Katmai National Park, AK

Seaplane is the only way to get to Brooks Lodge, which is the only place to stay near Brooks Falls also known as grizzly bear heaven. The annual salmon run attracts a large number of brown or grizzly bears whose main mission for the summer is to get as fat as possible. Apparently the bears living closer to the coast are not as aggressive. Still, there’s plenty of precaution taken and the first thing you do when you land is go to bear school.

Boarding the plane to Brooks Lodge

Boarding the plane to Brooks Lodge

Flying over beautiful landscape

Flying over beautiful landscape

Brooks Lodge, Katmai National Park

Brooks Lodge, Katmai National Park

Bear sightings in late June and July are almost guaranteed. We were trapped in a couple bear jams while hiking around. Obviously, bears always have the right of way there. Bears are used to humans always being around and they don’t care at all, which is great because we can observe them go about their bear business unnoticed.

Bear jam. Bridge is closed.

Bear jam. Bridge is closed.

Salmon is jumping 6 ft up the waterfall

Salmon is jumping 6 ft up the waterfall

Watching bears up close from the observation deck

Watching bears up close from the observation deck

Watching out for competition

Watching out for competition

My camera felt like a point and shoot next to these guys. Really wished I had one of those lenses.

My camera felt like a point and shoot next to these guys. Really wished I had one of those lenses.

Enjoying some fish

Enjoying some fish

Blondie on the run

Blondie on the run

Hollie is the most popular bear mama. Last year she adopted an abandoned cub known as Porkchop in addition to her own younger cub.

Hollie and her cubs

Hollie and her cubs

Hollie's cubs are tired

Hollie’s cubs are tired

Hollie going about her business

Hollie going about her business

Fishermen want salmon too

Fishermen want salmon too

While bears are the main reason people go there today, Katmai was designated as a national park because of the Valley of 10000 Smokes. It’s an expansive area covered by an 800 ft layer of volcanic ash spewed during the 1912 volcanic eruption of Novarupta. It’s the largest volcanic eruption known to men. Even bigger than Vesuvius. Immediately after the eruption, the water trapped beneath the hot ash was evaporating creating thousands of fumaroles emitting steam, hence the name. Must have been quite a show. In a few years the ash cooled down and the steam was gone. But the name stuck.

The Valley of 10,000 smokes. The past and present.

The Valley of 10,000 smokes. The past and present.

The hike at the end of the road goes down to a river, which quickly eroded the layer of ash and made its way through the valley.

River carving the Valley of 10000 smokes

River carving the Valley of 10000 smokes

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Pumice rocks are found throughout the park. The volcanic rock is very light and floats in water.

Pumice rocks floating in Brooks lake

Pumice rocks floating in Brooks lake

With no TV or internet, park rangers and lodge employees get creative with their entertainment. On Saturday night, they organized a party with live music and dancing. For us, after two nights, it was time to go to the next park.

Back to Anchorage. Those clouds and mountains do not look very inviting. Thank god for Dramamine!

Back to Anchorage. Those clouds and mountains do not look very inviting. Thank god for Dramamine!

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