Category Archives: Alaska

The Tamarack

I have a soft spot for the tamarack tree. It’s a tough, ornery, slow growing tree, that can be found in the low, boggy areas of Interior Alaska. Our population is distinct, in that it is 430 miles from the closet neighboring tamarack grove in the Yukon.

Tamarack is the Algonquian name for “wood used for snowshoes”, which makes it even more endearing. It is a pioneer tree in the north. Often the first to take hold in a swamp or bog, or after a fire ravages through a lowland area.

In the autumn, the tamarack turns a brilliant gold, often long after the birch and aspen have lost their leaves entirely.


The Bears of Katmai

Now that the salmon are starting to return to Brooks River, the bears are coming into Brooks Falls to fatten up. The Katmai Bear Cam is getting to be a little more interesting of late too.

There are approximately 2200 brown bears within the boundaries of Katmai National Park & Preserve at any given time. The Alaska Peninsula has more bears as residents than people. Most of the bears that come to Brooks Falls are numbered, as a way to keep track of them. Many of the regular bears receive names from the rangers and biologists that study them.


#410

The oldest known bear in the park, is Bear #410, she carries the nickname “Four-Ton”. A 29 year old female. Four-Ton is one of the largest females in the park. When the salmon are running, 410 is fishing, and she doesn’t care who is around. She often fishes in the midst of large males, and she doesn’t seem to be bothered by people either.


Otis

For fans of the Bear Cam, Bear #480 is a favorite. Fondly known as “Otis”, 480 is the oldest known male bear in the park at 22 years old. Otis just recently returned to the falls, and was seen catching a nice salmon and taking it back to his island to eat in peace. He is known for having the most efficient salmon catching technique of the Brooks Falls regulars.


New cubs

The first spring cubs of the year have shown up for fishing lessons.


#503

There’s a new bear in town, and he has been saddled with the number 503. Look at those claws.


#634

Bear #634 has also returned to Brooks River. Known as “Popeye”, 634 is an aggressive bear, and is known to steal fish from smaller bears.

It should be noted, that 2018 is the 100th Anniversary of Katmai National Park. Happy birthday!

Photos credit: Katmai National P&P


Bear Walking

It is wise to never limit any one of your senses when hiking in Alaska.

This comic reminds me of a time I went for a walk with my dog after a miserable day at work. I was not far from town, but my mind was focused on the terrible day I had, and not on the trail.

My dog and I came around a corner, and spooked a large bull moose. It should never have happened, there was plenty of opportunity for me to spot the moose long before I did, but I wasn’t paying attention. The moose lowered his massive rack, and charged directly at me. I was within mere feet of that mighty bull, when my yellow lab charged the moose, barking up a storm. The bull turned his charge, and my dog sauntered over to a bush to lay down his scent. His job was done, disaster adverted, it was time for more important things.

The entire event lasted only seconds. The bull stood by the forest edge, giving me the stink-eye. My heart was pounding through my jacket, and my Labrador wanted to know why we were flushing moose and not grouse.

It was a lesson I never forgot. If you can’t keep your mind on the trail, stay home and burn your dinner instead.

Comic credit: Nuggets by Jamie Smith


Brewing on Cleveland


Mount Cleveland from Concord Point; Photo credit: AVO/USGS/John Lyons photographer

Lava flow was seen in the crater of Mount Cleveland this week, about 80 meters across. With lava flowing over the active vent, the odds of an explosion to clear that vent has increased substantially. With that in mind, the warning level on Cleveland was raised to Orange.


Great Sitkin Volcano on 17 June 2018; Photo credit: AVO/Alaska Airlines Captain Dave Clum

Great Sitkin Volcano, also on the Aleutian Chain, which had a minor eruption on June 10th, is still smoking. AVO has Great Sitkin’s warning level at Yellow.


Methane Pocket

While working on a job a while back, I suddenly was aware of the sound of running water. Almost like the sound of a fountain. Interior Alaska had a lot of snow over the winter, so there was standing water everywhere, but moving water had me curious, so I went off towards the sound.

I came to a water hole that only fills up after break up. By the end of June it would probably be dried up. But now, it was full, and in the middle of the large puddle, was a water fountain. Initially, the stream of water went up 3-4 feet above the surface of the puddle. By the time I decided to hike back to my truck to get my phone, it had dropped down to 5-6 inches. From the time I heard the water, to the time the puddle stopped percolating, was a good 90 minutes.

A pocket of methane below the service had suddenly found a way up to sunlight, and the release put on a good show. These pockets are being released all across the Arctic, and I live in a hot bed of that activity.


Kenai River Kings


Salmon fishing the Kenai River

The salmon reports continue to be bad. Alaska Fish & Game shut down king salmon fishing on the famed Kenai River. It had been down to catch & release on the Kenai, but now even that is closed. The latest closure has the entire river shut down for the remainder of June, at that time the lower portion of the Kenai would open, but the upper river would remain closed.

An extremely poor return of adult kings to the river prompted the closing. As of 17 June, only 2182 kings had swam past the Fish & Game’s sonar counter.

This is the second major closing of salmon fisheries in as many weeks.


The Kenai River


Happy Summer Solstice

The view from the ridge at midnight, on a hike to Tolovana Hot Springs, over the Solstice.

This was either the 1am sunset, or the 3am sunrise, as seen from the hot springs.