From land to sea, enjoy wildlife viewing to the fullest before the snow fly’s and the bears migrate!
Enjoy caribou viewing on land… these two were caught navigating through the trees in Kenai, Alaska.
From land to sea, enjoy wildlife viewing to the fullest before the snow fly’s and the bears migrate!
Enjoy caribou viewing on land… these two were caught navigating through the trees in Kenai, Alaska.
This week, we are so excited to share a re-blog from Kristi Trimmer of Dragonfly Running. She is a Full-Time Traveler and recently spent some time on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground and shared her experiences from a stay at Salmon Catcher Lodge and B&B. We have personally visited this beautiful lodge and B&B and know first hand how amazing every little detail of this facility (and the hospitality) is. So it is truly our pleasure to share this enthusiastic blog with our fellow readers. Bonus: they are even open in the WINTER! So whether you make it a “bucket list” item to pay Salmon Catcher Lodge and B&B a visit next summer, or you want to go for a “Winter Wonderland” getaway… we are sure that it will be worth your time no matter what season it is.
For my 40th birthday, I was surprised by my friend Scott Kelly with Black Dog Promotions with a week stay at Salmon Catcher Lodge in Kenai, Alaska. I promptly pulled up Google Maps to find out where Kenai was. I knew I was headed to Seward, and was excited to see that it was just two hours away. I had heard that you had to take boats everywhere in Alaska and I wondered if there was a road between Seward and Kenai. Yes, my friends, just a few short months ago I too, had NO idea how to navigate Alaska! BTW… there is indeed a road!
After spending my first week in Alaska hanging with my friends at Exit Glacier Guides, I made the drive over to the Soldotna-Kenai area. This drive is beautiful! Ice blue lakes and huge rivers could be seen from the road. I didn’t realize I was looking at the famous Russian and Kenai Rivers were salmon fishing runs the world up here. People come from all over the world during the summer to fish for salmon in Kenai.
It was late in the day when I pulled up to Salmon Catcher Lodge and I was taken away by the sheer beauty and size of the property. There were 2- and 3-story cabins nestled among big beautiful evergreen trees and flowers peeking out everywhere. The main lodge was called the Conference Center. I loved how the Bear Family welcomed me right in!
The inside looked like no expense was spared in making this one amazing haven. The kitchen was massive and served breakfasts every morning for the guests. There was a bar area with all sorts of glasses and goblets just ready for some good craft beer to be poured after a day of fishing. What I loved the most though was the massage chair – I knew I would spend a lot of time in that! There were three large rooms with each having 2-4 beds and a private bath. Somehow I ended up being the only one there that week since it was before the season really took off!
One morning while I was working away on the kitchen table, I saw this big ol moose wander right on by. You know that made me happy! Salmon Catcher Lodge is truly a Fisherman’s Heaven. Their cabins are built to be able to hold the whole fishing party and then some. Each cabin has a full kitchen, living room, and a ton of space. But what makes this lodge stand out for me was that their was a separate building where you could process your fish and then store it until you went home. Anything that you could possibly need for your fishing trip, Salmon Catcher has you covered. They can even help you plan your trip and get you out on the river with an experienced guide.
I might be staying in Alaska just so I am here for the first day of next salmon season!! I had no idea when I first landed in Alaska what a big deal this was. Now all I want to do is to go fish and I missed it! Sigh. Not next year, my friends! Not next year.
The owner of the Lodge, Terry Johnson, is a retired airline pilot who decided to make Alaska his home. He not only built Salmon Catcher Lodge but also Salmon Catcher B&B. The attention to detail in both properties simply amazed me! The B&B is what I would pick for a romantic getaway to Kenai-Soldotna. One of the rooms has this large sunken Jacuzzi-tub that I just wanted to soak in. Of course, I noticed the beautiful kitchen which was set out with snacks and drinks.
The decorations within both properties were custom pieces with some amazing stained art and metal pieces plus some very beautiful paintings. I loved it there! I can’t wait to go back and spend some time relaxing in this cozy B&B.
The view out to the Kenai River from the deck is second to none. Take the little pathway out to the banks and fish to your heart’s content. Or sit and read a book – both make me happy.
Thank you Terry for welcoming into your Lodge. It was one of the highlights of my summer in Alaska!! I can’t say enough good things about the Lodge and is the number one place I recommend to stay at when coming up to theKenai Peninsula in Alaska. Yep, I thought it was that awesome!
PS… just outside the entrance to the Lodge is where I saw my first Moose and baby!!
Disclosure from Kristi Trimmer: My stay at Salmon Catcher Lodge was a birthday present to me. I was not under any obligation to write a review nor to fall in love with the property like I did. That just happened. And yes, I really hope I get to go back and spend more time out at the Lodge just steps away from peace and quiet and all those cute mooses! Links within this post may contain affiliate links that I earn commissions from. Example, if you click on the above link and purchase anything from that site I make a small commission, no matter what you purchase. This is how I pay for my travels and this blog. Thank you for supporting me!
Orca Island Cabins is also featured in The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground destination video, which you can view here; www.kenaipeninsula.org! We also recently featured this special “congratulations” coverage of this well deserved recognition in our latest eNewsletter, which you can read (and sign up for) HERE.
Orca Island Cabins offers Alaska visitors unique yurt accommodations on a private island in scenic Humpy Cove in Resurrection Bay, AK located 9 miles southeast of Seward, Alaska, just a short drive south of Anchorage.
Owned and operated by long-time Alaskans Dennis and Susan Swiderski, Orca Island Cabins invites you to enjoy comfortable and stylish overnight accommodations in comfortable yurt cabins with Alaska wildlife and marine life right outside your cabin door.
Enjoy the best that Alaska’s Playground has to offer while staying at Orca Island Cabins. Such as whale watching…
Fishing and hiking…
Or just sit back, relax and observe scenic views and wildlife from your private deck – a very special Alaska experience.
Photo Credits: Orca Island Cabins Facebook Page
BEARS, BEARS, BEARS – Up Close and Personal! Fly out bear viewing and fishing. Experience glaciers, mountains and unbelievable vistas. A must-do when visiting The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground that will be sure to bring you memories that last a lifetime!
We had the pleasure of going out with High Adventure Air Charters this past Saturday, and boy were we in for a treat! We arrived to a beautiful log-home style facility tucked into beautiful thick tall green trees.
We set out to catch Silver Salmon and hopefully do some bear viewing as well! Silver Salmon (Coho Salmon) adults usually weigh 8 to 12 pounds and are 24 to 30 inches long, but individuals weighing 31 pounds have been landed. Adults in salt water or newly returning to fresh water are bright silver with small black spots on the back and on the upper lobe of the tail fin. They can be distinguished from Chinook salmon by the lack of black spots on the lower lobe of the tail and by their white gums; Chinook have small black spots on both tail fin lobes and they have black gums. Spawning adults of both sexes have dark backs and heads with maroon to reddish sides, according to ADFG.
As we walked up to the counter to check-in for our fly-out Bear Viewing & Silver Salmon Fishing trip, we were pleasantly surprised to see all the beautiful, lush flower baskets lining the way to the registration area. All the colors were so vivid and smelt divine!
And of course, this very practical outdoor thermometer was also a wonderfully clever touch. We can always rely on Alaskans to bring the humor, that is for sure!
As we walked in the lobby, we were impressed by a very welcoming atmosphere and some really neat adornments that were perfectly fitting for the occasion. This “Fish Stories Told Here” paddle was just one of the [many] cool knick·knacks displayed.
Another couple that caught our eyes were these two… “Tight Lines” and a saw with an incredible wildlife display cutout in the metal. Alaskan ambiance at it’s finest!
The coffee/water/tea bar was also very accommodating and a great touch. We made sure to indulge a bit. Always important to say hydrated before a day of fish slaying!
And when we say that we indulged, that didn’t mean on all of the delicious baked goodies that they ALSO had offered in the lobby. Oh, wait! Maybe we did succumb to these tasty treats just a bit… too yummy to resist! Can you blame us? ;-)
As if we weren’t already off to a very full-filling start, our eyes were glistening with excitement when we perused this (very successful) “Catch of the Week” bulletin picture display.
Another really neat feature that the lobby had was this aerial map that with little flags that shows all of the lakes and rivers that High Adventure Air Charter fly’s out to.
Some of the closest and most frequently visited spots are Wolverine Creek, Big River Lake, Lake Clark Pass, Duck Cabin, Nushagak, Parkers Lake, and the Kustatan River. If you can’t quite read it, the purple flag indicates our “take off” point at High Adventure Air Charter.
For our trip, we were flying out to the Kustatan River to go fishing for Silver Salmon and to do some bear viewing at the foot of Wolverine Creek. It looks so close on the map, like maybe just a hop, skip, and jump over the Cook Inlet.
We were told that it would just be a quick 30 minute flight via float plane. And as we walked down to the lake to enjoy the last few minutes before our plane arrived, we were continuing to take in all the neat little features that were displayed on the property. Like this sign… so many choices, so little time! Oh wait, we live here! #spoiled ;-)
More beautiful flowers and possibly the greenest grass and nicest landscaping around as we head down to wait for our plane. A top-notch experience right out of the gate!
When our plane finally arrived, our excitement gained stronger and stronger as the pilot unloaded 4 energetic, smiling guests that just came back from the very same trip that we were about to go on. Lots of smiles from ear to ear, we knew we were going to be in for a good time!
There was another group of people that were preparing to take off at the same time that we were. Double the trouble, double the fun! “WE ARE READY!” :-)
Enjoying one last lake view before loading up and hitting the sky! For a mildly overcast day, the weather was in the low 60’s and felt absolutely perfect!
We loaded up in the DeHavilland Beaver floatplane and got ready to enjoy a scenic flight to the western shores of Cook Inlet. This was our super-awesome pilot, Greg. He did great and we felt very safe and comfortable the entire trip across the inlet.
Ready, set, go! There were four of us total in the plane, plus the pilot. The plane seats 6 total passengers plus luggage. It was very comfortable and we didn’t feel like sardines at all!
And here we are, up high in the sky with a beautiful view as we are leaving across the Cook Inlet!
Once we crossed over approaching near the Tustatan River, our eyes were in amazement as we looked down at such raw, natural beauty that was just flourishing with vivid colors.
As we landed, we were graciously greeted by our guide, Ben. He was incredibly accommodating and we could tell that he knew what he was doing right from the get-go. Again, we just knew that we were in for a good time!
After we loaded up on the boat, we watched as our floatplane took off and left us in the good hands of our guide right SMACK out in the middle of Alaska’s Playground! Amazing! :-)
Up, up, & away! We will see him back here in about 5 hours! Hopefully by then, we will have limited out and seen lots of bears! ;-)
Within a half hour, all four of us on the boat had caught at least 1 fish! The silvers were biting and dancing around like crazy, it was GREAT!
FISH ON, time to grab the net and reel her in! Teamwork was the key to success, that is for sure!
Scoop her up, and pull her in! Steady… steady… scoop!
There we go, another one to the boat! Woo hoo! Bring it on, slippery silvers!
As we were enjoying lots of laughs and good times slaying salmon, we were surprised by the next special feature; BEAR VIEWING!
Of the (nearly 100) shots that we took of just the bears, we gathered a few of our favorites to show you.
This one got busy eating delicious early spawning sockeye salmon. Happy, healthy bear getting his daily does Omega 3’s with wild Alaska salmon!
And this little black bear just looked like he was ready to get out of dodge! Up the trail he went. “Too much paparazzi,” he thought. ;-)
After the show was over, our guide took us to a floating island and proceeded to filet all of our fish. Oh, I forgot to mention… we ALL limited out and caught 3 silver salmon a piece. That is 15 total salmon on the boat.
And Step #2:
Step #4… fillets for days! Ben did a great job and whipped right through all 15 salmon in a matter of minutes. It was truly a pleasure to watch. He was a pro!
About the time Ben was done filleting our fish, the plane came flying back to pick us up.
We pulled up to the plane in the guide boat, loaded up all of the delicious silver fillets and our belongings, and we all got in. With HUGE smiles on all of our faces, I should add! Our smiles were non-stop and gleaming from ear to ear!
The ride back offered amazing views, just like the ride out. It was like dessert for our eyes. So many beautiful colors and amazing views that seem to go on, and on, and on!
And although we endured a light rain for the majority of our time on the boat, we wouldn’t have changed a thing! If anything, the rain added to the experience and gave us all a good reason to keep casting, and casting, and casting (to keep our bodies moving and stay warm). It was spectacular from start to finish (and everywhere in between)!
If you are interested in having an experience of a lifetime, we highly recommend this amazing trip (or any of the others that they offer) with High Adventure Air Charter!
How’s that for a tongue twister? ;-) We are so excited to “re-blog” about a wonderful Press Release that went into circulation last week from the Alaska SeaLife Center.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Alaska SeaLife Center, please let us explain. This is Alaska’s only public aquarium and ocean wildlife rescue center is celebrating ten years on the shores of Resurrection Bay. Visitors to this “window on the sea” have close encounters with puffins, octopus, sea lions and other sealife while peeking over the shoulders of ocean scientists studying Alaska’s rich seas and diverse sealife.
They are a private, non-profit corporation with approximately 105 full-time employees and dedicated staff of volunteers and interns. And their mission? “The Alaska SeaLife Center generates and shares scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems.”
Now, onto the super-cute and totally incredible creatures; the Sea Otters! As of July 17, 2014 the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) if currently caring for three young adult sea otters rescued through its Wildlife Response Program.
All three otters were rescued from Homer, Alaska on separate dates: MoJoe in June 2012, Agnes in April 2013, and Aurora in September 2013. All were originally stranded at less than three months old. At that age, pups require constant care from their mothers. Due to the intensive maternal care required, pups under six months of age are deemed non-releasable by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).
The otters will spend the entire summer in Seward while they await a more permanent placement at an approved facility in Europe. This is the first time the Alaska SeaLife Center has been home to this many young adult sea otters at one time. Housing three otters involves a substantial amount of time and care. Because otters eat approximately 25 percent of their body weight daily, feeding these animals is costly. Each otter consumed more than $800 worth of clam, squid, capelin, and shrimp every month.
MoJoe, Aurora, and Agnes are providing ASLC with a special opportunity to teach visitors about the life history and behavior of sea otters. Visitors to the Center can view the otters in an outside pool from the research overlook or get a closer look during a Sea Otter Behind-the-Scenes (BTS) Tour.
The otter BTS tour augments the regular BTS tour by including an in-depth discussion of the otters’ rescue and rehabilitation process, as well as their individual habits and characteristics. The tour takes guests to an outside training session where they will spend 15 minutes getting paw-to-paw with these curious creatures. The otters often introduce themselves by making their way right up to the glass to inspect their new visitors. During the training session, ASLC husbandry staff chat about the challenges that go along with caring for such playful and inquisitive animals. The session wraps up with an enrichment activity designed to show off the sea otter’s quick mind and problem-solving skills.
The Sea Otter Behind-the-Scenes Tour is offered daily at 4:30pm to guests ages 12 and older. Prices for the hour-long tour are $25 for adults and $20 for students (12-17). This tour will only be offered through the end of Summer 2014. So go see the extreme sea otter trio while you can! We promise you will not be disappointed! ;-)
The Kenai River provides phenomenal access to unparalleled salmon fishing and each year millions of salmon make their long journey up the waters of the Kenai River to reach their spawning grounds. The Kenai River late-run sockeye salmon sonar project is located approximately 19 miles upstream from the mouth of the Kenai River. The estimated travel time for sockeye salmon to reach this site once they have entered the Kenai River can be quite variable, ranging from approximately 24 hours to 72 hours.
The Kenai River experiences two runs of Sockeye Salmon, or “Reds.” Peak fishing on the Upper River is historically from June 11th until July 1st. The second run, which is typically the larger of the two, is from July 15th through August 10th.
These impressive fish average around eight pounds. Hooking in to one of these giants is sure to keep your heart pumping and your adrenaline levels high. But once the blood, sweat, and tears is conquered, the gratification and feeling of accomplishment for your FISH ON is simply unparalleled. When fishing on the Kenai River, is is not uncommon at all to see Sockeye Salmon that have sea-lice (a parasite that drops off after 24 hours of being in fresh water) approximately 50 miles upriver. They are fast swimmers that are filled with stamina & endurance & tend to provide the wildest fight of all salmon.
The number of sockeye entering the river has remained relatively stable and fishing is fair, according to Fish and Game fishing reports. The red salmon have yet to enter the Kenai River en masse, though the thriving personal-use dipnet fishery has seen fair success at the mouth of the Kenai River as the run continues to progress.
In the last week alone just over 20, 538 Sockeye Salmon have pushed up into the river, making the cumulative YTD count approximately 343,470 according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Fish Count Data Search. Beginning in 2011, ADF&G began counting escapement at Kenai River mile 19 using DIDSON rather than the old Bendix sonar. Due to the change in sonar technology, the sustainable escapement goal for Kenai River late-run sockeye salmon was changed to 700,000 – 1,200,000 fish counted using DIDSON sonar.
The bag limit on the Kasilof has been increased to 6 per day and 12 in possession while the personal use dipnet fishery on that river has seen its area expanded from the mouth upstream to the Sterling Highway Bridge as Alaska Department of Fish and Game managers work to control the escapement of red salmon up the river.
On the Russian River, sockeye salmon fishing my improve over the next few days as late-run reds migrate through the Kenai River, according to Fish and Game’s fishing report.
In the Lower Cook Inlet, sockeye have been returning to the Tutka Bay Lagoon alongside pink salmon returns.
Many avid fisherman (and women) also keep the Salmon Roe to later cure and use as bait when fishing for other species. Talk about total utilization of your catch! The Kenai River offers an abundance of subsistence living practices.
Once you catch your very own limit of Sockeye Salmon, you can fillet your meat and used it to make many delicious meals. You can slow smoke it for a tasty “grab and go” treat or to use it in a variety of recipes! For directions on how to smoke your own wild Alaska Sockeye Salmon this season, click HERE!
Another great option is canning your delicious Sockeye Salmon fillets. We love to use canned salmon in pastas, chowders, and patties. But there are a tons of different things that you can do with delicious, sustainable canned Sockeye Salmon. For instructions on how to can your salmon this season, click HERE!
Grilling your wild Alaska Salmon or cooking it on cedar planks, are another couple of healthy options with favorite that is jam-packed with heart healthy benefits and loads of yummy Omega 3 fatty acids. For more information on the health benefits of eating Wild, Natural, Sustainable Alaska seafood, click HERE! The possibilities in the kitchen (or on the grill) are endless, but one thing is for sure… the eatin’ is very, very good! For more delicious recipes, click HERE!
At the end of the day, one thing is for certain; it’s hard to say “no” to spending a day submerged in this beautiful landscape that we are ever-so fortunate to call our backyard! Until next time, get out and enjoy The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground!
If you are an outdoor enthusiast with a need for speed, Mountain Biking might just be the perfect sport for you to enjoy on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground! Whether you are new to the sport and considering a new hobby or you are a seasoned pro that carves down mountains and gets air at any foreseen opportunity, the Kenai Peninsula is (hands down) the place for you to be. Throughout this post, we will give you just a tiny appetizer into the feast of trails that are excellent for all of your future mountain biking excursions on Alaska’s Playground!
Devil’s Creek Trail
It is named Devil’s Creek, but the sights that you can experience along the way are absolutely angelic. A 10 mile trail from mile 39 Seward Highway to Resurrection Pass Trail. The first 3 miles have gentle up and down grades through spruce/ birch and hemlock forests with occasional open meadows. The trail then climbs steadily but gradually up narrow Devils Creek valley high above the creek for the next 5 miles through areas of brush and open meadows. The trail levels off entering the alpine valley of Devils Pass. Snow can persist at higher elevations until mid June.
And the flora is absolutely stunning along this devilish trek! Thank you to MTB Project for the excellent photos!
Crescent Creek Trail
This 6.2 mile trail climbs gradually up the narrow valley of Crescent Creek through spruce/birch forest to Crescent Lake. Frequent openings afford views of nearby mountains. Snow can remain on the upper part of the trail until early June.
To get to this beautiful trail, follow these simple directions: At Mile 45 Sterling Highway turn south onto Quartz Creek Road. Drive past Quartz Creek and Crescent Creek campgrounds to trailhead (Mile 3.5 Quartz Creek Road). Last mile of road before trailhead is not plowed in winter.
There are some restrictions here to keep in consideration. The trail is closed to motorized vehicles May 1- November 30. Closed to pack/saddle stock April 1- June 30. Not recommended for snowmobiles due to narrow sidehills. Winter travel not recommended past mile 3 due to avalanche hazards.
Johnson Pass Trail
23 mile multi-use trail from mile 64 Seward Highway in the north to mile 32.5 Seward Highway in the south. Trail is mostly forested for the first 4 miles on the north end and first 10 miles on the south end. The higher middle section is mostly open subalpine terrain of meadows and brushy areas with views of nearby mountains.
Elevation gains are gradual with a few steep sections. Snow can remain at higher elevations until mid June. The snow tends to add a very mystic, magical feeling to any mountain biking excursion. It is always refreshing to ride into the mountains just pondering thoughts about how the trails look in the middle of the snowy, cold Alaskan winters.
And as with many trails in Alaska, the flora is absolutely breathtaking along the Johnson Pass Trail. To get to the North trailhead: At mile 64 Seward Highway turn south on short access road to trailhead. Directions to the South trailhead: Mile 32.5 Seward Highway. Johnson Pass Trail is closed to motorized vehicles from May 1- November 30. The north end to mile 3.6 is closed to motorized vehicles year round. Johnson Pass Trail is closed to pack/saddle stock April 1- June 30.
Resurrection Pass Trail North
A local favorite, Resurrection Pass Trail offers day or multi-day backcountry hiking or biking adventures. A 39 mile trail that climbs from 500 to 2600 feet, visitors can reserve one or all of eight public use cabins along the route. Along the way, linger to fish in Trout, Juneau, and Swan Lakes, climb any of the ridges that line the trail and take in spectacular views, or just relax on your cabin porch.
Northern segment of a 39 mile multi-use trail between the Hope and Cooper Landing areas. Trail follows the narrow Resurrection Creek valley through spruce/birch forest, past gold mining areas, gradually climbing into an alpine valley after 17 miles. Snow can remain in the pass until mid-June.
Directions: At mile 15 Hope Highway in Hope turn south onto Resurrection Creek Road. Travel 4 miles to trailhead parking. The last mile to the trailhead is not plowed in winter. Restrictions: Resurrection Pass Trail is closed to motorized vehicles from May 1- November 30 and will be closed to motorized vehicles during the 2010-11 winter season. Resurrection Pass Trail is closed to pack/saddle stock from April 1- June 30.
Resurrection Pass Trail South
Southern segment of a 39 mile multi-use trail between the Cooper Landing and Hope areas. Trail climbs gradually the first 3 miles through spruce/ birch forest above the Kenai River. It then levels off as it enters the wide Juneau Creek valley passing by lakes, muskegs and groves of aspens. After 13 miles it climbs above the trees into an alpine valley. Snow can remain at higher elevations until mid-June.
Directions: At mile 53.2 Sterling Highway turn north into trailhead parking area. Recommended winter access is via West Juneau Road just west of this trailhead. Park at highway pullout then follow this unplowed road 2.4 miles. Turn left following orange diamond markers fro 1.6 miles to Resurrection Pass Trail. Alternate winter access via Bean Creek Trail. At mile 47.7 Sterling Highway turn onto Bean Creek Road and follow 1 mile to Slaughter Ridge Road. Turn right and follow for 0.5 mile to end of plowed road and park. Then follow unplowed road 1.3 miles to Bean Creek Trail. Follow 1.8 miles to Resurrection Pass Trail.
Resurrection Pass Trail is closed to motorized vehicles from May 1- November 30. Resurrection Pass Trail is closed to pack/saddle stock from April 1- June 30.
Russian Lakes Trail
This trail is amazing! A 21 mile multiple-use trail from Russian River Campground to Cooper Lake Road. Trail follows the valley of the Russian River, past Lower and Upper Russian Lakes then gradually climbs to the area at the head of Cooper Lake. Mostly wooded with frequent open areas with views of mountians and lakes. Snow can remain on the upper end of the trail into the early part of June.
There are two ways to access the Russian Lakes Trail; Lower & Upper. Lower (north) end: At mile 52.6 Sterling Highway turn south into Russian River Campground. Trailhead parking area is 1 mile further. Winter parking is at campground entrance station.
Upper (east) end: At mile 48 Sterling Highway in Cooper Landing turn south onto Snug Harbor Road. This turns into Cooper Lake Road after 9 miles. It is 3 miles further to the trailhead parking area. Winter parking is at 0.3 mile Cooper Lake Road.
Restrictions: Russian Lakes Trail is closed to motorized vehicles year round between Russian River Campground and Upper Russian Lake Cabin. The remainder of the trail is closed to motorized vehicles from May 1- November 30. Russian Lakes Trail is closed to pack/saddle stock from April 1- June 30.
So now that we’ve paraded on a bit about a teenie-tiny, small fraction of some of the many incredible Mountain Biking trails on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground – tell us; what is your favorite trail to venture down when you have a day off?
These trails are also wonderful for hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing. Be sure to always go into the wilderness prepared with bear spray or another form of protection encase you encounter a bear. Mosquito spray is also a MUST in the woods. Do you need any more recommendations? If so, visit us (Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council) online, or feel free to submit any of your incredible experiences, feedback, suggestions, or questions below. We look forward to hearing from you, and we thank you for being loyal friends and for sharing our passion for Alaska’s Playground!
The colors of summer are alive on Alaska’s Playground! Get out and and embrace the magic UP CLOSE & PERSONAL!
To take a “personal day” on #AlaskasPlayground when the Alaska Department of Fish & Game releases two emergency orders that increase the bag & possession limits on Sockeye Salmon (Reds), is totally justifiable. After all, we don’t live on #TheKenai for the big malls and city lights. We live here for the FISHING! Okay, there are lots of other reasons that we LOVE living in *paradise*, but fishing definitely ranks at the top of the list. That said, it is not uncommon for the average Kenai Peninsula resident “Angling Addict” to reschedule their next mornings’ meetings when it is announced at 7:30pm on a Monday night that the Russian River Sanctuary the will be open the next morning (Tuesday) as a part of the Emergency Order. The fist part of the Emergency Order increased the bag & possession limits on salmon (other than King Salmon) from three per day, to six per day. With limits increased, you are still only allowed to have 12 in possession. This “12” number applies directly to those nutty fishermen/women who stay out past 12:00am and fish under the midnight sun into the next day. And by “nutty,” we mean “totally awesome and hardcore” fishermen/women. We love those kinds; they are a hoot! And their dedication is really pretty incredible.
So here we are at 11:30pm on Monday night, scrambling to get all of our gear together to hit the road bright and early on Tuesday (the next morning). But as we always say… we can sleep in the winter! Summer is for PLAY! Bright and early Tuesday morning, we are ready to rumble and don’t waste any time hitting the road.
With about a 45 minute drive from the Russian River Ferry, we figure that it is probably our best bet to get their an hour early, so that we are assured to get a good spot in the sanctuary. The drive appears to be filled with dark clouds, but then as we get nearer to Cooper Landing, we start to see a beautiful break in the clouds and some glorious morning sunlight and blue skies. Today is off to a promising start already!
We’re here! And to our surprise, the line to pay the ($10.25) fee at the Russian River Ferry, we not long at all! Woo hoo! We’ll be on our way in no time!
We always enjoy seeing the cute (and informative) signs that are found at campgrounds and day-parking pull-in’s on the Kenai Peninsula. It’s like a custom playground, with lots of little hidden treasures at every turn. A class act!
And of course, some of the informative signage (for our readers, we are hoping this is helpful to you, especially if you’ve never visited The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground).
And just this one last one! For informational purposes, remember! We swear it’s not just because we find the signs incredibly adorable. But I mean, some of them ARE shaped like bears. Aww ;-)
And off to the Ferry we go! Did you know that the world famous Russian River Ferry is located at the confluence of the Russian and Kenai River? This ferry services one of the most productive salmon sport-fishing areas in all of North America.
And this is in our BACKYARD… *PINCH*!
Loaded up, on the ferry, and ready to rock & roll! Only a couple minutes to get across the river, and then we will be on the banks for the OPENER!
As we cross the river on the ferry, and begin to make our small trek down the trail to get a good “up and early” prime fishing spot, we quickly realize that… apparently 2 hours wasn’t early enough!
Keep in mind, this is how packed it was at 7:30am. Did these people camp here? I mean, c’mon! Whatever coffee is strong enough to get someone up and on the road before 6:00am, we would definitely like that recipe! This is nuts! And despite not finding a good spot in the sanctuary, we totally love the nuttiness! ;-)
But it still doesn’t help with our (lack-thereof) good fishing spots that we initially wanted to claim inside the sanctuary. We still decided to trek down the dock and see if we could squeeze in somewhere.
Friends; THIS is the definition of combat-fishing.
One of the reasons that we always love coming to the Russian River confluence, is the GREAT groomed trails. If your wrists get tired or your feet get cold, there is a vast amount of spacious terrain for you to take a nature hike and enjoy some of the most stunning views on earth. Ahhh-mazing!
So we moved a bit downstream, and well… not a SINGLE regret! We got our limit(s) within 4 hours and were ready to eat lunch and relax by 1pm.
It’s always smart to be a plastic trash bag to put all of your fillets in, and some ice + a cooler (which can be left in your vehicle and not lugged around all day). This will assure that you are keeping your fillets in optimum condition. Which inventively means that they will taste the best if they are kept cold until packaging and freezing (or throwing on the grill).
Be sure to throw your scraps way out into the river upon filleting. Leaving scraps near the filleting table will collect and begin to smell, which will further motivate and entice the bears to come to the banks and grub on your leftovers. This will also push you out of your fishing spot sometimes (because the bears run the river, and when they’re hungry… you don’t want to be around or in their way). If you see people leaving their scraps around the filleting tables (as opposed to throwing them out into the middle of the river) we recommend that you politely say something to them. A lot of people just don’t know (and/or they are from out of state/country and are visiting on vacation) and would actually greatly appreciate some helpful advice that will help them do the right thing for the rest of the angling addicts out there. We are a special community, we need to stick together and always remember to help out our riverbank neighbors.
After spending the rest of the afternoon fishing for trout without any luck, we decided to call it a day at about 4pm. At this time, the river was continuing to get hotter and hotter (with more and more people showing up). This last photo was taken on the ferry in the middle of the river. Until next time, friends… we wish you luck in all of your fishing endeavors! And remember, “it’s only an addiction if you admit to having a problem!” FISH ON, FRIENDS!
Thank you to our dear friends at KSRM Radio Group for being our first source for news! Thank you for having a GREAT Facebook page that you keep updated so well. Big shout out to your AMAZING NEWS TEAM, KSRM!
Photos; All Rights Reserved to the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council and Loomis Sage Marketing
In the beautifully quaint town of Hope, Alaska is where you will meet up with your whitewater rafting guide to start your adrenaline-packed excursion down Sixmile Creek. “Hope City” was a mining camp for Resurrection Creek (which is a waterway in the Kenai Peninsula), and was established in 1896. Formerly a mining town, this warm and welcoming place is now a popular year-round getaway for many residents in Anchorage and throughout Southcentral Alaska.
Along with Bear Creek and Glacier Creek, Sixmile Creek is a tributary Turnagain Arm. The stream’s watershed drains 161 square miles on the north side of the Kenai Peninsula, and the town of Hope, Alaska is located at the mouth of the creek’s. The Hope Road Turnoff passes alongside Resurrection Creek.
Six Mile Creek is often times said to be one of the most challenging class IV and V whitewater rafting trips in Alaska, according to our friends at NOVA Alaska. This trek is the premier whitewater rafting trip on Alaska’s Playground, and one of the best in North America according to lots of reviews. There are three canyons, each progressively more challenging with narrow routes, steep drops, beautiful pools, and adrenaline pumping rapids all in a gorgeous semi-rain forest.
Rising over 500 feet in places, these towering canyon walls are draped in a lush carpet of old growth rain-forest with cascading waterfalls pouring in from the sides. Crystal clear water with healthy salmon runs make this a river runner’s dream. Safely running Six Mile’s narrowly constricted passageways takes a coordinated team effort with technical and precise paddling. Working closely with your guide, you’ll be paddling while (s)he handles the oars. This oar paddling combination gives you power when you need it, as well as precise maneuvering capability, according to Chugach Outdoor Center. For those who want the most excitement we offer paddle rafting, everyone paddles with the guide sitting in the back giving paddle commands. Six Mile has such an abundance of whitewater that one rapid will quickly fade from memory as you anxiously look downriver preparing for the next. Precipitous drops, thundering hydraulics and powerful waves follow one after the other in quick succession. With each succeeding canyon, we’ll encounter whitewater of increasing difficulty. With rapids known as “Staircase,” “Suckhole,” “Merry-Go-Round” and “Jaws,” the third and most difficult canyon has six rapids rated at Class IV+ and Class V.
For those up to the challenge, Six Mile Creek is truly the ride of a lifetime! All passengers must be physically capable of passing a paddler’s practice swim due to the very versatile terrain that mill be covered.
Multiple experienced guides will closely monitor your “practice swim” to assure that you have proper form and a concise understanding of all water-safety concepts needed for ultimate safety.
And with the terrain you will be covering, pictures of these remind us of exactly why the outfitters require that you pass a “paddler’s practice swim” before embarking on a float… HOLY SMOKES!
And at the end of the intense, heart-pounding trip… you realize that you develop a very special bond with your raft team almost immediately. Trooping the whitewater of Six Mile Creek is no joke! It is the real deal, indeed!
It wasn’t until the early 80’s, when NOVA pioneered the Six Mile Whitewater Rafting excursions when they convinced the Forest Service to allow them to run commercial trips. Back in those days it was done with non-self bailing rafts (bucket boats). There are few companies in the world who can say they were around and used them and especially on class IV and V whitewater.
It is really cool and really quite special that we have this great group of fun-loving professionals at Nova Alaska as well as many other excellent outfitters including Chugach Outdoor Center, in our very own backyard on The Kenai, Alaska’s Playground! If you decide to take a journey of your own down Six Mile Creek, or if you’ve already done so and have some really great memories to share, we would love to hear all about your experiences in the comments below!
The Kenai Peninsula is infamous for a lot of different reasons; Mountains, Glaciers, Wildlife, World Renowned Fishing… the list goes on & on. But lately, we’ve taken a real fixation to the growing number of decadent bistros from town to town. Many are offering a wide variety of healthy, organic, Alaska-grown (& caught) options. And others are just plain chalked full of scrumptious-ness from appetizer to dessert. Below, we will explain our obsession a little bit further with a few recommendations. Just one per town (which was extremely hard to do) but we will dive into more selections per town in upcoming blog posts… so stay tuned!
Veronika’s Coffee House – “Coffee is ALWAYS a good idea… Life is Simpler with a Cup of Coffee!”
Ranting Raven Bakery & Gifts – “Fresh Baked Pastries that will make your mouth water for hours… and leave you wanting more & more! Delicious Lattes and a Warm & Cozy Atmosphere tucked behind a Quaint Gift Shop!”
The Sourdough Express Bakery & Cafe – “Proudly Serving healthy, hearty Alaskan Cuisine. Focused on local & organic ingredients since 1982.”
The Moose is Loose - “Some of the best donuts, pastries & baked goods in Alaska! Ask anyone you know! This place is a MUST if you are driving through Soldotna. “
Tidepool Cafe & Bookstore – “Creative menu items, local fare, and an artsy atmosphere. It’s hard to beat the fresh options and friendly hospitality that is found at this charming cafe!”
Halibut Cove, Alaska
The Saltry Restaurant - “Art, Food and Coastal Living in Halibut Cove, Alaska. Not to mention, a pretty cool setting and a killer view!”
If anyone ever said that there was anything sweeter than catching a trophy trout on the Kenai River, we just might have to object. But this time of year, with our “eye on the prize,” we are certainly not shy to admit that we are overly partial to this species. If you are looking for a challenging yet extremely rewarding and “on your toes, out of your seat” type of thrilling angling experience, Rainbow Trout fishing on the Kenai River is definitely for you. Because of the large number of salmon that swim through the Kenai River every summer, the environment that is created is perfect and incredibly favorable to the Rainbow Trout species. Rainbow Trout tend to flood in and fatten up on the flesh and eggs of spawning salmon. These fish can eat with the best of em’, and the prominent anglers… they know it. And now that you do to, make sure to set your sights high for a big, fat, beautiful “trophy” to call your own.
Bonus! For those that simply enjoy a great dose of beautiful colors and glorious sight seeing, Rainbow Trout are some of the most gorgeous fish! With coloring and patterns that vary widely depending on habitat, age, and spawning condition. They are torpedo-shaped and generally blue-green or yellow-green in color with a pink streak along their sides, white underbelly, and small black spots on their back and fins.
Here are a couple “up close & personal” shots to show you just how vibrant the colors of a Rainbow can be (the swimming rainbow, that is…)
They are members of the salmon family and, like their salmon cousins, can grow quite large. They average about 20 to 30 inches (51 to 76 centimeters) long and around 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms), but can grow as long as 4 feet (1.2 meters) and weigh up to 53 pounds (24 kg).
They prefer cool, clear rivers, streams, and lakes, though some will leave their freshwater homes and follow a river out to the sea. These migratory adults, called steelheads because they acquire more silvery markings, will spend several years in the ocean, but must return to the stream of their birth to spawn.
Rainbow trout survive on insects, crustaceans, and small fish. Their populations are healthy worldwide and they have no special status or protections.
We have some business listings below (per town) to get you started, but remember that we have ton’s and ton’s of recommendations for amazing guides and fishing outfits across the entire Kenai Peninsula to make sure that you are set-up in style and ready to rumble. Don’t waste another minute trying to find the hot spots to wet a line and get on some pigs. Check out the options below, or give us a call/shoot us an email and we will play “genie” to your every wish and command!
Cooper Landing, Alaska: Kenai Riverside Fishing offers world-class fishing on the Kenai. All-inclusive packages include cozy cabins, delicious meals, expert guides, gear & processing. Day trips also available!
Sterling, Alaska: Great Alaska Adventure Lodge offers world class sportfishing & nature safaris from their lodge and wilderness out-camps. A great group of salmon, halibut, & trout anglers that are avid nature lovers.
Soldotna, Alaska: Big Sky Charter & Fishcamp is a family owned lodge and guide service that has been providing authentic Alaskan fishing experiences for more than 50 years! They fish all species, all season!
Kenai, Alaska: Alaska Fish On Charters! offers affordable & quality services with lots of great package options! Over 25 years of experience fishing the waters’ of the Kenai Peninsula for trout, salmon, and more!
And when should you go? Well here is super-sweet, uber-convenient Rainbow Trout Calendar for your reference. Like we said, 15 days and counting until June 11th rolls around… get ready!
Oh, and we can’t forget to mention… Rainbow Trout fishing is very, very family friendly. Leave it up to our friend and incredible angler/guide Mr. Mark Glassmaker with Alaska Fishing with Mark Glassmaker to teach young (and obviously very smart) Caleigh Glassmaker to reel in a beamingly beautiful Rainbow Trout. We aren’t gamblers, but we are convinced that she probably had the best catch on the boat that entire day. ;-)
So beautiful, so delicious, and such a super-fun & totally rewarding challenge… even the bears can’t resist a good Rainbow Trout!
This summer, don’t settle for anything less than the best. Reward Yourself with the colors of the Rainbow. Why? Because you deserve it. And you’re overdue for a well deserved gift to yourself. FISH ON, dear friends!
In the quaint yet strikingly-beautiful community of Halibut Cove, Alaska (which is located across the bay from Homer in Kachemak Bay State Park) you can relax under a canopy on the deck and enjoy gourmet, healthy cuisine while you listen to performances from the floating amphitheater. If you’ve never been-to or heard-of Halibut Cove, please let us embellish a little on our extreme love and obsession for this place. Halibut Cove is a little jewel tucked away in Alaska’s first state park, Kachemak Bay State Park. The park area is a total of 400,000 acres of mountains, glaciers, forests, coastline and ocean. Visitors frequently observe sea otters, harbor seals, porpoise, and a variety of whale species. Aside from the wildlife, to-die-for views and endless outdoor activities, we always find ourselves most impressed with the residents of this great community. The laid-back vibe of the locals mixed with the friendly, warm, and genuinely inviting hospitality gives the community of Halibut Cove a 5 Star (+++) for us every time!
So if you aren’t already totally and completely convinced that making the trek to experience Halibut Cove Live 2014 is an absolute MUST, let us give you all of the details to kick your 2014 “Alaska’s Playground” bucket list dreams into reality overdrive.
Halibut Cove Live presents three live music events this summer at Quiet Place Lodge. Below we will explain to you a little bit about just how fun, special, and truly awesome each of these great performers are in their own brilliant and unique ways.
Saturday, July 12th (3 pm to 7:30 pm) – Todd Grebe and Cold Country
Cold Country started in Alaska with the idea to play original honkytonk roots music that ranges from bluegrass to blues and beyond. Todd Grebe and Cold Country now reside in Nashville,TN, but continue to play venues in Alaska. The band features the red hot fiddle action of Angela Oudean, the raging mandolin prowess of David long, the rock steady all night long bass thumping of Mike Bub, and the rowdy vocal stylings of Todd Grebe.
Gourmet Dining Special Feature:
Guest Chef: Executive Chef Jason Porter of Alyeska Resort’s Seven Glaciers Restaurant.
Menu: View the menu here!
Read more about guest Chef Jason Porter
Saturday, July 26th (3 pm to 7:30 pm) – Dan Mac Band, featuring Brad Shermock, lead trumpet for the Doc Severinson Band and John “Pypes” Teamer
Sunday, July 27th (3 pm to 7:30 pm) – Dan Mac Band, featuring Brad Shermock, lead trumpet for the Doc Severinson Band and John “Pypes” Teamer
The Dan Mac Band will bring their hi-energy Alaska Jazz to Halibut Cove again this summer! This year’s band will feature Brad Shermock, lead trumpet for the Doc Severinsen Big Band. Last year’s featured performer, vocalist John “Pypes” Teamer will also be returning with this year’s band. Musical director and keyboardist Dan McElrath will anchor the rhythm section with Cameron Cartland on drums, Dirk Westfall on bass, and the new energy of saxophonist Nelson Felix Jr.
Gourmet Dining Special Feature:
Guest Chef: Maura Brenin, Executive Chef of Maura’s Cafe and Fine Catering in Homer, Alaska.
Read more about guest Chef Maura Brenin.
Intrigued with Anticipation? Yeah, we are too! So let’s take the next step together…
Tickets are on sale now! Tickets for each event are $170 per person and include round-trip transportation from Homer to Quiet Place Lodge in Halibut Cove. Proceeds from these events benefit the Homer Foundation. On top of being really, really excited about attending Halibut Cove Live for all of the reasons we’ve listed above, what feels the very best is knowing that all of the proceeds are going to a foundation that prides itself on “connecting generosity to community need.” In fact, their mission statement is “to enhance the quality of life for the citizens of the greater Homer area by promoting philanthropic and charitable activities.” Giving back to something so great all the while being given the gift of all the amazing treats that Halibut Cove Live offers is truly the definition of a WIN/WIN!
Today we are so delighted to feature a guest post from the Disney Insider!
Disney Cast Member and writer Cheryl Kabela Hansen got to tackle the assignment of a lifetime: a trip to Alaska to cover the making of Disneynature’s latest film, Bears, in person. As she tells it, the experience was nothing less than life-changing, so we invited her to share her story with us and with our readers. Please join her on this unforgettable trip to the world of Bears:
As the wolf crept by me, cautiously curious—we locked eyes for a split second. He had fantastic yellow eyes and a creamy white coat. I’d found a certain level of security during my brief adventure by humbly sitting in the back of the group. Every bear that walked by would have to clear the cameraman first before getting to me, right? But the wolf, he was different. He came around the back. So it was just the two of us (as far as I was concerned). He looked like a big dog, eager for a cuddle. Then he yawned, and my, what big teeth he had.
As a staff writer at Walt Disney Studios, I’ve been responsible for editing the materials for all of the Disneynature films. The big cats in “African Cats” were fast and fierce—and I, like every other mom on the planet, wanted to scoop up little Oscar in “Chimpanzee” the moment he found himself all alone. So when I got a call on one far-too-normal day last year, the wheels started turning. “Hey Cheryl,” she said. “Do you know any writers who might be interested in going to Alaska to cover production for Disneynature’s ‘Bears?’”
Um … yeah. Me.
It made perfect sense to send me to cover a film about the journey of a mother bear and her cubs. I had two little cubs of my own, after all. The thought of leaving them, however, made me nauseous. My husband would surely laugh at the idea of going all single-dad for a week after shouldering the bulk of the day-to-day duties already. But he didn’t laugh. Instead he said, “Go for it. It’s an adventure of a lifetime.”
What? Leave my family behind to trek to the middle of nowhere to follow a bunch of filmmakers while they seek out bears—on purpose?
I’m not a girly girl. I gave up high heels a long time ago. But I’m not that cool chick, either, the one who rises with the sun to scale mountains and eat wild berries. I want to be her, but when Saturday morning rolls around, the idea of leaping out of bed at dawn to go hiking never seems as appealing as, say, pancakes. In my head, I have sun-kissed cheeks, regularly sleep under the stars, can identify an animal by his excrement, look great without makeup and have rockin’ hamstrings from all of that hiking. (I’m also 10 years younger and 10 pounds lighter in my head, but that’s beside the point.)
I wasn’t really worried about the bears. I respected them—in the way we should all respect wild animals—particularly those with sharp teeth and claws. What concerned me more was my fear of The Filmmakers—this elusive bunch of humans who make their living wandering among wildlife. Their way-cool world is so unlike my cubicle-bound, what-will-I-order-for-lunch existence. I was pretty sure they looked good without makeup (figuratively speaking), and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them. Would I be miserably cold and count the minutes till we could return to camp? Camp? Where would I sleep? Where would I … do other things that one must do several times a day?
The trip to Hallo Bay Camp within Katmai National Park and Preserve was an adventure itself, culminating in a 75-minute jaunt aboard a Cessna that landed not on a runway, but a beach. I rode shotgun in this tiny aircraft and figure it was at least 20 minutes before I was able to unclench. We flew from Homer over Katchemak Bay, which is where the Bering Sea meets the Gulf of Alaska. The area is home to active volcanoes and glaciers. It is untouched and incredible: a living painting of greens, blues and browns like I’d never before seen.
I saw my first bear before we even landed. He was walking up the beach, a greeter sent to welcome me to this faraway land. As obviously natural as it was—this lone bear ambling along the coastline—I found it entirely foreign, since in all of my years on Earth, I’d never really seen an animal of that size and power free to roam for miles and miles. It was breathtaking and oddly emotional.
And, it turned out, The Filmmakers were nothing to fear. These charming Brits—led by director Keith Scholey—were a welcoming bunch, much like that bear—and they seemed eager to share their wild world with my rookie self. I sensed their enthusiasm ratcheting up a bit with my arrival. After all, their mission with a film like “Bears” is to bring their world to people just like me.
Scholey and I set out with naturalist guide Simyra Taback-Hlebechuk to catch up with the team who’d been out filming for most of the day already. We hadn’t been walking for more than 10 minutes when Taback-Hlebechuk told me there was a bear munching on sedge grass up ahead just off our path. He was huge—easily 650 pounds—fluffy, the color of caramel and not the least bit interested in us. My heart raced, but I wasn’t afraid. Surely, he could turn our way and in a matter of seconds plow me over if he chose—but to him, I did not represent food. Bears don’t associate humans with food in this part of the world, which is why it’s possible to share their space.
I’m not sure what I expected of Alaska’s weather—even in late July—but balmy was not an option I’d considered. Yet, the sun was shining and I was comfortable in a long-sleeved t-shirt as we walked a mile so down the beach dotted with driftwood and pumice stones, through a meadow and along a creek bed to join camerawoman Sophie Darlington, a field assistant and their guide. They were remarkably happy, considering there were no bears in sight. I got a taste of life on location, where patience is key and creativity is essential when it comes to passing the time (bear-orizing songs: “All the bears are brown …” and the group favorite, “Bear-hemian Rhapsody”). The protocol was simple, but surprising. We went to a spot where bears frequent—and sat. “The bears will come,” they said.
And they did—four at once, actually. Our guide and the filmmakers recognized individuals—one was called Rice Krispy Ears, for obvious reasons. The bears disregarded us for the most part, but there were two that came quite close—perhaps to get a good look at the new girl, more likely because it was too much trouble to alter their paths. It wasn’t fear I felt, rather a profound vulnerability—punctuated by the fact that we were sitting as these 400 to 700-pound animals were lumbering by. I knew better than to run—no need to be mistaken for prey—but I had a great deal of trouble giving up all control. Note to self: control is overrated.
We saw two wolves that night; one curled up for a nap about 20 yards away—a fact that still seemed to titillate the filmmakers who hadn’t really witnessed wolves this unguarded anywhere else in the world. An eagle flew by—its grace and majesty was palpable. It was sensory overload at its very, very best. The sun was still out at 10 p.m.—it was summertime in Alaska, after all, but the light had waned a bit so the team packed up for the night. I was struck by the reluctance of the production team to leave the dirt and driftwood they’d called home for some 14 hours. They were genuinely afraid of missing something—THE shot—and since Darlington was leaving the following morning after weeks on location, she was visibly sad to bid adieu to Alaska. I admired her passion—a quality I noted in each of the filmmakers I encountered.
Despite the day’s successes, I had not yet met mama bear and her cubs. But nature will not be directed, and—I found out later—Scholey was fairly sure any mother with spring cubs would’ve already left the area to steer clear of larger males moving in for the salmon that had begun to arrive. But I would not be disappointed. We were on the beach awaiting Darlington’s airborne chariot when we saw walking confidently up the beach a trio of beautiful bears. The whole camp erupted—apparently nobody thought I’d get my cub sighting. But there she was: proud mama with two cubs in tow.
Even better: following Darlington’s departure, cameraman Gavin Thurston scrambled to gather his equipment, and I was invited to join the team as they went in the direction the little family was headed, presumably to fish at the creek.
Mama bear reminded me of myself a little: multitasking, one eye on her cubs, the other on the job at hand. The scene was more entertaining than any reality show I’d seen to date, only to be interrupted by the lone wolf who came to check me out. Our guide estimated he came within 10 feet of me (though I was told I could say 5). And I didn’t think my heart could race any faster till I saw that wolf cross the creek where the mother bear was still hanging with her cubs.
Wolf hunting was definitely not on my list—particularly if my newfound cubs were on the menu.
With the permission of our guide, we hastily crossed the creek to capture what happened next. The wolf was not shy about his intentions. I waited for mama bear to put him in his place, but after one warning, she seemed preoccupied with her fishing. The wolf was relentless, and I was afraid he’d get a hold of one of those cubs. Shame on me for doubting that mother, who clearly knew what she was doing—those cubs promptly took matters into their own paws and let the wolf know they were in control. Best. Moment. Ever: two tiny cubs chasing off a wolf, not once, but four times—all caught on camera and a scene that would ultimately make the final cut—which says a lot considering more than 400 hours of footage was shot. I made a mental note on the spot to remember to let my own cubs stand up for themselves when the day comes (and it will).
The lessons learned are many, to be sure, but above all, I hope those bears taught me to always be willing to overlook fear, step out of my comfort zone, experience adventure, find passion. My own journey certainly pales compared to that of the family in “Bears,” but my experience—and the film itself—revealed a world much bigger than the one I’d been living in, and for that, I will always be grateful. Go “Bears.”
Bears is now playing in theaters nationwide. See the film during opening week (April 18-24, 2014) and Disneynature, through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, will make a contribution to the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, to protect wildlife and wild places across America’s national park system.
With: Alaska’s Hallo Bear Camp
TripAdvisor Review: “The best restaurant on the Kenai Peninsula. Period!”
“There is an easy way to say this: EAT HERE.
This restaurant is the best of everything you want if you are planning a trip to Alaska. Views? Check. Great, local food? Check. Good drink selection? Check. Great people? Check.
The seafood comes fresh every day, and is chosen carefully. The preparations are amazing, and you can’t go wrong with any Kachemak Bay staples like crab, salmon, halibut, oysters or mussels. There is nothing they do poorly here, and the small number of tables make for an intimate, special, wonderful eating experience.
Be sure to check in with the Danny J office for your ride across the bay. This special boat is the ferry service for Halibut Cove, and offers a lunch “tour” trip, and the direct dinner service. Reservations are required for The Saltry, but you can find your own way across the bay if you prefer to skip the Danny J’s services. However, the ride is worth it all in itself–the views are amazing, and the way Kachemak Bay looks from the water is amazing. If you think the view of the Kenai Range is nice when you come down the hill into Homer, wait to see what it looks like from your table at the Saltry!
This is a meal you should splurge on while you are here. Make it 3 courses, and you won’t be regretting any of it. The wait staff are all very knowledgeable, honest, and friendly. Wine or beer pairings are well made, and there is a small bar on site as well.
Overnight options exist, and some use the Danny J as their way to get to Halibut Cove and on to adventures in Kachemak Bay State Park.
Make this your destination when in Homer, AK. No trip to the End of the Road would be complete without it.”