After our 2 days in Seward, Teddy and I headed to the Soldotna/Kenai area for our next adventure. This is the one thing Teddy had on his “must do” list for our trip. I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to make it happen, but the weather cooperated and Teddy (and I) ended up having the experience of a lifetime.
Our day started very early. We needed to arrive at the location for our air service around 6:30 AM. We got there early, checked in, and headed down by the lake and waited for the rest of our group to arrive. We were initially to take off on the float planes around 7 AM but because of the fog, the flight began to get delayed. While we could see clearly, where we were headed was over by Lake Clark National Park and the mountain range there was covered in fog and wasn’t safe to fly into.
There were various groups that were to head out on fishing or wildlife adventures throughout the day. Groups kept arriving but planes weren’t taking off. It was cold and overcast and by 10 am we still hadn’t moved. There wasn’t great communication from the air service, which made for confusion over the next few hours. Let’s just say there were quite a few people who left without a refund. If everyone would have stayed and waited for their flights, there would have been over 50 people down by the 3 plane dock waiting to take off.
Around 11 am, I went to the car nearby and ate a PBJ and took a nap in the car (as did quite a few others) while I waited to hear what was going on. Teddy stayed down with everyone waiting to hear if our excursion would be cancelled or rescheduled if we couldn’t fly out that day.
Around 1 PM, we had now waited about 6.5 hours to take off. We were tired and hungry and just wanted to figure out out what the plan was. We made the decision to reschedule our flight for later in the week. When Teddy went to make the switch, there was a sudden change in plans and they now decided we could fly out and that the fog was cleared. After almost 7 hours of waiting, we headed to the dock with our bags packed and were in the air in the next 30 minutes.
We flew from Kenai/Soldotna into Big River Lake. We were with another couple and a guide, and boarded a jon boat to begin our fishing and bear viewing tour. Within 10 minutes of getting in the boat, we already had our first brown bear viewing. The area we were in had Sockeye Salmon that were waiting to run up the rivers to spawn. We got in line to fish in the densest area of salmon and took our turn fishing when it came to be time. This was my first time salmon fishing so our guide showed me what to do and I after a bit of time I caught my first salmon.
While we were fishing, you could see various brown bears in the area. Some where within 10 yards of our boat. While this may sound scary, the bears were so focused on their own fishing that they didn’t care about the people or boats in the area. They’d look at you every once in a while but were not bothered by us.
After we each caught our limit, we explored the area via boat. Our guide had a portable grill on the boat and cooked up one of the fish for us to eat. We got to see a beaver and then headed back to see more bears. We got really lucky and were able to see a momma fishing and her babies on a rock by the shore waiting for her. It was such a unique wildlife experience and Teddy got both the mom and babies on camera!
After the fishing tour was over which was about 6 or so hours long, we got back on the float plane with the other groups and flew over Double Glacier in Lake Clark National Park which is 11 miles long and the largest within the park. As its name suggests, it has two “lobes” of the glacier . It was epic to see. Even though we’d already hiked to a glacier, got married on one, and saw quite a few via helicopter, this still absolutely blew my mind.
We continued along a scenic flight by the mountains before heading back to the lake for our plane to laned.
In all, while the entire morning was not an ideal experience, we still did get to have the adventure of a lifetime. I will (hopefully) never see bears that close again in my life.
A lesson I learned in Alaska was that when you can take a helicopter or plane somewhere for flight-seeing, to just do it. It doesn’t compare to even the most incredible hikes or drives I’ve been on in my life. To understand just how small you are in the vastness of a mountain range is both wonderful and terrifying all at once.