Grizzly Bear

Arctic Adventure Day #14

Today was supposed to be a boring day, heading almost 500 miles down a road we just drove up a couple of days ago… By the end of the day, it was probably the most exciting day of the entire trip.

We got an early start out of Inuvik – the weather was supposed to turn soon, so we wanted to get as far down the Dempster as we could while it was still dry.

The road was in great shape, we did get a little bit of rain between the two ferries, but it didn’t slow is that much.

When we were in Montana, we borrowed forks from Kim’s sister and told her we’d take some pictures with them, so we stopped at the Arctic Circle sign.

After lunch at the restaurant at Eagle Plains, we continued South on good roads. We were commenting on how we hadn’t seen any big animals in a few days when we see a fox on the side of the road… Ok, not exactly big. Then just north of Engineer Creek, I catch something out of the corner of my eye, slammed on the brakes, and backed up 50 yards to get a picture.

We never did see Mom around. Probably hung out for 10 minutes or so before he took off.

There is a lake called Two Moose Lake on the north end of tombstone park… We joked that it was called no-moose lake because there was nothing in it on our way north. We wondered if there would be something on the way back. As we approached we were looking at a big rock in the middle of the lake and it lifted it’s head up! We pulled over to a viewing platform to get some good pictures.

It was interesting, the birds were following it around… We watched the for a bit and then went back to the car to get the 360 camera – we were parked back away from the viewing platform because we didn’t want to spook him. Kim stayed at the car while I grabbed a 360 shot from the platform.

While I was getting this picture, a cow and a calf ran into the lake. The cow was looking at the shore and there were noises coming from the bushes. I ran back to the car to get my camera before a second calf came out. Kim tells me to stay near the car… You should ALWAYS listen to your wife (my mother needs to stop reading here). Of course I ignored her and went back to the viewing platform because it was a better camera angle.

(Really mom, stop reading, this is your last chance) Then I heard some huffing noises back towards the Jeep… Apparently the noises in the bushes were not from a second calf… This guy was barrelling down the road as fast as he could.

Kind of a blurry picture, but can you blame me, he was between me and the car (did I mention the bear spray is in the car?)… This is where I stop taking pictures for a bit because there is a very large grizzly bear running towards me (did I ever mention grizzly bears are fast). Well, I start waving my arms and speaking to him as calmly as I could. He decides I am interesting and slows down to check me out, walks up to the entrance of the viewing platform less than ten feet away, and stands up on his hind legs and decides to talk back to me. He was very tall, 7′ maybe. I think he would have been able to stick his nose in the door of the tent on top of my Jeep.

After I thought our conversation was over, he takes a couple of steps away and then stands up to check me out again.

All this time, he keeps looking over at the moose calf, which fortunately for me seems to be good preferred choice for dinner.

After what seems like forever, but probably has only been a minute, he walks down the road away from the Jeep and into the brush. With the best out of sight, I slowly back up towards the Jeep and then do a mad dash for the last 10 feet.

Well, it turns out he was not done checking us out… He had looped around the lake side of the viewing platform and did a lap around the Jeep… Which allowed me to take some more photos from the safety of my car.

All the while he kept his eye on the moose calf. Eventually he started running again, and we watched him run all the way to the other side of the lake.

This was all about a half hour from our campsite. We’re debated driving all the way to Dawson City since I was all amped up on adrenaline at this point. We decided to stick to our original plan of the Tombstone campground. Once we were in a spot, I grabbed a ranger as he was walking by to let him know about the bear in the area.

Here is our hopefully bear free campsite.

We have been in the road for two weeks at this point, and we both have the “getting home disease”. We are going to hot the sights at Dawson City tomorrow and then probably start to push hard for home.

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NWP/IDBDR Day #5

Miles Total: 698
Miles Today: 184

Our goal today was to get to Sandpoint and stay in a hotel room. This stretch should have quite a bit of pavement, so I didn’t set any kind of alarm, figuring I could sleep in. Well, I made until 6:30a.

We started off easy today with my dad leading. We wanted to let him get used to the bike without the steering stabilizer on it. The first bit of the ride was along pavement into the town of Metaline for some fuel.

After the fuel stop we had another short section of pavement before hitting dirt again. We saw some turkeys and deer along the road today – no pictures. We also crossed into Idaho, which was marked by a post next to the road.

We decided to take the easy bypass option as we neared Priest Lake. Well, the track that we were following did not match the road we were on. Fortunately, there weren’t really many choices for us to make…just stayed on the same road and it eventually connected with the main track. I’ll bug BestRest Products when I get home and see if they want my track for that section.

Rest break before the easy part.

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All along this dirt section, there were these yellow bear identification signs. I guess there are enough grizzly bears around that this is an issue. Should make camping in my hammock more exciting going forward. Fortunately I got used to sleeping with the grizzlies on my Alaska trip. (Not…).

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When we got to Priest Lake State Park, we decided to pay the day use fee and eat at the picnic area. We paid the fee at the entrance to the park, but when we got to the picnic area, it was closed! So, we went to an overflow parking lot and improvised a picnic spot.

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While riding along today, we decided that we would take a rest day at a hotel tomorrow and watch the Seahawks game before starting the Idaho BDR. I tried to use Expedia at the state park, but had a poor connection. It was good enough for me to see that most of the hotels in Sandpoint were full.

I called my awesome wife and asked her to book a hotel for us with a good internet connection from home. She ended up getting us a room for two nights at a Casino in Bonners Ferry. I programmed the destination into my GPS and hit the go button. It ended up taking us down on some highways. When we arrived at the hotel and I checked our track, it turns out our planned route to the area cut the corner to Sandpoint, so if you are following along on spotwalla (http://tinyurl.com/zlmpeta), you will see the discrepancy.

As we were passing through Sandpoint, we stopped to pick up some tools so my dad could reinstall his steering stabilizer. And then it happened! As I was pulling out of my parking spot, the pavement jumped up and pulled my bike down to the ground…after 5 days of riding on dirt, I finally dropped my bike on a flat paved parking lot. I didn’t get any pictures, if you want to see one, you can check out my dad’s blog at https://charlessk.wordpress.com/2016/09/11/nwp-idbdr-2016-days-5-6/

The hotel room is nice, and should be a good place to rest up.

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There is a restaurant here with a view of the river.

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I ordered the Prime Rib with a loaded baked potato.

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Got some apple pie for dessert.

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After dinner, we went back to the room and watched the WSU/Boise St game. The Cougs did not have a good start, but almost pulled it off in the end. Go Cougs!

Alaska Ride – June 24th – Day #30

One month on the road! I think the hardest part of this trip has been the length of time away from my family. I arranged for some roses to be sent to my wife tomorrow. Hopefully she likes them!

Today started out cloudy, but dry. We had a short ride from Haines Junction to Haines…only about 150 miles. Along the way we saw a grizzly bear running away from the road – really only just got a glimpse of him.

The weather changed and it dumped on us – the temperature stayed fairly warm though. You go over a small pass to get into Haines, and as we approached the top, the visibility dropped. We had to slow way down to travel safely, and hoped that those following us did the same.

We cleared customs with no issues, and cruised on into town. After a brief stop at the visitor center, we decided to hit The Rusty Compass for some lunchtime pizza and wifi. Then it was down to check into the RV park.

The park has a sheltered area for tents, although it is on a gravel bed. We set our tents and then hung out with “the guys” – campground host “Buffalo” and Clyde (a camper on a KLR). We had leftover pizza for dinner, and then it was off to bed.

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Alaska Ride – June 23rd – Day #29

Where did the good weather go? It was raining when I woke up this morning, so I decided to stay in my nice warm sleeping bag while waiting for it to stop. After about an hour, it finally let up and I went outside to break camp.

Today’s ride is entirely on the Alaska Highway and we’ve done the entire section before, so what new things could I possibly blog about? Fortunately, I’m riding with my dad and he always will provide something entertaining…

We arrive at customs and get in a fairly short line of vehicles waiting to pass inspection. We sit there and sit there and sit there. Apparently they are doing a full body cavity search on the guy at the front of the line (actually when we made it to the front they were unloading a car). After waiting for about 15 minutes, the old man just decides to “gently lay” his bike down on the road. Don’t know why he didn’t have the sidestand down. Fortunately there were plenty of people to watch him, laugh at him, and then help him lift the bike up. Eventually the line started moving and we didn’t have any more incidents before clearing customs.

We stopped at Beaver Creek for fuel and lunch. Can’t remember the name of the lunch place, but there was one guy working there that took your order and cooked your food and everything. Fortunately we were the only customers there, otherwise we’d probably still be waiting for our food.

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Now that it was sunny, the wind started to blow – HARD. We slowed way down to minimize the amount we were pushed around. As we neared Kluane Lake, the wind slowly started to die down. We pulled over at a rest area to figure out our options for the night.

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There is a campground near the “middle” of Kluane Lake (not in the water, next to the road!). We make the decision to camp there for the night, it isn’t too far away and puts us within striking distance of Haines the next day. As we continue down the road, there is a van pulled over – he’s watching a grizzly bear. Kinda cool – unless you are about to camp in the area. Now, we keep on going and there is bear scat all over the side of the road. We come upon two more cars pulled over…they are watching a grizzly sitting and eating flowers right next to the road. Now we are really worried! We pull into the campground and there are signs all over “No Tent Camping, Bears in Area”. There is an RV park a couple of miles down the road, but that isn’t enough distance between my tent and the bears. We decide to go to Haines Junction and get a hotel room.

We get to Haines Junction, get some fuel, and then go to the nicest hotel in town. They are sold out. We go to the next hotel. Sold Out. There is some kind of conference going on and no rooms available in town. We end up staying at an RV park near the actual “Junction”, and it had a very nice tenting area. It is like camping in an actual campground and not a gravel parking lot.

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Tomorrow down to Haines, then we kill a day before jumping on the ferry.

Alaska Ride – June 16th – Day #22

We get to ride through the park today! We left about 8:15a to catch our 9a shuttle. We stopped at the store on the way to pick up snacks and drinks since none were provided on our bus. We had opted for the least expensive option – the bus is supposed to shuttle you to various locations in the park, and will stop for wildlife. Well, our driver Craig, was awesome. He narrated the entire ride. I would highly recommend his bus.

This is the only portion of the trip that I wish I had my Canon camera. The 100-400 lens would have been awesome for many of the shots, but as you’ll see, it may not have been wide enough for some of the closer animals.

Taking pictures from the bus was a bit of a challenge. Half the time, the animals were not on your side of the bus, so you are leaning around people and trying not to get any of the window frame in the picture. The windows weren’t exactly clean, so I had to switch to manual focus quite a bit or the camera would focus on the dirty window.. On many of the occasions that the window was clean, there would be reflections on the glass that would show up in the picture. All that being said, it was still and awesome trip and I got a few good pictures.

The first hour or so of the tour was through some fairly thick forest, and we didn’t see any wildlife. At this point, we stopped at a rest area for a bathroom break and I got a picture of our bus.DSC03342-2

Shortly after our rest break, we went past a bunch of Dall Sheep in the hills. All the little white spots on the hill are sheep. I zoomed in on them on the computer and they aren’t that clear.

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Our first grizzly! A mom with two cubs. They were pretty far away, this picture is at 200mm and cropped. We figured that this was about as close as we’d get to a bear on the trip…boy were we wrong.

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The views from the road were absolutely spectacular for most of the day. Unfortunately Mount McKinley was obscured by clouds most of the day, we only got to see the north peak. The park service claims that only 30% of visitors actually get to see the mountain.

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Approaching the next rest area, there was a griz right next to the road. I couldn’t get him to look over at me, so the shots aren’t as good as they could be.

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He got so close that I didn’t have to have my lens zoomed all the way.

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We also saw quite a few caribou.

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Right before our turnaround point at the next visitor center, another Grizzly was right next to the road. This one was a little more camera friendly. There are several shots in this group that I may consider printing and hanging on the wall at home.

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Our turnaround point. This is the view of Mount McKinley while we were there.

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On the way back there were some Caribou cooling down on some snow.

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Passed another Grizzly with a couple of cubs.

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Got a little closer to some Dall Sheep – this is a crop of a bigger picture.

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Almost all the way done and we finally saw a moose. I didn’t get any good poses from it.

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Overall, Denali is a very cool park. I would definitely recommend a visit on an Alaska adventure.