Hiking in Katmai

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Saturday: Whittier to Brooks Camp

We disembark onto a private bus. There are a few others with us. Making our way through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, we soon arrive at the Anchorage airport.

I check the car seats and bags for city travel at the storage facility, then board our flight to King Salmon.

There is no reception in King Salmon, but I was able to find the number for the Katmai Water Taxi and call them using a wall phone that allows free local calls. We wait in the adjacent visitor center where we watch a film about the Katmai area.

The shuttle bus arrives and takes us to the edge of Naknek Lake. Getting off the bus, we are greeted by a swarm of bugs.

“Are those mosquitoes?”

“No, they are white socks.”

I think to myself, “Oh good, they aren’t mosquitoes.” It turns out that the white socks are far worse, first numbing the skin, then biting off a chunk of flesh, leaving drops of blood oozing out of the small hole.

The water taxi takes us across the vast lake and drops us off by the Brooks Camp ranger station. We watch a bear safety video and receive training from the ranger. Then, we backpack into camp, set up, and head to a buffet dinner at Brooks Lodge.

After dinner, we are treated to amazing bear sightings along the elevated platform near camp. We shower before turning in at camp.

Sunday: Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes and Brooks Falls

We enjoy a breakfast buffet at Brooks Lodge and join the tour to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. The ranger recounts the eruption of Novarupta and explains how the landscape was shaped. We stop by the Kettle Ponds Overlook before arriving at the final destination.

The tour operator provides us with roasted vegetable sandwiches at the visitor center. After that, we join the group on a four-mile hike down to the valley floor to see how the Ukak River carved slots in the volcanic ash. The kids are exhausted.

Back on the bus, we ask to get dropped off at the trail to Brooks Falls. We hike to the falls to see bears feasting on salmon. Back in Skagway, we were told that the salmon were late this year, only returning a few days ago, and that we timed it perfectly. We are mesmerized by the rhythm of fish leaping upstream.

The bears, we observe, only eat the heads, belly, and skin of the fish. The rest, they throw to the gulls to clean up.

We hike back to camp along the road, make our way back to Brooks Lodge for dinner. Then, we hike to our campsite to gather fresh clothes for the shower after a long day. After the shower, Jayden, while acting silly, falls into the puddle next to the urinal and needs to shower again.

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