Aug. 5: Anchorage, Alaska. The next morning, we departed from Merrill Field on Lake Clark Air's 10-seater to fly 180 miles southwest to Port Alsworth's dirt runway. Mountaintops pierced the clouds like islands in the sky.
Changing to waders we boarded a six-person chartered seaplane. Soon we landed on a small lake and hiked to a river in Katamai National Park to watch brown bears catching salmon that had turned bright coral before spawning.
The bears charged and pounced into schools of salmon with varying degrees of success. When successful, the bear held the flopping salmon in its mouth, taking it to land to eat without interruption.
Notice how salmon change color right before spawning. This one won’t make it to romance.
One bear crossed the river stopping just 15 feet from us and ate the salmon, leaving only its head and beating heart.
Other sights: Two young bears test their mettle wrestling and fighting. We were startled to see a fishing guide and client walking downstream just behind the bears. The bears ignored them. The guide said he wasn't nervous, but his client said he sure was.
Our luggage was transported by boat from Port Alsworth across Lake Clark to Chulitna Lodge.
Chulitna Manager Steve Silber, former U.S. Marine and Rhode Island School of Design Graduate, helped book our trips. There were no neighbors within hiking distance, cell phone service or televisions. But there are flush toilets, showers, electricity, and satellite phone service.
Our second day, with Glen Alsworth as pilot and guide, we witnessed areas accessible only by a small seaplane. We observed in awe sights such as Mount Spur Volcano's steam rising from the center, (which we thought were clouds), to creeping glaciers whose crevices would be impossible to traverse until we landed near Lake Chakachamna. During a short hike to a waterfall the views from in isolated place were astounding. Flying back to Chulitna Lodge, the drainage of the silt and glacial melt made it look as if we were on another planet.
We spent a few days resting and relaxing in the quiet silence at Chulitna Lodge, where only the occasional sound of a seaplane or a boat broke the serenity. We walked along the lakeshore and sat on the porch observing the scenery.
Another day was spent fishing on Lake Clark. Susan caught a northern pike and we both had success fly-fishing. While fishing, an American bald eagle soared above and landed in a tree where classic snapshot served as a fitting finish to a unique and unforgettable lifetime experience.