Courtesy of the snow bound folks in Valdez, Alaska
I stopped by the grocery store on Friday morning, and was amazed at how many people wanted to encroach into my 6 foot bubble. I wasn’t even in the TP aisle! I wondered if people just don’t know what a six foot gap looks like. Lo & behold, the fine folks in Valdez have had the same thought.
In all honesty, this is the only time of year in Alaska where one sees only 457 mosquitoes in a space of six feet. Swatting season is just around the corner!
The dog “Bear” quickly captured the hearts of our little troupe. He came to us at full gallop whenever he saw us out and about in the village. At one point, I had been inside a home talking to the home owners, and when I came out, Bear was curled up in the arctic entry, right in front of the door. Bear was with me the rest of the day.
Bear was our mascot, guide, companion and ice breaker, all rolled up in one furry package. The locals all thought we were crazy: We either had a pack of dogs following us, or a pack of kids. Often we had a mixed following of each.
One of us even renamed him “Dimitri”, although he was obviously a “Bear”. There were some whispers of a dognapping, questions were asked about the dog’s owners. No one could tell us who owned the friendliest of village dogs. Finally, we asked one of the students at the school, who we saw every day, and who joined us for meals, whenever he could.
“Who owns this dog?”
“That’s Bear, he’s my dog.”
Of course he was! What a perfect match. Bear could have belonged to no one else.
There is something quite impressive about a Southwestern Alaska blizzard. We were out at the far end of the village, when our local guide told us that we had 15 minutes left to take cover. He had become incredibly reliable with his predictions, and we had already used up 3/4 of an hour from his first warning call. He had been counting down regularly after that first one.
Visibility had been shortened considerably, and it was obvious that we needed to take cover soon. Even Bear, our furry, four-legged companion, had left us to take his own cover at the 30 minute warning mark.
One side of the church…
… and the other side of the church after the storm.
By sunset, one could hardly see the closest building to you. The wind howled over, under and around the building that housed us. It was simply put: Intense. I can’t think of any time I have experienced such fierce winds. In Fairbanks, we rarely see much wind, the colder it gets, the calmer it gets. Out here in Newtok was a totally different animal. Which meant that we spent far too much time outside reveling in the chaos.
The next day, the kids were climbing up snow drifts against a couple of connex units and running the length of them, then launching off into the massive piles of snow. Backflips were par for the course.
Trails that we had been walking, now had steep drops, only to have us climb back up the other side.
We flew in on a Wednesday, and due to weather, another flight didn’t land at Newtok for the next 8 days. Weather permitting, Grant Aviation makes 2-3 flights per day.
Alaskans have been enjoying the recent snowfall combined with some relatively warm temperatures. Been out skijoring without your bear spray? State biologists are saying Alaskans may want to rethink that.
Due to the warmer than average weather and the availability of food, bears have not gone into hibernation just yet.
Black bears tend to start their winter hiatus in October, while brown bears like to hang around into November as they attempt to pack on every calorie possible.
This year, the bears seem to be not in any rush to turn in. Like always, it’s a good idea to pay attention out there, but don’t forget to keep the cabin site clean of trash. One brown bear in the Anchorage area has taken to raiding garbage cans this month. No one needs that, especially the bear.
Since we’re in the middle of Katmai Week here between The Circles, I wanted to share this photo, although probably not for the reasons many would think.
The pic above was taken of two fishermen in Katmai National Park. I’ve found myself in a similar situation while fishing Alaska’s rivers. Once was with my Dad, which was more nerve-wracking than when I was solo! Forget the bear, I was worried about how my Dad would react.
What I love about this picture, from all my time in Alaska, is that the bear actually has little to no interest in the fishermen. The bear simply has salmon on its mind. We don’t have two fishermen in the picture, but three.
If given half the chance, man can live with wildlife. The two species above, can coexist. Katmai NP&P is a prime example of that. I would hope that is the lesson the photograph has to give. After all, Alaska would be a much poorer place without her bears.
The photo was taken in July by Robert Hawthorne, a photographer out of Bozeman, Montana. His link is below:
Voting for the Fattest Bear of Katmai continues over at the Katmai National Park & Preserve Facebook page.
In round one, fan fave Otis went down to Lefty, in an upset. Divot, Grazer and #909 also moved into the second round. There is some large competition waiting for them, as Wide-Body #747, Holly, Chunk and #503 had first round byes, and could continue hoarding calories, as they watched their fellow bears compete.