECOND bathroom-related bear encounter for your enjoyment!
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.
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).
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?
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.
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 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 were shaking. This was no noisy neighbor; we were having an earthquake.
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.