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Life on the Ursus

Alaska Adventure

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Shawn is the reason we went to Alaska to play with the grizzly bears.

We met Shawn 18 months ago, when he guided us on our wintertime trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons. That's when he planted the Alaska seed in our minds.

Shawn is a full-time firefighter in Colorado who does some guiding for Natural Habitat Adventures during his vacation time. Watching the wolves on our Yellowstone trip, he told us of amazing up-close encounters with grizzly bears in Alaska and insisted we had to come do an Alaska trip with him. Although the thought of it frightened me just a tad bit, Shawn reassured us that in all his years of guiding grizzly bear trips he'd never had a serious incident and that we would be perfectly safe. Besides, what's any true adventure without a few heart-pounding moments?!

 

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And so we booked one of the early summer trips, for the last week of June. That time of year it's still plenty chilly in Alaska, which was a nice reprieve from our hot Indiana summer.

We flew into Kodiak where we spent a day exploring before our encounter with the bears.

 

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We met up with our group of 8 at the airport and were surprised to see two very familiar faces! Chuck (in the red) and his wife Meg (gray vest, 2nd from right) had also traveled on the Yellowstone trip with us and Shawn. I guess Shawn had convinced them too!

I was grateful for Chuck's presence so Kim had someone else to hang out with during the week. This trip had lots of togetherness, so it's a good thing that we all got along (fairly well, anyway!).


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We stayed the first 2 nights at the Best Western in Kodiak, giving us a chance to explore Kodiak. The joke is there is nothing "Best" about it, except it is the "best" of the two hotel options in town. There are no 5-star accommodations in Kodiak...

 

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But there sure is some jaw-dropping scenery! 


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And LOTS of bald eagles at all stages of maturity...


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Many spring wildflowers were in bloom...


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And plenty of other cute inhabitants!

Did you know a group of otters is called a "raft"? Makes sense!


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We spent one morning splitting up into 2 groups to cruise around the bay. Every time we split into 2 groups, it was "the marrieds" and "the singles," so Kim and I spent a lot of time with Chuck and Meg, whose company we really enjoy. We boarded this small fishing boat for a few hours on the water.


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This fella had just pulled in a nice halibut. We didn't know it at the time, but later in the week we'd be eating plenty of very fresh halibut ourselves.

 

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These rocks were full of nesting kittiwakes (a type of sea gull)...


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Our first puffin ever! This one is a tufted puffin.


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Plenty of cormorants...


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A seal posed for us...

 

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Unfortunately, our planned all-day boat trip was cut to just a couple of hours because of the wind and water conditions.


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Dockside artwork created from debris from the ocean...


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So we went to Plan B. Which involved eating lunch, grabbing some coffee at this wonderful little shop,...


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...and heading to nearby Fort Abercrombie park. Who knew Alaska was involved in World War II???


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We walked through a little underground museum and listened to a passionate veteran tell his stories.

This is our Kodiak guide, Linda. She lives on the island, working part-time for NatHab.

 

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Lots of tall buttercups growing everywhere...


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You can see why this location made a great military post...you can see for miles and miles...


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But these rocks made it very unapproachable from sea.


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Lots of puffins swimming around...


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These are horned puffins, the other puffin variety found in Alaska.

 

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I couldn't get over the beautiful wildflowers everywhere!

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We did a little hiking in an area park, where everything is surprisingly very green and lush.


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An eagle's nest, but no eagle hanging around...


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Maybe this is the eagle we were looking for?


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My favorite hiker!


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This is called a weir (I know, "weird" word...ha ha!). It is used to estimate salmon counts as the salmon were just beginning to make their way upstream. We could see them splashing in the shallow water as they crossed through the weir.

 

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In our free time, we walked around town on our own.


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The dock of a fish cannery...


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...and some residents of the dock.


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Salmon is king in Kodiak...even the trashcans follow the theme!


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And I do say this town has the most creative trashbins I've ever seen...


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There's a beautiful old church there, one of Kodiak's landmarks...


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We had a fabulous dinner meal at Henry's. But the next morning as I was packing up to leave to see the bears, I realized I had left my camera at the restaurant the night before! Thankfully, it's a small town and through those small-town connections I was able to get in before business hours to pick it up just in the nick of time. Whew! My cameras have adventures of their own!

 

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Kodiak is a charming seaside community, but we were itching to see those grizzlies!


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We'd be returning to Kodiak in several days to catch our plane back home. Kodiak was a fun place to launch our...

...Alaska adventure.

 

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