Friday, July 30, 2010

Return To VTTS - Part 1

I got off work at 5 p.m. this past Saturday (my Friday – nearly a week ago now), all backpack-ready for my overnighter into the Valley. If the weather had cooperated, we’d have been out there for two days. But once again, in Alaska there are no guarantees concerning the weather – you take what is offered and act accordingly.


VTTS

This spring and summer have been unusually wet, even by Alaska Peninsula standards. Last summer there were apparently days upon days of endless sunshine and people got used to that. But for most of July 2010 we have rarely seen the sun. Since that day hike to Solstice Ridge on June 20 when we had perfect clear blue skies, the sun has rarely shone for more than a few hours at a time. I can’t remember there having been a day for the past month when it wasn’t at least cloudy, if not raining. For a desert rat like myself, the change is kind of nice – the cool humidity is sweet and I get to exist in a cloud of moisture (not to mention biting insects) for a few months. However, that concept doesn’t necessarily translate into a totally comfortable hiking experience. Nevertheless, just the fact that I was finally hiking into the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes was completely worth what effort I did expend. I must state unequivocally that I was never never never miserable! In the end I was just soaked to the bone (even though I was wearing rain gear) and really tired after hiking 11 miles in one day, and ended up wondering how in the world people hike for weeks at a time in this Alaskan summer weather.

No matter about that… it was THE VALLEY. I was going where not that many people get to go in their lifetimes. I wouldn’t let a little rain stop me.

Well…, maybe I would.

Besides Jeanette and me, we had added a couple of extra hikers. Jacqui (of the June Solstice hike) had a few days off, and Steve had Sunday off and just wanted to get out of camp. Our plan was to spend Saturday night in the Three Forks visitor center and start out early Sunday for a campsite about 6 miles into the Valley. At miles 5, 6, and 8 there are sheltered campsites with water available. We’d set up camp and then decide how to spend the rest of Sunday afternoon. We’d hike back out Monday. Steve had arranged for a ride back Sunday night and would only be out for the day. Phil would pick the rest of us up on Monday evening.

Christina (cabin mate) and Greg drove us the 23 miles from Brooks Camp to the visitor center - in the rain. Remember, it had been raining all month and wasn’t about to stop just because this Utah desert rat wanted to backpack. By this time it was nearly 8:00 p.m. Steve suggested we leave right then and hike 18 miles to the Mageik lakes. Now, Steve is a really nice person, but I looked at him and thought “Is he crazy???” The last thing in the world I wanted to do (or for that matter, could even possibly consider doing) was to set out at 8 p.m. and hike 18 miles to set up a tent in the rain. With three people half my age who hiked entirely too fast for this old girl’s boots. Right. Sign me up.

VTTS Visitor Center - Home for the night

After that idea was soundly squashed like a bug, we settled in at the visitor center (no one else was around) and cooked our couscous and Tasty Bites over Steve’s backpacking stove, and added some of my peanut butter to the mix, and I drank green tea, and then we played cards - Oh Hell - for a few hours until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any more, and soon, as the others stayed awake a while longer, I climbed into my sleeping bag on the floor in a corner and drifted off to an uneasy rest because my back was hurting from trying to get comfortable on the floor with my inadequate pad under me (I never have been able to find a suitable enough pad), tossing and turning and thinking “I may be getting too old to sleep on the floor anymore.” But then I thought - Here I am in Alaska, at the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, and so soon I stopped listening to those pesky voices in my head and eventually fell asleep in the never-quite-dark of a late July night near the 58th parallel, the rain pattering steadily away on the metal roof of the building.


Descent into the VTTS from the visitor center


Pumice everywhere


On the trail in the VTTS


Steve, Jacqui, and Jeanette overlooking River Lethe


UPCOMING: (sometime in the near future!)
RETURN TO VTTS – Part 2!!!
More excitement!!! More photos!!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Back In The Valley Again

NOTE: The computer went down for a few days (the phone is still down) before I could post this last Saturday morning. I went on the hike into the Valley and so will have some notes and pix in a couple of days - as long as the computer isn't down again!

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This past Thursday was my day to lead the tour to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Nobody cancelled! It was about time. I am becoming really OVER these bears and all. I’m here for the geology, after all.

I was totally jazzed for the tour. Wednesday evening I had re-read (for the bazillionth time) the Geologic Road Log Along Bus Route to Overlook Cabin in my well-thumbed copy of “The Geology of Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska” by Jim Riehle.
NOTE TO MINNESOTA SUE: You should order this little gem from Alaska Geographic Association before you come out here.

Come 8:25 a.m. Thursday and I was already going off to anyone who would listen about ancient beach ridges, plant progression after the glaciers retreat of 10,000 years ago, the 150-million-year-old Late Jurassic bedded sedimentary rocks of the Naknek Formation that comprise Mt. Katolinat (which we couldn’t see in the clouds but I talked about anyway), terminal moraines, ash dunes, volcanic arcs, the headward erosion of Margot Creek, the Knife Creek Glacier, plate tectonics and subduction, index fossils, Ukak Falls bedrock (Naknek Formation also), mudstone and greywacke, magma mixing, banded pumice, pyroclastic flows, the 1916 National Geographic Society expedition, Novarupta vent, and Mt. Katmai caldera. And I was doing this while sounding to myself like I was talking underwater, due to something going on in my left ear. Perhaps a couple dozen blasted little white socks flew in there last week and got lost.

One of the tour participants commented about a friend of theirs who is a geologist and geology is all HE talks about, too!
“GET THIS VEGETATION OUT OF THE WAY – IT’S COVERING UP ALL THE ROCKS!!!”

But that’s not all. My same-weekend-days-off hiking buddy Jeanette and I are going BACK to the Valley this Saturday after work (our Friday). Our plan is to stay in the Three Forks visitor center Sat. night and then get out early and backpack about 6-7 miles up the Valley, set up camp, and then do whatever. I want to reconnoiter part of the route I’ll take next month getting to Novarupta with Minnesota Sue. There is only one creek crossing at Windy Creek on this trip, but in August we will need to also cross River Lethe (with sincere hopes THAT river crossing doesn’t become as devilish as its name might imply).
NOTE TO MINNESOTA SUE: There are two river crossings. Bring some sandals.

Walking in the Valley is not difficult since the elevation gain is very gradual – on the topographic maps there are few contour lines of concern except those of the mountains that ring the Valley. We will start out on the Windy Creek trail and then skirt the Buttress Range into the Valley where, at mile 5 or 6 or 7 there are some good campsites with springs for water. Jeanette and I don’t really have a plan to get anywhere specific. I just know that I want to get the heck out of my cabin on my days off and am antsy to get out to the Valley. I have a good tent, backpack, hiking poles, sleeping bag and pad; we will borrow my cabin-mate’s Rocket-Pocket backpacking stove and a pot in which to boil water. We can throw together enough food to keep us going for 2 days until our return to camp Monday evening. We’ll stash some extra food and dry clothes in the visitor center, just in case. We’ll take a radio and bear spray.

Oh yeah – about the food – we will carry our food in a bear-resistant food container. Woo Hoo!!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Adios! (At Least For A While)

It rained all night Sunday night – light and easy on this metal-roofed cabin where I have made my home for the summer. Thunderstorms are extremely uncommon in this part of the North American continent - those pounding rains of the Lower 48 with their accompanying lightning and thunder are practically unheard of up here.

Then came a lovely, sunny, cooler, windy, Monday day off – and we all said “adios!” to those bleeping biting bugs, at least for a while. The rains drove away that stagnant high pressure system that had been hanging around for nearly a week and with it went the bugs. The sky was blue with high cumulus clouds – “the back of the front,” as my father used to say. Woo Hoo!

I finally got my NPS resume updated with Glen Canyon and Katmai added, and now will begin the difficult, arduous, mind-numbing task (“click here to apply”) of trying to find a job for the winter. Winter jobs with the park service are not as numerous as summer jobs and so are harder to nab. If I don’t find something that pays, however, I would not be at all unhappy to spend the winter lounging back in southwest Utah and perhaps also visiting some nearby geologic wonders. I could continue mapping the metamorphic rocks of my undergrad study area in the Beaver Dam Mountains. Attention Mark – have you even been able to get out there much since I graduated? I could go back to prepping 220-million year old fish fossils at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery museum. Life is full of possibilities!

When I am finished for the season at Katmai I look forward to continuing this blog as I travel for a few days on the Kenai Peninsula, to Homer and Seward, seeing what late September in south central Alaska has to offer. But even before that – my friend Minnesota Sue is coming out in August for a four-day backpack adventure with me into the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. The very do-able plan is to get to the USGS research hut on Baked Mountain and then to Novarupta. I will have lots of spare batteries for my camera and will have nearly traded my soul to get the four days off in a row. It’s what people here do in August, since the bears depart Brooks River in early August for other waterways and return in September to feed on the spawned-out dead and dying salmon.

There is a woman working for the lodge who cuts hair. Yay! She said she’d cut my ragged mop Monday afternoon. My hair was so out of control and so far gone that I frightened myself when I looked in the mirror. ACK!!! I was walking around with a terminal case of hat hair. I think the black flies/white socks had actually nested in there and might have hatched soon if I hadn't done something. MY FAVORITE CRAFTS AND RECIPE GURU AND BEAUTY CONSULTANT/ACCESSORIZER searched high and low (in the thrift store and/or Dollar store, of course) to send me a nice collection of hair accessories (headband, mini jaw clips, bobby pins – whoa! – and elastics). Sadly, all I could do at that point was pop the headband on and hope I didn't terrify young children when I went outside.

Later that same day…
The haircut was perfect.
The wind had died down.
The you-know-whats came back.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bitten Nearly Senseless


Brooks Camp in foregrounds, Mt. Mageik in distance

Now where were we? In my last post, you most likely were being totally enthralled and captivated by my description of what an exciting life I am leading this summer here in Alaska. Such free-time activities as crocheting, reading, walking around, eating breakfast, washing clothes, and of course the ever-popular pumice-lobbing surely must have kept your heart pounding with exhilaration in anticipation of my next post.

You didn’t have to wait long. I am nothing if not accommodating.

My usual days off are Sunday and Monday. Sunday I was busy with the afore-mentioned high-intensity activities, but on Monday I actually decided to go out and do something. The weather forecast was calling for a high pressure system to move in (which on this part of the Alaska Peninsula seems to mean that it just might not rain) and I thought what a nice day that could be for a hike. I asked fellow day-offer Jeanette if she wanted to hike up Dumpling Mountain with me, and so we were off at the civilized hour of 11 a.m.

Dumpling Mountain sits right above Brooks River and the trailhead is accessed on the far side of the campground. There is a three and a half mile trail all the way to the top across the long, loaf-shaped ridge. It offers outstanding views of the surrounding lakes and mountains, all the way towards King Salmon (if you are standing on the correct ridge) in one direction and towards the Aleutian Range (no matter where you are standing) in the other. Just the ticket for someone with Camp fever who is tired of looking at bears.

Trail across Dumpling Mountain

It is about one and a half miles and an 800 foot elevation gain to the first rocky overlook and then another two miles as the “end” of the trail disappears at around 2200 feet. White spruce and cottonwood trees at around 40-60 feet above sea level give way to shrubby alders and then spongy mossy tundra as elevation is gained and the summit is neared. The few wildflowers I was able to identify included dwarf fireweed, lupine, yellow paintbrush, and wild geranium.

The rocks are of the Early Jurassic (208-170 million years old) Talkeetna Formation which consists of sandstones and siltstones (sedimentary rocks) overlain by volcanic ash and lava flows (igneous rocks). From what little I have been able to read on this, I believe that these rocks represent a time when various sized land masses were being “rafted in” on the denser Pacific plate as it collided with Alaska and was subducted beneath the less dense North American plate. A lot of volcanism is produced under this type of situation; as the subducted plate dives deeper into the earth, the rocks melt and come up again to the surface again as volcanic rocks, this time as the Talkeetna formation. This process has occurred for the past 200 million years and continues to occur today in southwestern Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.

The views were all that could be hoped for.

What we definitely hadn’t hoped for were the white socks.

Bug Woman 1

These nasty, annoying, worse-than-mosquitoes biting insects with white on the lower part of their legs (thus the name) were swarming all the way to the top from the first overlook. Even wearing a head net I spent more energy swatting them than I did walking. It was a good hike made all the worse by these bleeping little bugs because we were not able to stop for a lunch break or even to pause and enjoy the views. The bugs even found their way inside my head net! I was appalled, of course. I managed to stop and snap a few photos but even that was an ordeal. We had to keep moving or we’d have been eaten alive.

Bug Woman 2

We both were bitten nearly senseless by the time the hike was all over and we thankfully returned to camp. I had bites where I definitely shouldn’t have had bites. My throat and neck were so puffy it felt like I had the mumps. There were at least five bites on my right eyelid and I could barely open my eye the next morning. My ears felt like they were covered in tiny, itchy, fat, purple raisins. The freaking bugs had bitten through my clothes – I had bites on my back and on my ankles even thought I’d had my pants tucked into my socks. It would have taken a nuclear-powered insecticide to stop those insects from swarming and biting. Welcome to Alaska in July! Later that evening, a salmon-catching co-worker took one look at my red welts and my scratching and handed me a tube of cortisone cream, saying “Here! Take this and stop scratching! You’re making me itch!” It was the best thing anyone could have done for me at the moment. I will not be going up on Dumpling Mountain again anytime soon.

HA!!! I bet you thought I had been bitten by a bear!!!


Iliak moraine with Iliak Arm; Unnamed mountains in distance

Monday, July 12, 2010

Still Lobbing Pumice



What in the world have I been doing up here in Alaska for 5 months, besides watching bears and lobbing pumice? I know this question is totally burning in everyone’s mind. Well, clearly, when I’m not working I’m either sleeping or doing something else. Not too complicated.

But what is this “something else?” I got to thinking about this very thing a few days ago when I didn’t have to be at my work station (corner, lower river platform, Falls platform, or visitor center,) until 11:00 a.m. What do I do to occupy my time in the meanwhile?

I do take walks, and still occasionally lob pumice into Naknek Lake just for the fun of watching rocks float. I take my camera with me pretty much everywhere I go. I do crossword puzzles and work on crocheting (I want to make a scarf to wear like all the Europeans do, all swathed ‘round the neck with casual-chic just oozing from their pores). I always have some kind of book going - I had shipped a box of paperback novels and mysteries from home back in April along with my geology reference books, and since I’ve been here my sister sent me “1776” by David McCullough while my brother sent “Alaska” by James Michener. As for movies, the other night I watched Netflix “Oh Brother Where Art Thou?” and I also have several off-the-wall “Jeani movies” on my tiny shelf awaiting viewing. I have unwrapped and put away as many as 14 (by last count) “If it fits, it ships” care packages from MY FAVORITE TRAVEL AND CROSS-CONTINENT SHIPPING AGENT and MY FAVORITE CRAFTS AND RECIPE GURU AND PERSONAL SHOPPER in Utah plus an extra one from my future VTTS backpacking co-conspirator coming all the way from Minnesota in August!

I get up around 5:30 most every morning so I can use the computer in peace when no one else is awake. I check my email, post on the blog, and if there is time before 7:00 a.m. I may surf a bit. Our allowed personal time on the computer is between 5:30 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., and there is no one else except a few bears crazy enough to be up that early with me.

My days off are Sunday and Monday. Sunday I went to the breakfast buffet at Brooks Lodge dining room. The cost is $15 and I had some blue-cheese omelet, hash browns, 2 sausage patties, a biscuit and gravy, cantaloupe (not the entire melon, btw), 3 slices of breakfast pastry (hey, they were small), a tall orange juice, and 4 cups of coffee. I was there for over an hour and won’t have to eat again until tomorrow! I always bring a book (of course) but usually end up chatting with various people since the dining arrangement is benches and tables.

I was going to wash clothes when I was done with breakfast but I’d heard that the salmon were jumping at the Falls. So I piled on four layers of clothes (mid-weight thermal top, fleece shirt and vest, hiking pants under rain pants, rain jacket, socks, shoes, and Katmai ball cap – this certainly isn’t summer in southern “It’s 103 degrees outside and the rocks in my front yard are melting” Utah), grabbed my camera and tripod, and headed out on the 1.2-mile trail to see what I could see. There were quite a few people already at the viewing platform but the 40-person limit hadn’t been reached so there was no wait. I smilingly elbowed my way to a clear spot in front (“Excuse me, please”) and stayed for about an hour. The salmon were there, the most I had seen since they started migrating up Brooks River less than a month ago. Occasionally there would be a “fish boil” below the falls and within minutes they would be jumping. That’s what I had come to see. If it weren’t for the salmon, there would be no bears at all. Next time I go out I will use a higher shutter speed and maybe the images of the salmon will be sharper.






There are two front-loading washers and dryers to use for free, so when I got back from the Falls around noon I put in a load of clothes. I use this nifty Purex 3-in-1 laundry soap/dryer sheet/fabric softener. It’s a bit pricey to use at home, but in Alaska it can’t be beat for convenience and I would recommend this product for traveling.

Isn’t this just so totally exciting so far??? Is anyone still awake out there?

I quit using mosquito repellent some weeks ago since it didn’t seem to be doing all that much good. The insects are totally annoying but not actually biting that bad as long as there is at least a breeze. I think they’ve bitten me as much as they are going to for now. It’s really weird having a mosquito bite me on the palm of my hand, though. I still get bitten – I guess I’m saying that I’ve just abandoned hope concerning repelling the nasty little vampires.

Southwest Alaska has had a lot of rain since May, and the past few days have been really windy. It’s pretty much what I expected when I came here but apparently it was a cool wet spring and so there has been more rain that usual; in addition, water temps (from all the snow melt) are lower than normal. Perhaps the cooler water temperatures are what have kept the salmon runs from currently being as high as in previous years. No one really knows for sure.

I haven’t made much of an effort to get out of Brooks Camp yet on my days off. I could take out a canoe or a kayak, or ask someone to take me in a motorboat somewhere to hike across a mountain, or ask to be dropped off at VTTS. But I simply haven’t gotten around to it. So far I have been enjoying just hanging out. If I walk to Brooks Falls twice in a day I have walked about four and a half miles. The bears and salmon are here in July and will be gone in August, so for now I like photographing them and their dynamics. I guess it’s kind of funny, really. The one day (6/20 on Solstice Ridge) that I did decide to go hiking we were lucky and had fantastic weather. But mostly on my days off it has been cold, cloudy, and/or raining. I suppose if I really wanted to hike, or canoe, or slog through thigh-high tundra grass again, or do whatever, I’d just pile on the rain gear and go for it.

The season isn’t over until late September. The sun just came out. Where did I put those rubber boots?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

ACK!!!

As my dear friend Ben often says - "ACK!!!"

My day on the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes tour was canceled this week. How could this happen, to me of all people? That is why I am here. I was so disappointed. Apparently there were not enough people signing up for that day to warrant a bus trip and so these folks were asked if they could go out the next day. Or so I was told. ARE PEOPLE CRAZY??? I was also told that people here in July would rather watch bears, and that Valley tour participation is down this year.

When I arrived at Brooks Camp I wrote in the visitor book - "Came for the geology - Is there something else here???"

Be that as it may, I offer for your perusal and delight some bear pictures from this past week.





















Sunday, July 4, 2010

Crazy

There appears to be a rowdy clamor emanating from a certain Watch-For-Rocks-following contingent – “Where are the bear pictures? We want bear pictures!!! If you don’t post some bear pictures we are not going to believe anything you say!”

I’m nothing if not obliging.



So I got up early on my day off (again!). I pretty much get up early anyway so this was no big woop, but Sunday I specifically wanted to beat the post-breakfast Lodge crowd out to Brooks Falls in hopes of catching some quality bear-catching-the-fish-jumping-the-Falls action. I also didn’t want to share the platform with 40 other people and their tripods. I like my space.

Call me selfish, but at 7:30 a.m. (after a quick breakfast and the 30-minute walk to the falls from my cabin - yes, I may come upon a bear or two or more anywhere along here – I sing Pink Floyd and Beatles tunes out loud as I walk) I arrived at my destination and nearly had the Falls platform to myself. For about 45 minutes, it was just me, the fish, the bears, and the foggy, misty river. And people think I’m crazy for getting up at 6:15 a.m. on my day off?

This is the first time since I have been at Katmai that I have watched the salmon jump the Falls in such great numbers. I guess I watched perhaps thirty or more salmon jump per minute for the nearly two hours I was out there. I was totally enthralled. I have been told that the numbers of salmon jumping the Falls will increase over the course of July. The salmon do come in “pulses” from Bristol Bay, however, so there are no guarantees that on any one day there will more or fewer salmon at the Falls. The commercial catch at Bristol Bay is monitored and so the approximate “escapement” numbers are known (those salmon which are not caught and so are able to migrate further up the Naknek River to Brooks).





This is finally IT, and IT is happening right now, in July, as promised. This is what people from all over the world come to Katmai to see, and they are surely seeing IT now. IT is the BROWN BEARS. They are doing their big, wet, furry thing because the salmon are at last doing theirs.





The other afternoon while I was working the lower river platform at the bridge, it seemed that out of nowhere came a gaggle of bears. A minute previously there had been perhaps three or four bears browsing quietly in the grass along the upper stretch of the lower river, looking for that salmon to jump into their paws. And then, all of a sudden – BOOM!!! There were bears everywhere! We counted ten of them. They ran! and jumped! and swam! and splashed! and caught fish! and chased each other! downstream to the bridge where they created bear-havoc for about 45 minutes and then, just as suddenly as it had begun, it was all over and the bears disappeared upstream again, into the high grass and alder shrubs. It was crazy wonderful to witness and visitors were altogether going nuts with their cameras.

It seems that the foot bridge across the lower river is being closed to visitor traffic more than it is open these days due to any number of bears within the 50-yard safety distance of the bridge. But so with any bridge closure (of any length of time, from minutes to several hours) comes bear-viewing opportunities for visitors and directions from the rangers to move this way or that, perhaps back down the trail to the fish-freezing building or out to the beach and back another way or even across the back trail at the edge of the marsh. Be prepared to move, people!!! We need to give the bears their space and keep that 50-yard distance away from them.

Working “the corner” means most often not being able to see the bears at all; there exists the need to rely on good radio communication with the ranger across the river who is working the lower platform. That person is the eyes of “the corner.” He or she can see across the river and so relays info to “the corner” on bear location. The lower platform is on one side of the bridge and “the corner” is on the other side.

We are now able to hear the bears from far-off, too, because there are so many of them. They posture and growl at each other upriver and at the Falls, and we can hear them from our cabins which, to a crow, are no more than a mile away. Whenever I leave a building (cabin, bath house, ranger station, etc) I first peek out the door left and right before I step out. It has become habit. The other morning I couldn’t leave my cabin for a couple of minutes because there was a bear waltzing along right outside. A couple of evenings ago as I was using the computer, a sow and her cub moseyed on past the ranger station. Did they think they might be able to check their email?

Woo Hoo!





Saturday, July 3, 2010

Something To Do

The other evening I was looking for something to do after work, so I went for a boat ride. Some folks with the day off had been taken out earlier that morning by boat to hike Lagorce Mountain, which is just across Naknek Lake from Brooks Camp. They needed to be picked up by boat on the other side of the mountain when they were finished and so I said “Oooh, can I go along for the ride? Please please please please please???” I volunteered to be the pilot’s second set of eyes.

So around 6:30 that evening I borrowed a pair of size 10 (men’s!) knee-high neoprene Muck Boots and proceeded to further arrange myself into an emergency red-orange “float coat” – basically a parka that has morphed itself into a life preserver. Two pairs of socks, rain pants over sweat pants, a fleece top, gloves and a tie-dye do-rag completed the ensemble. I didn't bring the camera because I knew it would be a wild ride.

There was a low cloud ceiling and a fine misty drizzle as we pulled away from Brooks Camp beach. I radioed the hikers and told them we would see them in about 45 minutes. The lake was fairly calm even though there was a bit of a breeze coming through the break in the moraine to the east. As we gained speed and crossed the water I just sat there in the bow of the boat feeling like Katherine Hepburn in “The African Queen.” There is a similarity here, if only in my mind. Humor me.

We sped west up Naknek Lake and soon made a wide 180 degree turn into the North Arm of the lake to come up on the other side of Lagorce, which meant we were now headed east and into the wind. Oh my – that calm glassy lake surface quickly disappeared as we moved into choppier waters and a bit of headwind. It did cross my mind that if I fell out of the boat I would most likely not sink while wearing that monstrous float coat, but I surely would die of hypothermia if the pilot happened to fly in to the drink with me and the boat sank. Good Godfrey! Stop thinking and enjoy the ride!!!

We of course were fine because the pilot was a trained professional. Not a professional boat pilot but he knew how to handle the boat so that’s all that mattered. The scenery was of course Alaska spectacular with distant mountains showing off their massive U-shaped valleys, reminders of past glaciers. I just can’t get enough of these U-shaped valleys – in my next reincarnation I want to come back as one.

We found the hikers on the appropriate beach, loaded them into the boat and sped back to Brooks. Now we were going downwind – still in the chop but not as bad as in the other direction. But soon we did another 180 and turned back into the wind at the end of the mountain, back into Naknek Lake.

By the time we returned to Brooks I figured my spine had compressed about 2 inches from bouncing over the waves while sitting on the simply adequate plywood seat of the boat. Slowly floating in towards the visitor center, we watched as a brown bear strolled along the beach about a quarter of a mile down from our take-out spot.

It was just another fine misty drizzly day at Katmai.