Sunday, August 31, 2008

Kenai Peninsula

After leaving the bear lodge on Wednesday , we drove down the Kenai Peninsula and found an old historic Russian Orthodox church which was unique and interesting. We then drove down to Homer which is on the tip of the Kenai Peninsula. Homer is the Halibut fishing capital of the world and is a prime spot for eagle photography in the winter, although not many this time of the year. When we were over at the bear lodge we mentioned to the owner we were going to Homer and were planning on camping on the “Spit” (the beach on the end of the peninsula). He said “oh, you are going to be “Spit Rats “. He was referring to the Hippies that lived on the beach back in the late 60s and early 70s. Apparently they were pretty rowdy and pretty much trashed the place. The Spit Rats are still there but in much smaller quantities.

That night (Wednesday) as we were sleeping in our tent at about 2:30 in the morning we were woken by a bunch of loud, drunk “Spit Rats”. Someone out in the ocean was in desperate need of help. Apparently their boat sank and they fired off three flares as a SOS signal and started yelling for help. The drunk Spit Rats reacted immediately and called 911. The 911 call went something like this- “there is someone in the water yelling for help, the MF is drowning as we are talking, you need to get the F-ing Coast Guard out here right now. Then the lead drunken Spit Rat decided that shooting fireworks and flashing our car headlights would be a good signal to let the person in trouble know help was on the way. So now we are at least official junior Spit Rats. (The people were saved.)

Thursday we moved on to Seward which is a cool little town with mountains and glaciers surrounding it. The food and lodging in Alaska is very expensive but we have managed to find some great places to stay at reasonable rates ($100 per night). You can easily spend $40 to $50 for breakfast. We have worked out we can either camp at $10 night and eat out, or stay in a room and cook our own food! We found a great room in Seward, and were excited to have heating and a shower, after a week of no heat.

On our way out of Seward on Friday we stopped at a family run Iditarod dog sled team kennel. Four generations of the family have competed in the Iditarod race, and won in 2004. We went for a wheeled sled ride behind a sixteen dog team; it was a lot of fun.

On Friday we drove to Portage valley and found a great campsite nestled in the mountains, with great views of the glaciers. It has been quite cold, and dropped to 40F in the tent that night. This required another trip to REI on our way through Anchorage on Saturday to pick up more warm clothes in preparation for five days in Denali.

Here is a link to the latest slide show:


http://picasaweb.google.com/sarastanford/KenaiPeninsula/photo#s5240745236597116322


We are currently in Talkeetna, a tiny town with a population of around 800, which is the jumping off point for expeditions to Mount McKinley. We can see the Alaska Range in the distance, where we are heading tomorrow. We are sending this entry from the Roadhouse, a historic log house with a cafe/rooming facility. We just had the worlds best raspberry Cinnamon bun, we need to be fattened up for the upcomming cold nights. We feel like bears preparing for hibination!


Tomorrow we are taking the bus to Wonder Lake Campground in Denalia park, we will be there until Friday. We will send an update when we get back.


That's all for now from historic Talkeetna.

John and Sara

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Last Day at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge

We've just finished our last day at this amazing location. Our guide Drew did a wonderful job driving us around and finding bears for us to photograph, he is a Texas boy who grew up in Denton, and moved to Alaska eight years ago. We can't say enough good things about him.


We spent most of our time photographing with some lovely New York chaps, and one from San Diego. The whole group was a lot of fun.



As promised here is an album of some of the 4,000 photos John took. You can also see this on the main blog site. Click on the top slide show button or individual images to see the full size pictures.


http://picasaweb.google.com/sarastanford/AlaskaBears


Tomorrow we fly back to the Kenai Peninsula, and then drive to Homer which is on the tip.


More to come,


John and Sara


Monday, August 25, 2008

Bears at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge

We have had an amazing several days photographing bears in Clark National Park. We are staying at Silver Salmon Creek lodge with a great group taking care of us, and have already seen a bunch of bears, some that passed by us within 20 or 30 feet. The bears are mostly fishing for salmon and today we were treated to a fine fishing display by a mother bear, watched closely by her cub.








To get here we rode in a Cessna 207, a small six seat plane. Our first flight in Alaska was what we consider to be very sporty, we had to drop off one passenger at another location, and little did we know that we were going to land on a narrow beach next to a cliff, with one wheel in the water and one on the beach. Our landing at the lodge was not quite as exciting, but still on a beach.

Yesterday we went to Duck Island and spent several hours photographing Horned Puffins, which are rather colorful exotic birds; it was a very special opportunity. The weather yesterday was beautiful, sunny all day and very pleasant. We've had cloud and rain on and off the rest of the time, but it hasn't slowed us down at all.







The operation here is outstanding, the food is phenomenal. They generate all their own electricity here with a diesel generator and battery system, with additional help from a solar panel. We are staying in the Dolly Den, a nice little cabin with minimal amenities. It was 48F in the cabin the first night, good snuggling weather.

Tomorrow is our last day at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, and we plan to make the most of it and see as much bear behavior as we can. we have limited Internet access here so will upload more pictures later.

John & Sara

Ps We have had a few questions about subscribing to the google group we created. You don't need to do anything, you will be emailed when we post an update, or you can go directly to the blog at johnandsarastanford.blogspot.com to view everything together

Friday, August 22, 2008

We made it to Anchorage

As we flew into Anchorage, looking out of the airplane it was totally overcast to the east, but we could see beautiful totally snow covered peaks sticking above the clouds which reminded us of Nepal. It was a long day of traveling with long delays, missed connections and missing luggage. However we finally made it to Anchorage, have all our gear, and managed a trip to REI. We are off to Soldotna, and will fly to the bear camp tomorrow.

Our goals for the vacation are:
  • Don't get mauled by a bear
  • Don't require any medi-vacs or rescues
  • See beautiful Alaska and get lots of good pictures

Stay tuned, more to come.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The packing challenge

We are struggling with our usual problem, how to make everything fit and still meet the baggage limits with the airline....



All our clothes fit in the green bag, everything else is equipment, and we still need to add a carry on for John's camera gear.

Getting Ready

We leave for Alaska on Thursday, can't wait. We are busily preparing and packing, should be ready in time. John has a few more things to build, including a new light weight carry on suitcase. It gets harder each trip to get all our equipment on boad the plane.

Here are our plans:
  • Thursday 21st fly to Anchorage, pickup the car on Friday and drive south to Soldatna
  • Saturday 23rd - Tuesday 26th - Bear photography at Silver Salmon Creek lodge http://www.silversalmoncreek.com/
  • Wednesday 27th - Sunday 31st - drive up to Denalia National Park, with a definite stop in Talkeetna. http://www.alaskatravel.com/talkeetna/
  • Monday Sept 1st - Friday 5th - camping in Denali at Wonderlake Campground http://www.nps.gov/dena/
  • Sunday Sept 8th - fly to Juneau, and take the four hour ferry to Haines
  • Tuesday 9th - Thur 11th - hang out in Haines and photograph the eagles.
  • Friday 12th - Final trip home to Dallas

We don't know what sort of Internet access we will have on the trip, but plan to try and update this blog as much as we can.

Stay tunned!

Sara