Piloting the Dutch Star travel blog

Our plane getting reading to load our gear

The sterling hwy crossing over the Kenai river in Soldotna

Mt Redoubt from the air. Notice the steam clouds that have been...

 

Wonderful scenery from the air. We aren't as lucky on the return

 

We fly over the fishermen in the creek

One of the members of the welcoming committee

Mother and cub join in the celebration

Our plane lands on the beach and can only do so at...

The committee decides it is a mistake and the expected arrivees are...

Emotion gets the best of this bear as he tries to hide...

What a scene with this large rock in the background

The bears seem to know when the fish are showing up and...

Although the sedge grass is mostly gone, this bear finds a good...

We are posing with our friend the bear in the background

Some photographers go for the mountains in the reflections but here we...

These guys climb out of the river so effortlessly

Bernard, our lodge mate from France lands a good one. He is...

Just like McNeil the bears here get very close and do not...

When these guys hear a fish splash they take off in a...

The big hurry does not guarantee a fish at the end of...

When a bear shows up at the creek every one is supposed...

Reminds me of a dog shaking off the water

Couldn't resist this one, everything is saying this bear means business

 

We store all our gear in a mud/freezer room that we walk...

The bears seem to have this very soft fuzzy fur that you...

Gary and Austin, part of a family also at the lodge and...

We took a boat ride and this old salmon cannery was at...

Canned salmon is a topic I worked on at NOAA when I...

Another view of Mt Redoubt across the inlet

We disembarked at a beach that had lots of fossil remains from...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next stop was off a small island that is a hatchery...

Seemed like a good background shot of Mt Redoubt for this group...

Shirley and I were thrilled to see the cormorants that are similar...

 

 

 

 

 

 

These puffins have a bit of a hard time getting airborne

 

 

I get my pix taken with favorite Mt Redoubt

Seals on a small spit of land. We expected them to slide...

 

We snap this from the boat on the way back to the...

So far every bear with a big splash has been an unsuccessful...

 

From the wave in front, you can see we are not in...

 

Dave takes us in as far as his boat will allow and...

Not everyone brought hip waders along so those on shore shed theirs...

That night there is a full moon

Shirley takes my picture on return from some night fishing

 

The family's three teenagers demand a camp fire and everything is great...

Ryan, Austin and Alee enjoy their fire

The next day is foggy and the bears seem very subdued in...

Gulls stalk the bears for left-overs, and generally are tolerated by the...

Bear stands to get a better look at us.

One bear does not want to share this fishing spot and chases...

 

 

Splashing fish and bear

Bear with salmon catch

 

Got a hit on my fly line. I decided to keep two...

I got my two fish, silver salmon about 12 lbs each; Steve...

The proud fisherman with his two silver salmon. Notice the way we...

 

A two-year old cub (big for his age) is looking to get...

Our guide Jenny almost throws her chair at the 2-year old who...

The trip would not be complete without a pix next to the...

 

The lodge owners Dave and Joann. She is an emergency physician in...

The welcoming committee arrives to make sure that we are leaving.

Two eagles show up to supervise.

The pilot is landing and this bear is hurrying to greet him

Commercial gillnetting is allowed two days a week. We fly over and...

 

 

 

 

 

Marvelous views of Lake Clark park area. This is the area of...

Return to Soldotna and the Kenai River bridge


SILVER SALMON CREEK LODGE IN LAKE CLARK NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE: Friday dawns bright and clear. We have no trouble dumping our gray and black water and parking early at Fred Meyer (they allow 3 nights free parking/camping in Soldotna—perfect for our brief trip away). Our 9 am Natron Air plane holds 6 passengers but we have only 5 travelers today (a local fishing guide with two local fishermen and us). The pilot tells us to sit on the right side of the plane for best viewing/pictures, since we are the only non-locals.

BANTER IN THE BUSH PLANE: Our pilot, Tim, and the local guide keep up a lively banter. We learn that the guide has missed an opportunity to buy a boat (several thrown in with a local home sale) and bemoans that she did not tell Tim about her interest sooner; he will keep his ears open for her.

STUNNING VIEWS FLYING ACROSS COOK INLET: As we fly across Cook Inlet from Soldotna on the Kenai Peninsula to the coast of the Aleutian Range and Chigmit mountains (part of the Alaska Peninsula), we see all the local volcanoes—Iliamna, Redoubt, Spurr, and Augustine. Redoubt and Augustine are still spewing sulphurous gases that appear to be steam clouds. It’s a great day for picture taking and viewing the snow-capped volcano peaks. Tim makes a graceful, soft landing on the beach and we deplane with our gear.

MORE SIMPATICO PEOPLE AND INTRO TO SILVER SALMON CREEK LODGE: We wait with a pleasant,departing family, watching a mother and her cub look for fish in the shallow water along the beach, while Tim takes off again to drop the fishing group a bit farther down the beach. We have a nice chat with the family, which includes a daughter who is a Hopkins MD who is in her third year of general internal medicine residency in Seattle. Our gear is loaded into a trailer attached to a three-wheel All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) and we go bumping along a narrow, sandy path, bounded by grasses and spruce trees, across a couple of sloughs to the lodge where our we are greeted by a lovely young guide, Jenny, and our gear is stashed in our room (complete with a queen bed and private bath). We take off our shoes in the “mud room” as requested and meet with Jenny in the living room with a huge picture window looking over the bay and across to the Kenai Peninsula. Jenny explains the key rules (stay behind her; no bear spray in the field; respect the bears; don’t approach them, but don’t back off either—rules like those we had at McNeil River).

KAYAKING ADVENTURE WITH A NEAR-MISS: Jenny explains that the fish aren’t around much at high tide; when the fish aren’t around, the bears aren’t around. So we opt for bear viewing for awhile and Jim gets a few nice pictures. We watch the fishing briefly and then go kayaking since the high tide makes it easy to take the kayaks out near the lodge, in the slough. We have a good time, until Jim gets cross-wise of the current and gets pushed into the bank, overturning. He later tells me he had some seconds of panic as he realized the waders and no life jacket were both BAD ideas. He finally manages to extricate himself from the Kayak while upside down under water, by pulling on the grasses. He comes up gasping for air while I watch from my kayak, unable to help. He finds his glasses (the only item that came off—he even kept his hat on!) in a nearby bush where they must have been flung in his flailing. He tells me he is standing on a high spot and cannot get back in the kayak—he will pull it up the bank. I kayak back to where the men were fishing (passing by the bear we had passed before) to get the guide Steve to radio Jenny to come for him—then go back to let Jim know Jenny is on the way to bring back the kayak. I kayak back, while Jim gets a ride in the ATV cart. I guess we won’t have much kayaking in our future.

BOAT RIDE, FOSSILS AND WILDLIFE: Our first day is capped off with a terrific boat ride. We see hat we are told is likely the first cannery in Alaska (no longer operating), visit “fossil island”—with many ancient fossils, and slowly motor around another island surrounded by birds; we see many horned puffins, Cormorants, murres (penguin-like birds), and of course the ever-present gulls as well as seals. The French couple (Bernard and Marie)and Joanne’s fellow emergency physician, Carla, with her husband Gary, enjoy this trip too. Carla and Gary are home schooling their 3 children Austin (sophomore), Noah and Alee (middle school) while travelling to many countries this year—what a wonderful way to learn with the help of the internet and things like Rosetta Stone.

CLAMMING, FISHING, AND FOG: Our second day is a bit overcast, but Jim and owner Joanne with her family friends go clamming in the morning; I take pictures, including of bears clamming. We think the bears are pretty quiet, so while Jim tries his hand at fishing, I take a break. (The resulting clams tempura and clam chowder are terrific!)The third day is REALLY foggy. Jenny and I do some bear viewing on the coast; as we chat sitting awhile in the ATV bench, I see a lovely bird and learn it is a Northern Harrier; unfortunately, I am not “camera ready” as Jenny indicates she has been trying to get a picture of one of those for two years. Then we take our chairs along to watch the fishing. I get a few shots of Jim almost landing a salmon with his fly gear; he already has two silver salmon with his spinning rod. In the afternoon, Jenny and I swing by the beach and are surprised to see a sea lion. It’s so foggy that the planes can’t get in this day and the tide is so high the men can’t fish in the evening—anyway, Jim says he’s had enough for this trip and we are very grateful for Steve’s great work in cleaning and vacuum packing most of the fish. We are relieved when the fog lifts a bit Monday morning so we are able to fly back to Soldotna.

CONCERNS ABOUT THE GILL-NETTERS: Jim tries to get some pictures of the gill net fishermen, one group of whom is shooting at the bears fight on the beach where we were walking the previous day (and owner Dave notes he has had reports of visitors who experience bullets flying by their heads) and another has their nets illegally across the creek mouth. We visit the state troopers’ office before we leave Soldotna and report the concerns. Later Jim is able to send his pictures to the trooper, but we are not sure they will be good enough for more than a warning; we’ll see. Jim talks with the troop investigator and offers to help as much as possible. Such illegal fishing methods can really deplete the stream's salmon; most of the lodge's customers take few fish with them, carefully throwing most back as they enjoy mostly the sport.



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