Saturday, June 6, 2009

Ok...I Guess Bears Are Real!!

Hello everyone! I very recently got back from a week long road trip with my dad and his girlfriend, Sue. It was a blast!! (Warning...LOTS of pictures in this post.) We left Fairbanks and headed for a small mining community called Healy. If anyone has read the book Into the Wild, this was where Chris McCandless followed the Stampede Trail, lived in a bus for a couple of months, and died.
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We spent a couple of days in Healy before heading south. We stayed in a very nice Bed & Breakfast with a great view. (I have pictures of the view, but I have not had time to look through them yet. I took over 500 pictures on our trip and I have been prioritizing which pictures get edited by how cool they were....the view was cool, but there were more spectacular things we saw!)

Before we headed south, we took the bus tour at Denali National Park. Denali is a very cool place with wide range of landscapes! This was also the day I was proved wrong...bears do exist. I have pictures, but I will save the bear shots for later...dessert is a great way to end a meal. We saw all of the big animals to see on the bus tour: Moose, Caribou, Bear, a Wolf, and a Lynx (The wolf was quite rare...and I bet most people do not get a chance to see a lynx either)
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(I couldn't get a shot of the lynx. They do not like to be seen, so it was camera shy)

Also, we saw a few Willow Ptarmigan, the Alaskan state bird. These birds use camouflage as a self defense strategy, so when approached, instead of flying away, they just sit there and hope you do not see them...well, I saw them.
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(I love their feathery feet and the very strange noises they make!)

One more bird shot....a few cool looking ducks!
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We were very lucky that Denali was out!! Only about 20-25% of visitors get to see the mountain due to clouds. Denali, also known as Mt. McKinley, is the tallest peak in North America. The native Athabaskans called this mountain Denali, or "The Great One," so that is what I will usually call it, but Denali and Mt McKinley are two names for the same thing. It was not all the way out, but we got a pretty good view of most of the 20,320 ft mountain.
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After Denali, we went towards Anchorage. We decided to pull off into a small campground and look around. It was pretty nice, but when we talked to a guy in a camper he said, "I was just down there by the water and saw a couple of grizzly bear cubs, so I backed away slowly before their mom found me." The last thing we wanted to do was set up tent less than 100 yards from a known grizzly bear with cubs...seen less than an hour from when we ourselves were on the very stream the cubs were playing around. We left. We pulled into another campsite not far down the road and found it to be mostly for campers, so we decided to keep on driving. While leaving the moter home campground, we saw a grizzly bear walking across the parking lot! When I woke up that morning I was positive that there were no such thing as bears...I was proven wrong. I went from not believing in bears to believing they are EVERYWHERE!!! We drove for about another hour until we found a very nice campsite. This one was a lot bigger and populated by several families with kids! This was good news for us. I thought to myself: now I do not need to out run a bear, just a few kids with much shorter legs than mine! (I am joking of course, but the kids did make a lot of noise, a good bear repellent in my book.)

After a bear-free sleep, we hit the road. We arrived in Anchorage and decided to keep driving to a small fishing community called Whitter. In order to reach Whitter, you need to drive through a two and a half mile, one lane tunnel, under a mountain. This is one of the longest one lane tunnels in the world and the ONLY one lane, under mountain, tunnel that is shared by a train. Traffic was allowed to leave Whitter on the hour for a 15 min window and then traffic could head towards the sea port on the half hour, again, for a 15 min window. I am assuming that all traffic is held when a train needs to use the tunnel.

These two shots where taken outside of Whitter, before we went through the tunnel.
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While in Whitter (I like the sound of that...While in Whitter...it sounds like a book title) we had some dinner and I took some cool shots of boats, there were a lot of boats.
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We ended up driving all the way to Seward to camp. We had an AMAZING view from this campsite and stayed up late by a fire to enjoy the view with some wine...a good night!
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I woke up early the next morning to shot some close ups of marine life.
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After Seward, we started our drive back north to Fairbanks. It was on this drive that we had the amazing opportunity to come across a bear on the side of the road digging up some roots. This is exactly what I wanted...a close up bear encounter from the safety of an idling car. I know I cannot outrun a bear, but I am pretty sure a car can.

BTW...should never try to run away if charged by a bear...you should stand your ground and yell while waving your arms. If it is a brown bear/grizzly bear, he is most likely bluffing when he runs at you...he will stop short and then walk away. If you do think a brown/grizzly bear is going to attack, you should drop down and play dead. Once you are not viewed as a threat, the bear should loose interest. If you are being charged by a black bear, again stand your ground and yell. If the black bear wants to attack, you are encouraged to fight back as fiercely as you can....apparently black bears do not loose interest as fast. I do not know the strategy for Polar bears, but I am guessing it involves NEVER GET CLOSE TO ONE! They will eat you! Polar bears are the largest land carnivore on the planet!

Ok, here they are, the promised bear pictures. I took a LOT!! Here is a small sample of the ones that turned out best.
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So there it is...proof that bears are real. Who'd a thunk it? Well, I should get some sleep. It is past 1am here (and it is still light enough to read a book outside) I now have internet at my cabin so I should have no problems updating this blog and responding to comments! I love receiving comments, so don't be shy =)

Rock on
~Mr. Lockwood

5 comments:

rowdy said...

That bear is totally fake.




JK. He's really pretty. He looks so soft, I just want to go cuddle him!

Jen said...

Lovely pics! ...especially the Whitter and boat ones. I'm glad you got a chance to see the mountain, even though there was some partial cloud. That's awesome that you saw a wolf and lynx! I saw a couple ptarmigan there, too. :-) Funny birds. Hey, you should update your list to include the Dall's Sheep you saw, too!

Bears.... it's appropriate that your beliefs would be altered by a visually dramatic sighting. The bear looks like he was in a grumpy mood. Good thing you had some car between you.

I'm glad you had such a swell time!

Bobb said...

Yeah, the bear did look soft and fluffy, but slightly annoyed at the cars watching him dig up roots...not the best time to ask for a cuddle. Whitter was cool. I wish we were allowed to stop in the tunnel so I could have used my tripod for a good picture, oh well...it was fun.

Greg said...

Great shots Bobb. I'll post some of ours on our blog and facebook also.

Nancy said...

Looks like you had a really nice time. Your pics are great. What a beautiful place. See I told you there were bears. I am a Mom I know these things :-) .