23 Aug 2015--This is a 2+day blog, Tuesday the 18th and Wednesday the 19th of August. They were our last 2 days in Alaska, and we figured our last, best chance of seeing a grizzly at the supposed "famous" grizzly hangout. Not relying solely on bear sightings for a our finale though, we headed to Bear Glacier about 20 miles north of town. The drive up there was really pretty with the threatening clouds combining with occasional sun trying to break through.
This is the area where I said in the last blog that there are 20 glaciers in a 37 mile stretch, but this Bear Glacier is the closest to the side of the road. You can see vividly that the sun is losing the battle to the clouds.
Due to the weather, one of the best sights here couldn't be seen as good as it was the other day when we drove in. The waterfall in this 1st pic is called the Wall of Tears, and is just one example of the hundreds of waterfalls that are pounding out of these mountains. You can see the water accumulating in the 2nd pic, but the 2 videos I put up are a far better representation of just how much water is rushing through this one area. Watch them and see how they gather steam, almost quite literally in the 2nd video where there is a lot of mist. But if you can turn up your audio they are even better to listen to. I have to talk loud just to talk over them...their power is something else!!!
Just as an aside, this is what passes for an "add-on" in Alaska! haha I think that old RV was the primary residence, and then the "house" is being added on to it. I'm wondering if they removed the passenger side wall of the RV for a more open feel? haha
Tuesday evening we went over to the bear watch bridge again...still nothing! But I do love the water and scenery on the back side of the bridge...look at that water!
And then we went over across the street, to the spot where we visited with the 4 people the previous evening...still nothing! haha But I did want to share what the area we were walking through looked like. We were truly in deep woods...probably shouldn't have been with all the bears they talk about. haha
We broke down and went back to the dump for a "bear fix", but I only post these pics so you can see that one of the black bears looks like it has been eating a Krispy Kreme doughnut, and look at the one in the last pic...sticking her tongue out at us! You have to wonder why the town's people allow this to happen, and also why these bears come back here with all the fish in the streams. So many of the fish are freshly dead, so it's not like they have to work hard to get their fill.
On Wednesday we headed up to Salmon Glacier, a 20 mile drive in the other direction from Bear Glacier, and a "must see" we were told. These 20 miles were on a dirt road, but it wasn't bad, and in less than a mile on the road we ran into this black bear crossing the road. That always whets your appetite, so we were ready for anything! haha
The next thing we saw was what we think was a marmot, followed by the pool of blue, blue water next to the grayish run-off from the glaciers alongside what I thought was such a pretty caterpillar. Finally, these "flowers(?)" were on the side of the road when we stopped at a pullout. Not really sure it is a flower...could very well be a mushroom, I guess? haha Pretty, nonetheless!
So in no time at all we are passing glaciers along the way to the main attraction...look at what you can see with a close-up!
Getting ever closer to the summit, this is the 1st we can see of Salmon Glacier. In the 1st few shots look at the rock formations on the sides of the glacier...they are incredibly pretty all by themselves. Then in the later pics here and the video check out how blue the ice gets at the toe of the glacier.
Another one of those cases where I can't decide which picture of an area is prettier, so I am putting all 3 up. haha I feel like as I zoom in I can concentrate on different areas, so it is like a totally different picture in each frame.
In this 1st pic, I have to adjust my sunglasses and pull myself together before I can continue to look at the spectacle before me...hahaha. Salmon Glacier is the 5th largest glacier in all of North America, and the world's largest that is accessible by car!!! In the previous pictures I showed the "toe" of the glacier, which had to be at least 2 miles away from where we are now. (We couldn't figure out why there were no signs telling us how many total miles this formation is?) So in the 1st several pics you are seeing the glacier from the left, going the 2 miles or so towards the "toe"...then in pic 5 you start to see where we are standing at the summit of the mountain for an almost gasp-worthy view up the hill of ice that seems to have no end! May be easier to imagine in the videos.
And still at the summit, the scenery everywhere else around the glacier. I don't think you could paint these scenes and make them any prettier! Cathy and I both agreed that with the exception of the glaciers we saw from the boats, this glacier was the most spectacular of all the ones we had seen during the course of our trip.
And now down the mountain again...are you convinced yet that we have witnessed the prettiest places on earth?
Going back and forth to the glaciers we saw a bunch of new eagles...young and old, but these were the best because we caught them flying! These are actually 2 different eagles, pretty young, and great to watch!
This is a great series of shots of yet a different eagle. Follow it as it passes between the logs and then finally gets some air under it. You can barely see it in the 2nd and 3rd pics, where it is somewhat camouflaged by the tree stump in the 2nd and is practically a flying saucer in the 3rd pic! haha
And finally, finally, we get to see a pretty close up view of a grizzly again. It is our last night in Alaska, and we know we are headed back to the lower 48 the next day, so we initially went to the one spot where the bear WAS NOT! haha After giving up there, we decided to give one last chance to the bear viewing bridge, and BINGO!, there was a long-time visitor to the area known by the locals as Monica!
We were told that Monica has been coming to this area to fatten up prior to hibernation for at least 12 years. Unfortunately, after the whole summer where it didn't get dark overnight at all, in the past week dusk had started to set in, and we didn't show up here till 9PM, so it was getting harder by the minute to get a good picture of her. We got tons of pics, but most of them were big-time blurry, so that was disappointing.
I had my camera right on her as she started to swipe at the salmon swimming by, but as you can see here in the 2nd pic, the camera couldn't snap quick enough with the lower light conditions to get a clear shot. In the 1st pic here what looks like a blurry part of her right leg is actually a bird trying to get out of the way.
Here she is actually running and trying to catch a fish. She is definitely the biggest grizzly we have seen here, so you know she has caught her share over the summer.
And here, after giving up on the live fish, she helps her digestion by chomping on some grass before eating a dead fish on the grass.
And now the light is killing me, because although I can still see Monica, it is truly getting harder and harder for the camera to pick it up. I had to tilt the screen of my laptop to see her in these 2 videos, so I hope everyone else can see her also as she walks in the water towards me looking for fish, and then finally pics up a recently dead one and takes it off into the woods.
So it's Thursday morning, we are lamenting the fact that we must go home again, but we are not long on the road before this momma black bear and baby come out on the side of the road to wish us Bon Voyage!
The last of our videos.
And the Finale! A fitting end, as mom and baby fade into the wilderness, and we head back to reality!!! haha
So that is our journey! We are sitting in Washington state right now, leave this morning for the long haul home, where by the time we reach San Antonio we will have put 10,478 miles on the RV alone! These 2 pics show every stop we made from San Antonio up to Great Falls, Montana, then every stop in Canada and Alaska and back again to where we sit right now.
This has been the trip of a lifetime! And it's been worth every penny of the considerable amount of money it's going to cost to repair our RV after hitting every pothole and frost heave over the course of the 10,000+ miles! haha We loved it and would like to go back again...maybe a cruise the next time though! haha