Trip Report by Michael Wald, Co-owner and guide.
I have to admit that the best trip ideas are rarely mine. Sometimes pilots suggest a new river or point out an area I had never noticed. But very often clients will call me mid-winter and ask me to arrange a custom trip to a new location. I had dreamed of going to the Katmai Coast ever since I came to Alaska in 1991 but it wasn’t until last spring that I got to plan a trip to this remote and beautiful coast. We were looking for great bear viewing but without so many bears that we couldn’t sleep peacefully. We wanted a variety of hiking, from the tundra, to glacier-covered mountains, to beach hiking, and we wanted a place where we were unlikely to see other people during our week in the wilds. After studying the maps and talking with friends who have spent extensive time on the Katmai coast the location for a bear-viewing base camp became obvious. Not only did we get to see bears fighting, fishing, scavenging seal carcasses, and grazing placidly on the sedge meadows, but we were able to explore along the rocky headlands, peer into tide pools rich with sea-life, and hike inland to where the glacier pours down off the active volcano. The bears in Katmai are truly awesome and it takes some acclimation to get used to being around them constantly and having them nap near your camp. But these bears are not interested in people and they go about their lives as if we were no more significant than a gull (which we aren’t). Some of my favorite moments of the trip were in the evenings when we would get a campfire going and watch the tide recede. Predictably, at low tide our neighborhood bears (a sow with two half grown cubs) would saunter down to the beach and snuffle around in the sand to see what the waves had dropped on their doorstep. Warmed by the fire, with a glacier-covered volcano in the distance we would watch the bears just being bears on the ragged Pacific coast. What more could we want after a day of tromping around on the tundra? Fresh- baked brownies anyone?