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.
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.
Hollie is the most popular bear mama. Last year she adopted an abandoned cub known as Porkchop in addition to her own younger cub.
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 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.
Pumice rocks are found throughout the park. The volcanic rock is very light and floats in water.
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.