Brown Bears, Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.
I didn’t get a chance to finish writing about our Lake Clark trip, so I thought I would follow up today.
To be honest, we have always traveled on our own in Alaska, with either our camper or tent, so I had mixed feelings on visiting a lodge geared just towards bear viewing, working with guides, etc. My other reservation was the cost – an all inclusive trip that includes flights, lodging, meals, boats and guides isn’t going to be cheap, especially given our short summer season. I do get that, but what I struggled with – for what a four day bear viewing trip cost, we could do a two month trip to the Lower 48 and probably come away with far more marketable material. But hey, having fun is more important than return on investment! Plus, if I could photograph puffins without the considerable expensive of flying to St. Paul, that would be a huge bonus. So now the question, where to go.
As I like to do, I spent a ton of time researching all the possible options. Yeah, I’m an over-researcher. As I read about the options for coastal bear viewing, along either the Katmai or Lake Clark National Park coast, one place kept coming out on top, and that was Silver Salmon Creek Lodge. In hindsight, it turned out to be a great choice, I couldn’t have been happier for a number of reasons in which I will elaborate.
Like most all organizations, it is the people who make or break it, and that usually starts at the top. Well Dave, Joanne and Oliver couldn’t have been nicer. I’m not talking about the fake, I’m supposed to smile and act this way kind of nice. No, they are just good, down to earth people who Janine and I really enjoyed getting to know. Not surprisingly, their staff was all cut from the same thread.
I was very excited about the location, as I had hoped to concentrate on bear in the landscape type images, and the surrounding mountains would have made a perfect backdrop. Unfortunately, because of low clouds and stormy weather, we never did see much of the surrounding countryside while we were there – but it is there.
The cost really was reasonable when you looked at the high level of service, and all you received – especially when you compare it to what a hotel alone goes for in Anchorage this time of year. There weren’t any add-on charges, everything was included, and that even went for your flights, boat rides along the coast, kayak and canoe use, you name it. It also included the food, and that was delicious! We are talking fresh fish, prime rib… you get the idea. If you have special needs – no problem, they even ask about that right up front.
Really all that other stuff wouldn’t matter without the wildlife, but wow! There were 3 sows with spring cubs, a couple with year old cubs, there were large boars, you name it, and they were everywhere. It wasn’t uncommon to have bears meander right through the lodge grounds, in fact it usually happened a number of times each day.
The bonus for me was the puffin. I get lots of requests for this colorful bird, and have very little coverage. I have considered flying to St. Paul in past years, but that is an expensive proposition. So to be up-close to these wonderful birds was a real treat and bonus!
All and all I must say, Silver Salmon Creek Lodge was a wonderful experience, and one I look forward to repeating one day.
This is the dinning room. From the windows, you could almost always see bears feeding off the sedges.
The outside of the main lodge building. This building is surrounded by individual cabins.
Here are more bear photos.