My visit to the Gila Wilderness and its cliff dwellings happened early on in the Original Beetle Roadtrip. In many ways it was in the Gila, that a 24 year old Aldo Leopold found his footing. As someone who really enjoyed Leopold’s writing, it was only a matter of time for me to visit the wilderness he proposed and the very first Federally recognized wilderness in the United States.
I found a nice place to camp in the national forest, driving the Beetle across a stream to limit my neighbors, and from that campsite, I explored the Gila.
Theodore Roosevelt designated the cliff dwellings a national monument in 1907. The monument is 533 acres, and had just over 41,000 visitors in 2016. To me, there seemed to be almost that many people there when I visited. It became a challenge to get a picture taken without a person in the frame, but I worked at it.
The dwellings are located in an absolutely beautiful part of New Mexico. It was easy for me to see why the Mogollon people settled here, and I wondered why they abandoned it years later.
Hiking the trail early in the morning, I was lucky enough to come across a black bear on its morning excursion. Later in the day, I met up with a couple who had seen a mountain lion. I was not at all surprised by either in this beautiful, rugged terrain.
Lake Clark National Park & Preserve is located approximately 100 miles southwest of Anchorage. Originally designated a National Monument in 1978, the area was named a national park by Congress in 1980 via the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
The park itself is roughly 2.6 million acres, with an additional 1.4 million set aside as preserve, putting the total size at just over 4 million acres. In 2018, the park saw 14,000 visitors.
The Lake Clark area gained some degree of fame through the adventures of Dick Proenneke, who documented his homestead life at Twin Lakes before the area became a park. Proenneke not only kept detailed journals, but filmed his world in a documentary style. Alone in the Wilderness, the book about his life at Twin Lakes, and the PBS documentary of the same name were extremely well received by Alaskans and non-Alaskans alike. Not an easy thing to accomplish!
Lake Clark is a vital salmon hatchery for Bristol Bay, and is Alaska’s sixth largest lake at 42 miles long and a maximum depth of just over 1000 feet.
Lake Clark NP&P is also home to two active volcanoes. The ever rumbling Mount Redoubt and Iliamna volcano, which has been quiet of late.
Lake Clark NP&P is not road accessible. One can get to the park via floatplane or via boat from Cook Inlet.
Local reports have had several bear sightings this past week. The warmer temps and increased daylight have woke the bruins from their winter slumber. Only one casualty that I know of so far: A 50 pound bag of dog food that was left outside in a shed.
The photo was taken by an NPS employee out at Kennecott Mine in Wrangell-St Elias National Park & Preserve.
A bear cub recently tested positive for Avian Flu. The cub was seen struggling to keep up with its mother and siblings and Alaska Fish & Game officials euthanized the bear cub. Tests came back positive for a highly contagious strain known as “high-path AI.”
The bear cub, found in Bartlett Cove, within Glacier Bay National Park, would have died within hours if it had not been put down, according to wildlife officials. Since the virus does not jump from bear to bear, it is believed the cub scavenged a sick or dead bird.
One female black bear in Quebec had previously been diagnosed with Avian Influenza. In Alaska, two foxes, have tested positive.
Ethel LeCount was a nurse at the Kennecott Hospital at the Kennecott Mill Town in 1937-1938. LeCount shot many rolls of film during her stay out at the old copper mine. The National Park Service has posted some of them online, under the banner: “Ethel LeCount Historical Photo”s on the Wrangell-St-Elias website.
This is the first time in the title round for Bear 901. She’s a 6-1/2 yo female, who was first identified in 2018. The big question in Katmai isn’t whether 901 can knock off the wide body 747 for the crown, but whether she will emerge from the den in 2023 with her first litter of cubs.
Fertilized eggs will not implant in her uterus until she has denned up for the winter. Even then, during hibernation, it will be 901’s body that decides if she is healthy enough and chunky enough to become pregnant. Without ample body fat to get 901 through hibernation and nourish a litter of cubs, the pregnancy will not occur.
747 on the other hand, being a large male, only has to worry about getting enough fat reserves to see himself through hibernation. Being one of the largest bears on planet earth, I think 747 has hit his goals. Although, no doubt, he is still putting on the calories.
Images credit: Katmai National Park & Preserve/photographer listed; Bio info credit: Katmai NP&P
The Competition gets serious:Chunk vs The Wide Body
Bear #32 was first identified at Brooks Falls in 2007, when he appeared as a “chunky” 2-1/2 yo bear. Thus, his nickname. Even when Chunk is at his leanest, he is carrying a vast supply of fat reserves. His size allows him to command the prime salmon spots, and he has the scars to show that he isn’t afraid to mix it up to take over those fishing holes. But Chunk is a complicated bruin, and he is also known to patiently wait “his turn” to fish, and is often seen playing with other bears. Both are rare activities for dominant brown bears.
2020 Champ, 747, takes on Chunk in this round’s battle of the titans. Today’s winner might very well go on to the title.
Image credits and biography info go to Katmai National Park