I had the pleasure of joining Alaska Bear Adventures on a flight to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve a few weeks ago… and what a trip! I was extra fortunate in that I was allowed to fly on standby and at a bargain because I currently work at the tour desk at Land’s End Resort (and you can bet your ass I send folks to ABA).
The guides were outstanding people. Having guided as long as I have, I have a hard time being the guest, but these guys made it easy. It was super laid back, with still proper attention to safety given the proximity to brown bears (props to Dillon for plunging head first into the guide world, you make a fine guide! And props to Derrick for keeping it going). Shooting the shit with Dillon was a blast, swapping carnage stories with a new guide is always a heartwarming moment (to be fair, I’ve never been a pilot but you know how it goes… “what’s the difference between a raft guide and God? God doesn’t think he’s a raft guide”).
For me, the real highlight was the view. I see bears all the time, and I’ve been closer to bears on my own than on the flight (though we were still damn close), but it’s rare for me to see my beloved home from such a vantage point. Particularly, the distant allure of Iliamna was finally closed as we flew through wisps of steam pouring through her vents… it was totally worth the minor motion sickness.
When we arrived, we were forced to circle as we could not land. There was no mechanical crisis… but there was a bear on the landing strip. Minor detail. This inconsiderate bear gave us the chance to circle a second time over the grassy meadows where the bears feed early in spring, their foot prints leaving intricate trails with no real reason.
If you can swing the price, it’s worth every penny. Most admirable perhaps is every guide’s dedication to keeping this place wild… they won’t hesitate to keep you in line for the bears’ sake!