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  • khdeutmeyer

Alaska...Bear, Bear and More Bear!

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

Our fall, 2021 trip to Alaska was to focus on seeing as many bear as possible! I was focused on seeing grizzly bear in Haines, Alaksa again on the Chilkoot River and to travel to a new location where we had not previously visited to see bear. Well, we hit the jackpot on this trip! We were fortunate to see bear almost every day of our 12 day trip!


Grizzly bear at Big River Lake, Cook Inlet, south of Homer in Alaska

Big River Lake is located on the West side of Cook Inlet, near Homer, Alaksa, at the entrace of Lake Clark Plass. It is a smaller lake fed by the surrounding glaciers with gorgeous turqupoise water, mountain peaks, and bear eating salmon everywhere! It is a popular salmon fishing location where small planes fly in for day trips to fish and bear watch.

“Alaska is in my top three places I have traveled throught the years. Inside me there is a voice that tells me every couple of years that we must return for another visit. I feel like all of my stress and worries fade away when I am in Alaska with my camera looking for moose and bear!"

We began our trip flying into Anchorage. We typically do not travel with another couple but this time, my brother-in-law, Dirk and sister-in-law, Rhonda joined us. They wanted to take one of our inland Alaska "bear viewing" trips. We landed in Anchorage at 9:00 p.m. departing

Moose at Kincaid Park in Anchorage

from Chicago O'Hare, rented our car, and were at Kincaid Park in Anchorage viewing moose by 10:00 p.m. It was getting dark but we had the excitement of seeting a bull and cow moose within minutes of arrival! That was my sign this was going to be a good trip! Kincaid Park is a great place with a wonderful trail system and the moose must feel protected because you can almost gurantee seeing them startign at dusk.


We stayed in Anchorage only two nights since I was all about seeing bear and I wanted to travel south toward Soldotna for our bear and salmon fishing trip. While in Anchorage we took a day drive north to see the Matanuska Glacier, Wasilla, and our main destination was to Hatcher's Pass to do a side-by-side sport utility vehicle (UTV) trail ride. This is not something I had ever done before in Alaska and I was looking forward to it...but it rained the entire day. Not just sprinkle...but downpoured. Even though it rained, we decided it was to our to advantage because there was no dust and they provided us with heavy boots and rain gear, so all was good!


Snow Hook Adventures UTV Ride

Our UTV ride was with Snow Hook Adventures and they took us through Hatcher's Pass, north of Anchorage. They do UTV rides and sled dog tours. The sled dogs were very cool to see. I had requested a UTV with a roof to alleviate the rain pouring on my head and come to find out...they all had a roof! The tour was well worth the money and I would go again without rain preferrably but, the rain added to the excitement. We traveled through the river, big puddles, along dirt paths, up mountains, and to a waterfall. Next time I will bring a snack and water because a 3 hour UTV trail ride can make you very hungry!


From Anchorage we traveled to Soldotna, for our flight trip with Talon Air to the Cook Inlet and Big River Lake. It was about a 30 minute flight trip to the landing location to board our fishing boat and take off to fish and see bear. Kyle was the name of our fishing and bear guide, a college student from Minnesota. He was awesome! This was my first time salmon fishing as well as my husband's so we had alot to learn! Kyle was patient with us and alot of fun. Our focus for this trip was the bears surrounding the boat fishing for the same salmon we were catching. We all caught a salmon and Kyle grilled them for lunch to eat right on the boat. This was such a cool bear watching/salmon fishing/float plane trip, that I am already trying to figure out when we can go back!


Photos below are from the Talon Air, Big River Lake, Cook Inlet flyin tour.


After our fly-in tour, we stayed in Kenai for one night to go on a river rafting tour the next day. We were so fortunate that our fly-in day was perfect weather but the river rafting date was the same as our UTV tour day, rain and cold! We went rafting on the Kenai River but unlike the UTV experience, this was very cold, windy and down pouring rain. It was miserable! The tour company wouldnt cacnel the rafting trip due to weather so we had to go. I would say it was a bust! They provided us rain gear and the gear kept us dry but that was it, we froze!


From Kenai, we headed back to Anchorage and stopped at Whittier, a small town that was established as a port in WWII. Whittier is located through the mountain tunnel past the Portage Glacier. We also visited Seward, another port city, on our travels from Kenai and also stopped at Exit Glacier. We have been to Whittier, Seward, Exit and Portage glaciers during our previous trips to Alaska. Every time we visit Alaska, these places are still breathtaking and photo worthy!


Pictured below: Whittier marina; the mountain views from Seward; Exit Glacier; Portage Glacier; and the marina in Seward.

Black Bear fishing for salmon at Eagle Beach State Park outside of Juneau

We departed Anchorage for Juneau. We rented a car in Juneau and kept it for our entire stay and took it on the ferry to Haines. Our main purpose for going to Juneau was in the past we have had good luck seeing bears at the Mendenhall Glacier. It is also a gateway for the Alaska Marine Highway and to get to Haines, one of our favorite locations. At the Mendenhall Glacier we have seen bear on their trail system and in the parking lot on our previous trips. We were not as fortunate this time! We walked the trails and didnt find any bear to photograph. I was disappointed but we had such a great experience with Talon Air, not much could match that.


The trails near Mendenhall Glacier are wonderful for hikers. Rhonda and Dirk hiked both days we were in Juneau. We took several trips out the Glacier Highway from Juneau to Eagle Beach State Recreation Area. We have been successful seeing black bear at this park in the past. Sure enough, both times we were there...we saw two black bear fishing for salmon. They didn't stick around long, but we were able to snap a couple of photos. Downtown Juneau is alawys great to see and this time we found the Tahku, the Alaska Whale Sculpture, which is a life-size bronze breaching humpback whale rising out of an infinity fountain on the waterfront. The sculpture commemerates Alaska's 50th anniversary of being a State. It is AMAZING and a must SEE!




We left Juneau on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry with our car to Haines. Haines is located in the northern panhandle of the inside passage only 45 minutes from the Canadian border. We have stayed in Haines one other time and wanted to return because of the bear at Chilkoot State Park. We had said if we ever returned, we would stay at the small quaint lodge right in the Park...and we did. It was incredible! I would returm tomorrow if I could to the Chilkoot Haven Lodge!


Part of the experience of Haines is staying at Chilkoot Haven on the bluff above the Chilkoot River. In the mornings as the day would break, you could see the Grizzly bear converge on the river fishing for salmon. We stayed at Chilkoot Haven four nights and it was the most peaceful surroundings. The rooms are clean, well equiped and modern. The view is amazing and the owner is wonderful. She lives on site. The lodge and the park are about 15 to 20 minutes outside of Haines but worth the drive. We had a car and if you plan to see Chilkoot State Recreation area and the Chilkoot Haven, a car is necessary. Haines is a town of less than 2,000 people but has a beatufiful marina area, a nice grocery store, several good places to eat; a day ferry to Skagway for a day trip; and a lovely drive to the Canadian Border. We found someting to do every day for the four days we visited. We would watch bear every morning and every evening until dark! The fast ferry was not running to Skagway due to COVID but we had taken it the last time we visited and it is definitely a lovely day trip. Skagway has a larger port for the cruise ships so is much more touristy but if you have the opportunity, Skagway is worth seeing!


Chilkoot Haven is on the Chilkoot River and in the Chilkoot State Recreation area. There is a wier for counting the salmon during the salmon runs and the bear are drawn to this area every year from the first of August until the end of the run in late Septemeber. We have seen bear on the river in October the last time we visited. The bear will cross the wier looking for salmon. The bear also fish near the bridge as you come into the recreation area and along both sides of the river bank. The Chilkoot State Recreation area is a great place to see bear up close with minimal cost compared to a one day bear fly-in trip which range in price from $595 to $995 per person. Haines is known as the "Valley of the Eagles". The bald eagle preserve is just outside of town and in November every year 3,000 or more ealges converge on the area. The preserve is located on the Haines Highway on the route toward the Canadian Border.


To end our trip we took the Alaska Marine Highway ferry back to Juneau and flew back to Chicago out of the Juneau airport. I look forward to our next journey to Alaska. I have a feeling it will be sooner than later!





TIPS TO TRAVEL ECONOMICALLY AND GET THE MOST FOR YOUR TIME AND MONEY


I also get asked many times, "How do you travel so often and keep it affordable?" A few tips are below:

  • For me, planning and researching is part of the excitement of the trip! Visioning is so much fun!!!

  • I plan all of my own trips and research, research, research on the internet. I utilize TripAdvisor, Frommer's, and blogs from other travelers to find the information I need for my trip. I do ALOT of reading and researching. It takes patience to plan a good affordable trip!

  • I have a budget in mind for each trip and challenge myself to stay in the budget. Depending on the location, I typically start planning and booking hotels, cars, etc., approximately 9 months out. Hotel prices usually get more expensive the closer to the trip unless you are willing to do a last minute internet deal. Car rental and airline prices also go up the closer it is to your trip. Occasionally you can get a last minute deal but something else may be more expensive and you are really not saving. I like to plan!

  • For hotels, I use Booking.com, or Priceline.com. I look for hotels with good reviews, pay when you stay, and free cancellation in advance.

  • We have done all-inclusive in a couple of tropical locations years and years ago but found that we do not eat and drink enough to make it worth the extra expense. We like to go off site from the hotel and experience the local cuisine and traditions. We have not done all-inclusive in the last 15 years. However, all-inclusive is wonderful if you want to stay at the resort for all meals, not rent a car, and have the hotel shuttle you to your destinations. That has worked for us in Jamaica and it was very relaxing! But I would not drive in Jamaica so all-inclusive was the smartest option! If you enjoy all-inclusive, the earlier you book the trip the lower the price. Unless you are game and are not a planner, and are willing to travel where the last minute deal is advertised. Then you could get a great all-inclusive deal!

  • If we are flying, I use the Skyscanner app to check airfare prices and I try not to buy until about 60 to 75 days out. There are times where I will by earlier if the price is super reasonable. I usually do not book on Skyscanner. It will tell me the site that is the most affordable to purchase the tickets and if it is a more well known trust site, I go directly to the site to purchase the tickets. Many times Skyscanner will take you right to the airline website. Skyscanner will search all airlines and will sort by price, times, shortest trip, etc.

  • Have a credit card that gives you miles or hotel points. We will use points for many of our trips. We are American Advantage members and have an Advantage credit card. We try to fly American as often as we can to earn points and then use those points for future airline tickets. Our credit card is tied to our Advantage numbers and awards points as well.

  • We drive if the location is in the United States and we can drive and sightsee along the way. If we need to rent a car, we reserve online using Booking.com, Orbitz.com, or Priceline.com. They are usually the most reasonable. I watch for specials and never book a luxury vehicle! We also have a credit card with a low limit that we use for vehicle rentals that provides insurance as a credit card benefit. We always decline the insurance when we are in the United States. If we are traveling out of the United States, we check with the credit card if the insurance is valid internationally. We have found it is valid in Europe, Canada, U.S. Virgin Islands, but in other locations, we are forced to purchase the liability insurance from the rental car company.

  • While there are free maps online for most destinations, I always go onto Amazon and buy a map of my destination, especially if it is international. I do not buy maps for tropical Caribbean islands. I just get one when we arrive. But for countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, England, Canada, Germany, France, etc., I always purchase a good map. As you do you research, you can use the map to highlight the places you want to visit and the sites you want to see. I have it as a reference later for putting my memories and photos into a photobook!

Our itinerary for this Alaska 2021 trip is attache below providing detailed information on the trip.

Alaska 2021
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