Bear encounters at Cooper Landing!

Comments 4 Standard
Bear in Alaska

We arrived at Cooper Landing on our way down to the Kenai Peninsula.  Although the weather was really bad with high winds and lots of rain during the drive, it is true that the Seward highway south of Anchorage is truly beautiful. As we followed the very high traffic highway, it offered breathtaking views of mountains, mud flats and the ocean.  After arriving at our site, we were pretty much housebound until later in the afternoon, when the rain finally stopped and we ventured outside to look around.

Seward Highway

Snow capped mountains and a train cruising along the Seward Highway.

Mud Flats

Keep off the mud flats or you get trapped in sinking mud. Bad way to die.

Seward Highway.

High traffic on the Seward Highway.

Kenai Peninsula

Welcome sign to Kenai Peninsula.

This area is really all about the fishing.  The next morning people left the campground very early to get out on the river, and we also took off early for a nice hike to the Russian River Falls.  We met another couple, Kurt and Debbie on the way and talked with them until time for pictures at the falls.  Unbelievably, just as Kurt was preparing to take our picture a grizzly bear walked out of the woods only about 40 ft. from us!  You can see our reaction in the photo he snapped just as we were pointing to the bear.  Fortunately,Kurt spun around quickly to get a picture of the bear, but it had already begun fleeing through the woods so he only got the “bear butt” shot.  We could hardly  believe what had just happened and how close the encounter was!  The bear apparently had not heard us because of the loud water, and he likely got a lot closer than he had wanted to.  He looked as surprised as we did!

Just after that hike, ML asked to stop near a bridge so she could get a picture of the beautiful green-blue Kenai river.

Kenai river

Paddlers and Rafters along Kenai River

Imagine my surprise when I looked across the river and there was a big black bear mama with two little cubs!  These bears were a lot further away, but we enjoyed watching them walk along the far bank of the river for a couple of minutes as they searched for a salmon breakfast.  A great bear-sighting day!

Bear in Alaska

Black bear fishing for salmon, her cubs are in the weeds behind her.

Mama bear and cubs

Bear Clawing marks

Signs of Bear clawing on tree,note the claw marks

Russian River

At the Russian River.

Kenai River

Playing along Kenai River.


Next up: Salmon Frenzy in Soldotna

Denali, wild and shy – what a place!

Comments 11 Standard
Mt Denali

During the next few days we will be at Healy, which is about 11 miles north of the entrance to Denali National Park. We are spending several days here as there is so much to explore, see and experience. One thing of note though is that every morning is a surprise in terms of weather.  We wake up in sunshine one day, rain the next day or windy the next day. We have stopped looking at the weather forecast for it is never correct beyond the current day, if that.

Grande Lodge

View from the Grande Lodge, which is across from the park on a very high hill.

Before going into the park we drove around town and ventured further from the entrance. We noted that the services an the park (, gas, food and tours) are only open from May through September and go back to “wilderness mode” during the winter.

Denali Village

This “town” is only open 5 months a year. Then everything is boarded up and the stop lights are even shut off!

There is  a lot of hustle and bustle in a nearby town where all the tourists go and cruise people stay and hang out.  This place is humming and pricey as I had the most expensive fish and chips ever, $21 ! Three pieces of halibut and chips, but was very delicious. We also checked out the local brewery in town, 49th State Brewery where Steve liked the stout so much that he wanted to buy a half-gallon growler of it.  Not available until after we leave, though   😦

My $21 Fish and chips, made of halibut and yummy!

My $21 Fish and chips, made of halibut and yummy!

A sampling of local microbrewery beers is in order after our successful flight.

A sampling of local microbrewery beers is in order after our successful flight.

Denali National Park is run efficiently and managed very well to preserve its wildness. It is six million acres of wild land and unaltered landscape.  Although there are thousands of visitors entering every summer, entry is controlled and scheduled by bus system. They are doing this to not only reduce traffic on this one lane, winding gravel road, but also for the preservation and least disturbance to the wild animals.  Green Bus Tour

Green Bus, only shuttle and tour busses are allowed inside the park beyond Mile 15.It is not like Yellowstone National Park where visitors upon seeing an animal, pull over and get noisy and excited to take pictures. Here everyone is instructed to be quiet and if you talk the boss driver won’t hesitate to hush you.  By controlling the visitor’s access and behavior toward wildlife, they have avoided any human deaths by bears in the park.  And unlike Yosemite, the bus maybe full but not crowded as every seat is scheduled and paid for.  If it worked well on the 4th of July, it must work well other times. On a side note there were no fireworks here on the fourth of July as it never gets dark here.

How tourists react when there is a wild animal sighting.

How tourists react when there is a wild animal sighting.

We scheduled the longest green bus trip,  a twelve hour,  92 mile drive  drive round-trip all the way into the park.  This is quite a long trip – we stopped for every wildlife sighting.  On this tour we had 17 grizzly bear sightings, we saw a herd of caribou, some Dall sheep that looked like white dots on the mountain, a shy Moose, ducks, eagles, and birds.


Moose sighting.

Grizzly Bear

Mama grizzly bear and cubs.

The white dots on the mountain are Dall sheep.

The white dots on the mountain are Dall sheep.



Grizzly bear and cubs.

And as I mentioned earlier, everyone got quiet when we saw wild  animals up close with cameras softly clicking.  Steve was already sick of seeing moose after almost running one over, and one that came to dinner at our RV park . But we had to respect the rest of the guests who seemed to be awestruck at every sighting.

Denali National Park

Narrow and steep curve in the park.

The  bus tour offered not only wildlife but also unparalleled views of an ever changing landscape, and stunning panoramic views of the mountains.  And speaking of mountains we also came here to see  the centerpiece of the park, the tallest mountain in Northern America – Mt McKinley.  The locals call it Denali  meaning “the high one.”  It stands with a summit elevation of 20,320 ft above sea level.  Well, we weren’t able to see the entire mountain on this tour, but we did see a glimpse of the north and south peaks on our way in and out.

Mt Denali

At the end of our 12-hour tour, at 7pm Denali decided to clear a few clouds so we could get a glimpse.

We’ll have another chance to see it on Saturday when we go back into the park for some hiking, then another REALLY good chance on the 10th when we are scheduled to land on a McKinley glacier during a flight from Talkeetna.  Can’t wait for that!

Denali National Park

Stunning view inside park

Polychrome Glaciers

Polychrome Glaciers

We did some hiking outside the park, and being adventurous we aimed for a trail that we saw from the highway called Bison Gulch.  We didn’t see the beginning of the trailhead so we decided to try a wall of shale rock at the nearest steep hill.  Oh my, I had the scariest moment of my life.  I was literally crawling for about 15 feet on a 35% grade of loose gravel.  I dared not look down for I know I would probably panic.  I kept my cool and and prayed that I would get out of this mess.  Steve was ahead of me and seemed quite amused as he pulled me to the top.  He was very proud of me for “making the grade”.  Whew, that was close.  Unfortunately, my $10 sunglasses fell off during the struggle and remain somewhere on that hill.  The other hikes we did were inside the park with good trails.  They were strenuous, but not as scary as the one we did on Thursday.

Inside Denali National Park

Distant view of the narrow gravel road inside the park.


Never ending picturesque views of the valleys and mountains.

Denali National Park

There was never overcrowding in any stops.

Toklat River

Toklat River restroom stop at Mile 53.

The McKinley RV Park  where we are staying is not one of our favorite. The office workers are disorganized and incompetent, the sites are not level and big potholes on the driveway. The 30 amps did not work and was not fixed during our stay, so instead they gave us a credit back of $15 per day.


Nenana River Viewpoint

Pose at the Nenana River viewpoint.