If you’re lounging around watching the “boobtube” today, check out the Travel Channel’s “Into Alaska with Jeff Corwin”. There is a marathon on all day.
It’s really exciting to see someone really explore Alaska. So many times, I’ve watched tv bits and shows on this state and they only show the places that are overrun with tourists. In fact, all of those shows look like they’re spewing out the same loop of film. To me and to many of my fellow Alaskans, that’s not the true Alaska.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still tourist of my state, having lived here only 5 years and having only seen a handful of places, I’m thankful that people want to come here and that there are places that cater to the industry.
Alaska is a big damn place. Over 500,000 square miles and the population is roughly 1 person per square mile. We’re the largest state with the longest coastline in the United states with the smallest population, and yet lots of people don’t realize that. If you took the eastern most point of the Southeast islands and the Western most point of Attu, Alaska reaches from Savannah, Georgia to San Diego, California. It’s hard to believe when you watch the weather channel and we’re reduced to a small little blip on the lower bottom of the screen.
That’s the kind of information that you never hear about. Hell, I had to actually move here to find out all the facts.
I’m happy to see Jeff explore some interior villages, places off of the road system, places that haven’t succumbed to the tourist trap.
One of the destinations of his travels within this state is Katmai National Park. Now yes, Katmai is prone to thousands of tourists each year but it’s a lot harder to get to than other places. You can only fly or take a boat there.
It was the first leisure trip we ever took after we moved to Alaska because we lived in King Salmon which is the gateway to the park, and we had some friends who worked for the airlines who got us some incredible deals. It was the first time I’d ever flown in a floatplane. The flight was roughly about an hour and even before we touched down into Brooks lake, we saw huge grizzley bears on the beach.
We were immediately taken into a building and given a 30 minute bear orientation. It was made very clear to us, that these bears WERE NOT TAME. Yes, humans and bears were able to somewhat co-exist side by side here but they were very much wild animals and we were to respect that. We weren’t allowed to carry food and could only eat in the designated areas, if we saw a bear, we were to get out of its way, and when we were hiking the trails, we were encouraged to make as much noise as possible to keep them at bay. Obviously, friends of ours are all about the noise, so that was never a problem.
Even as we stood outside chatting and getting ready to make our way to the famous Brooks river, I turned to my right and saw a huge grizzley making its way up the trail. Someone yelled “BEAR ON THE TRAIL!” and we all made our way back inside the orientation building, watching the bear saunter by and disappear into the woods beyond the trail.
My heart raced with a mixture of fear and excitement. We clapped, sang, laughed, and yelled our way up the trail to Brooks Falls. Brooks Falls is where you can view from a platform, bears catching salmon from the falls. At this point, we were encouraged to take photos, but to remain very quiet, so as not to disturb a natural wonder unfolding before our eyes.
We had lunch at the lodge, hiked a few more trails and eventually had to make our way back to the beach to catch our plane, but we noticed a crowd of people standing on the bridge that crosses a river before it opens to the lake. A park ranger told us that two bears were napping on the trail. When this happens, no one yells at the bears to get away, no one shoos them off. Again, they want as little human contact as possible so as no to upset their natural way of life. What happens is a lot of waiting. We had to wait until mama bear and her cub woke up and were safely off the trail before we could move forward. We saw our floatplane land at the other side of the lake and obviously we weren’t there. Soon though, we saw the plane float to our side of the bridge, the pilot signal to us, and we were able to take the back way and board. Our friends were catching another plane after us and after we all re-convened back in King Salmon for dinner that night, they told us that it was a full hour before mama and baby woke up and got off the trail. That was September of 2003.
The very next month, Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend Amy Hugenard were killed in that very same park…because they didn’t adhere to the rules of the wilderness. It reminded me of how very big and wild Alaska really is.
Another movie is out this month called “Into the Wild”. It’s a true story and another reminder of this great wilderness called Alaska. If you don’t respect it, adhere to its rules, and are unprepared, you’re likely to meet the same fate. Be it starvation, a bear attack, hypothermia, whatever.
Upon moving here five years ago, it was love at first sight. The great majesty swept my heart away. The clean air, the neverending wilderness, the land greatly untouched by man’s greedy hand, appealed to something within me.
The thrill of a challenge unhinged me and I was hooked. I knew I’d found my forever home.