Clothes have been packed into suitcases; uniforms and books have been boxed up, ready to be shipped home or to the next park job. Cabins have been swept, dusted, and mopped; stoves and refrigerators have been wiped down; dishes have been put away on the shelf; counters have been cleared and cleaned. The water in the campground has been turned off and so has the electricity to the bear-resistant fence. The visitor center merchandise has been put in storage and the "Closed for the season" sign placed in the window. The maintenance staff will stay until November to hopefully finish up projects started this summer. It is the final night for the interpretive staff at Brooks Camp.
We had a delicious pot-luck Thanksgiving dinner last night, and a great end-of-season slide show. Our ten-day warm spell of clear skies has disappeared with an east wind moving in, blowing its way steadily through the gap in the Iliuk moraine of Naknek Lake. Autumn is here for sure on the Alaska Peninsula. The cottonwood trees are ablaze with yellow on the mountainsides and there have already been extra blankets on beds.
The plan is for the park plane to take us all (in shifts) back to King Salmon tomorrow. I will spend one night in the NPS dorm and then Wednesday will catch a PenAir flight to Anchorage. I am looking forward to renting a car and driving the 127 miles down the Seward Highway to - you guessed it - Seward! - and staying three nights in a motel overlooking the harbor before flying back to Utah. I have a reservation for a 6-hour glacier cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park which will be so amazing!
So we leave Brooks Camp to the brown bears for now, to wander at their leisure around the empty cabins and lodge and ranger station. They will continue to fish at the falls, the lower river, and the beach, and as the number of spawned-out dead and dying salmon floating downstream with the current slowly diminishes, the bears at Brooks River will then lumber slowly away, perhaps glancing back into the water now and again, as they leave the river to dig their new den site and begin their winter hibernation.