Author Topic: The Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips  (Read 21875 times)

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #40 on: February 12, 2021, 01:31:51 AM »
This may be interesting for you, I wonder if you witnessed this yourself. On a full stomach the bears go only for the tasty part for קינוח סעודה.

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Offline EliJelly

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #41 on: February 12, 2021, 01:35:56 AM »

Wow.. you really got it all! Not such a classy eater like the other one though...

Offline whYME

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Offline Dan

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #43 on: February 12, 2021, 10:20:34 AM »
I'm gonna guess this is what you liked best
Nah, my camera saw much nicer Auroras  ;D
https://www.instagram.com/p/BC5qf59wbjN/
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Offline shulem92

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #44 on: February 12, 2021, 11:12:35 AM »
This may be interesting for you, I wonder if you witnessed this yourself. On a full stomach the bears go only for the tasty part for קינוח סעודה.
there is actually 1 week in august where the salmon are so plentiful that the bears take one bite out of the the head just to get the brain and throw away the rest of the fish. i saw it live
This footage of a Kamchatka brown bear enjoying salmon caviar, from BBC's newly released Prefect Planet, has piqued my curiosity whether salmon caviar is an available kosher dish, and of course you can find just about anything on DDF :)
See my TR specifically Part 3.
The point of the trip was to certify kashrus for caviar.

@Something Fishy i am eagerly awaiting part 3 of your trip because I also went in August, and i see some familiar pictures and places in the intro already...
« Last Edit: February 12, 2021, 11:31:45 AM by shulem92 »

Offline aygart

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #45 on: February 12, 2021, 01:10:42 PM »
Working on the next trip now. Currently sorting through 5581 pictures of bears taken over a day and a half period.

I may need therapy.
Teddy bear?
Feelings don't care about your facts

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #46 on: February 12, 2021, 01:18:30 PM »
@Something Fishy i am eagerly awaiting part 3 of your trip because I also went in August, and i see some familiar pictures and places in the intro already...

The next trip was to katmai, but #3 and 4 were to Lake Clark.
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Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #47 on: February 12, 2021, 01:21:50 PM »
Teddy bear?

Oh sure, the cubs start out cute:



But then they turn into little devils when the food shows up:

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Offline EliJelly

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #48 on: February 12, 2021, 02:27:01 PM »
Oh.. Your camera sure has some magic to turn every photo in much greater quality than what actually happened in real life! :)

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #49 on: February 15, 2021, 10:02:29 PM »
Working on the next trip now. Currently sorting through 5581 pictures of bears taken over a day and a half period.

I may need therapy.

Finally got them down to under 300. Way too many pictures I love gaaaaaaaaAAAAAAhhhhhhh



I think for the next segment I'll just post a giant bear dump dump of bear pics and call it a day >:(.
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Offline EliJelly

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #50 on: February 15, 2021, 11:46:36 PM »
Finally got them down to under 300. Way too many pictures I love gaaaaaaaaAAAAAAhhhhhhh



I think for the next segment I'll just post a giant bear dump dump of bear pics and call it a day >:(.
Just convert it into a slideshow.. From the trailer released I can tell it's going to be epic.

Offline whYME

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #51 on: February 16, 2021, 12:25:47 PM »
Oh.. Your camera sure has some magic to turn every photo in much greater quality than what actually happened in real life! :)
Did somebody say aurora?
( @Dan )

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #52 on: February 18, 2021, 09:45:23 AM »
BTW if anyone's crazy enough to come on a bonkers Deadhorse adventure in March....... see here.
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Offline yungermanchik

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #53 on: February 21, 2021, 02:20:46 PM »
I think for the next segment I'll just post a giant bear dump dump of bear pics and call it a day.
So, nuuu!?
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Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #54 on: February 24, 2021, 12:57:42 AM »
Trip 2, July



Part 1

The first trip was in mid-February, and was followed three days later by a quick three-day trip to Iceland. Never in a million years would I have thought that this was to be my last international trip for nearly a year.

Who could have fathomed how our lives would change in the coming weeks and months... I came home from Iceland, went into lockdown, and watched the world grind to a halt. It would be months and months before I even considered traveling again, and that was by car only as air travel was still considered extremely unsafe.

But by the time July came along, things had started to return to a slight semblance of normalcy - my daughter was in school again, shuls were open, and people starting to think about travel again. Surreal travel, but travel nonetheless.

International travel was out of the question, so off it was to Alaska, Take 2.

A way simpler flight map than last time:



LGA was just creepy. Never seen anything like it:



First time flying since COVID, and AA's in-flight service was... interesting. Got handed this little number upon boarding:





And that was it for the entirety of the flight. Not that KSMLs are any good normally, but this wasn't even trying. Oh well. At least we were flying again.

Approach into Anchorage was - as usual - stunning (so long as it's clear...). Make sure to always sit on the right.

Check out that glacial lake:



Alaska had just reopened for tourism, and they were still figuring out how to handle it. You needed a negative PCR test and a filled-out questionnaire, but the lines upon landing were at least an hour's wait:



After waiting a while, someone came to the end of the line and started processing people backwards, so we were done in less than ten minutes. They didn't even glance at my test results, after all that - they just asked and took my word for it. Go figure.

Stopped for some supplies, and was glad to find an exciting kosher selection at Carrs - this was exactly what we needed in July!



We made a quick stop at the Eagle River Nature Center to stretch our legs before continuing on to Matanuska glacier. Quite a pretty spot, but not worth more than a short visit and if you have nothing else to do. We did see our first moose of the trip there, so our wildlife streak was clearly beginning.



After a short walk we headed back east on the Glenn Highway towards Glacier View to spend the night.

Moose on the side of the road:



More moose:



MORE MOOSE:





Welcome to Alaska in the summer, 11:30pm:



Up the next morning bright and early to go to one of my favorite places in Alaska - Matanuska Glacier! One of the most stunning places in the state, and an amazing experience:



Cool mud flats on the hike out:



Once on the ice, there are all kids of cool details and formations. Here are a couple of cryoconite holes - the black bits of sediment lay on top of the ice, but are heated by the sun. Eventually they get so warm that the ice directly beneath them melts, and slowly but surely they burrow deeper and deeper in to the surface of the glacier in deep but tiny water-filled holes:



These tiny little cracks? Hundreds of feet deep!



Many of them are full of meltwater, so there's an iron-clad rule on the glacier: never ever ever step into water you cannot see the bottom of.



Try throwing a rock in and count the seconds until you hear the thud.....









@shayaj hanging on for dear life:



The motley crew:





The rickety bridge crossing the Matanuska River on the way back:



Short stop at Long Lake on the way back to Anchorage:



Back at ANC, to fly to the minuscule town of King Salmon (what a name):



This is pretty much all there is to this place - the airport is way larger than the town, basically:



Of we go:



So there is literally absolutely nothing to do in King Salmon, unless you count inhaling mosquitoes as an activity. In the five minutes we spent waiting for the hotel shuttle to pick us up, we were surrounded by a literal cloud of the little bastards. Even with our face masks, we were probably inhaling them by the dozens. These guys really couldn't care less if you had insect repellent or not, they just went right for it. Surprisingly we didn't get too many bites, but man it was just impossible to stand in one place outside.

Anyway, got to our hotel slash inn slash weird Airbnb, which was kinda run down but clean and perfectly serviceable. And as the only option in town, it wasn't as if we had other options anyways.

Got settled in and decided to check out the town. The mosquitoes quickly put an end to that little plan, so we ducked into the local grocery to see grab some cold drinks. The prices, however........ looks like we found a place that puts Barrow to shame. $3 for an apple, $5 for a 20oz coke, and $13.29 (!!!!) for a bottle of juice:



We had a few hours to kill, so we stopped at the local bar, which was completely empty. The guys ordered some beers and whatnot, but unfortunately they were out of the Something Fishy Special (aka pickles), so I went for a stiff virgin Cuba Libre:



Somehow the drinks here were cheaper than the grocery, so we spent some time just relaxing and schmoozing - as tomorrow was going to be a whopper of a day.

So... why in the world were we in this G-d-forsaken town in the first place? The answer lies a couple of miles to the east: Katmai National Park and Preserve - and one of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the world.

Let's go!



Every year, untold numbers of sockeye salmon swim up from Bristol Bay, up the Naknak River and past King Salmon, and into Katmai National Park:



Here they swim the length of Naknak Lake:



...and begin to stage in the mouth of the Brooks River:



As their numbers grow into the hundreds of thousands, they begin making their way up the river to Brooks Lake, where they were born years ago. Once at the lake their life is finished - right upon arrival they will spawn and die.

There's only one obstacle for the salmon though: halfway up the river lies Brooks Falls - and on top of it, waiting bears:



The only way into the park is by air, but there are no airports or landing strips - the only access is by floatplane.

Landing on Naknak Lake:







The amount of bears here in ridiculous. As soon as we landed we were literally surrounded by bears on all sides:







The place to go is Brooks Camp, which is maintained by the National Park Service and has all the facilities in the park. Cabins, campgrounds (both closed due to COVID), a canteen, visitors center, and so on.

More importantly, the camp is in this particular location for a good reason: it sits right between Naknak Lake and the Brooks River, and a short hike from the falls itself.



First thing you do when you get there is go through Bear School - if you don't "graduate", you're not allowed to leave camp. Bear School is essentially a ranger giving a bunch of common-sense tips of how to stay safe around the bears, and covering the few rules of the park.

And safety tips were needed. The place is literally crawling with 1000-pound death machines, and you do not want to have an encounter go wrong. People (my parents, mainly :)) often look at me like I'm crazy when they hear I've been within 10 feet of a fully-grown grizzly and lived to tell the tale; they think I'm risking my life here. Fact is, bears - and pretty much all animals - act in a certain way and as long as you don't do anything stupid you'll be perfectly fine. In fact, since Bear School was instituted here some 30-odd years ago, there have been zero - ZERO - deaths or injuries from bears.

The rules are pretty simple, with the number one thing being to never surprise a bear. Make noise, look ahead, and make sure that any bears around know that you're there. Nine times out of ten they will avoid you. If a bear is in your way, show him who's boss (while trying not to think about the real facts): speak loudly and authoritatively, and he'll get the message. Never come between a mother and a cub, don't run if charged, and so on.

And these things worked - we had too many close bear encounters to count, and everything went according to script, as we'll see later.

Anyyyyyways, enough jabbering. Time for some bear pictures!

(Note that we spend a day and a half here, flying back to King Salmon in between. The pictures and stories below are not technically linear.)

Following the main trail out of camp, you get to an observation platform and the bridge crossing the Brooks River. Up until three or four years ago this was a floating pontoon bridge that would frequently get jammed with bears, causing many people to miss their flights out. The new bridge however is a good ten feet above the water and that issue is now gone.



Serious Jurassic Park vibes going on at the bridge entrance:



And the bears... so many bears! The plan was to keep count of how many we saw, but by the time we got to the other side of the bridge we had quite literally given up counting. There were at least 30-40 in view - mothers with cubs, solitary males, groups of teenagers, everything.

The excitement of the moment - this is not a particularly interesting picture, but it was the first bears we had observed (as in not just a quick glimpse between the plane and camp). A mother and her cubs feeding on salmon:



Looking left towards the lake, a bunch of bears swimming and hunting:



On the right-hand side, towards the river, two males were doing battle. This was not play fighting that siblings often do, but a serious fight for supremacy. No holds were barred - and we had a front-row seat:













Finally the defeated bear slunk off to lick his wounds in shame, while the victor enjoyed a nice little celebratory fish:



Look how pristine the water here is:



The fishing down here is very different that at the falls. Over there, the fish get funneled into a narrow stretch of river and are ripe for the taking. Here however, the river is broad and shallow, and the fish can easily outswim a bear. That's why the big bad bears were all at the prime fishing grounds at the falls while down here you'll find the smaller bears and mothers with cubs:



Absolutely incredible watching this little guy try his darnedest to catch something. Such vast numbers of fish, and yet no luck:



I think it took us over an hour to cross that little bridge... Next stop, Brooks Falls!



It's a little over a mile's worth of hiking to get to the falls, on an easy, well-maintained trail.

But we were not alone:



Well aren't we in a pickle here. We wanted to go one way, she wanted to go the other. Crossing paths is - need I say - a very bad idea. But the woods on either side were crawling with bears (we had seen plenty through the trees to be sure of this little fact), so us circling around is out of the question as well.

So we did what we learned in Bear School: stood our ground and let her know in no uncertain terms that we, in fact, intend to walk here and she had better go around if she knows what is good for her. She stopped, sized us up, and headed right into the trees, only to reappear some 20 feet behind us and continue along the trail. Turn out that not only do grizzlies understand what you say to them, but they even do so in Yiddish!

Now this whole episode, while it may have been an adrenaline-fueled adventure for me, is small beans compared to what @shayaj experienced on the way back from lunch. But I'll let him tell it in his own words in a separate post.

I have been dreaming of visiting Brooks Falls for many years. Normally, the lodge sells out a year or two in advance, so the only practical options are day trips. However the place tends to get absolutely packed, and so you are only allowed 20 minutes at the falls platform at a time. If the crowd thins, you may have the chance of a second slot - but that was typically impossible. In short, on a day trip, you'd get 20 minutes at the falls - if you were lucky.

Imagine how it felt when we finally got up to the falls and instead of an hours-long wait, there was absolutely nobody there. We stood there for hours watching the bears. For me this was honestly the experience of a lifetime, second only to visiting Antarctica. And I've seen my share of incredible sights...

The falls themselves are not that big - maybe 6 feet tall and something like 100 feet across. But if you're a little salmon, these falls are serious business. For a few weeks in the summer, up to 400,000 of them make a blind lunge out of the water and over the falls. For most of them it takes many tries until they're successful; and for many, this leap of faith ends up right in the teeth of a hungry grizzly.

While planning this trip, I read that while there are often up to 15 or 20 bears at the falls, all you really need is one bear putting on a good show. I didn't believe it, and honestly was a bit disappointed when we got there and saw only a few solitary bears. But as it turned out, I was wrong less right: man did we get a show. We had a fair amount of bears at the falls, but never more than three at one time - and usually only one.

General overview of the falls:



The bears have three main ways of fishing. Here's my favorite bear demonstrating all three.

The Whack-a-mole:



The Snatch:



And of course, the most epic of them all, the Direct-to-Gullet Delivery. One of my favorite pictures of all time:



The last option was definitely the most amazing one to watch. The bear would stand on top of the falls, completely motionless except for his swaying head. He'd just line up properly and whoosh - a fish would fly straight into his gaping maw.

This was the least successful method though - most of the time they would just miss, such as this other bear:



But not this guy: of all the bears we watched, he was the most successful by far. I counted ten successful catches in under two minutes.

Waiting:



And boom:



Quick bite, and right back to it (his mother never taught him to wipe his mouth in between bites):



Missed on the snatch:



One lucky fish:





Most bears would take the catch to a shallow spot above the falls and eat it there:



While our bear here liked his right then and there where he stood - check out those flying fish eggs:





Eventually it was time for lunch... For your own safety, food of any kind is not allowed outside of designated areas in camp, so we hadn't eaten anything in hours.

Just a typical scene around here...:







The electrice fence in the background surrounds the picnic area, which is the only outdoor spot where food is allowed. The other option is the small restaurant-slash-cafeteria, which is where we went for lunch.

Just outside our window:





Stopped at the visitor center for a bit, where the rangers had a woefully out of date sightings list - they are able to identify many bears by sight, so they assign them numbers:



Apparently some bears have tried to break into some cabins at night, so they put these beds of nails outside the doors:



As a whole, the entire area is not uniquely beautiful. Sure, it's got lakes and mountains and rivers and waterfalls, but it isn't necessarily that different than, say, the Adirondacks. Compared to Lake Clark National Park (where I went for grizzlies during the next two trips), it's downright ugly.

Some creative photography did however net me a fairly interesting landscape photo from camp:



The local airport...:



This was the only time that I saw the rangers actually interfere with the bears - even when they paraded through camp they were allowed to do whatever they wanted. But now a family of three cubs had discovered that they could actually climb up onto an airplane wing, and were doing their best to try to eat it. Rangers and pilots came running from all directions and raised an unholy racket until their mother came and led them away.

I was busy with lunch, so of course my camera was out of reach for all this.... oh well.

The aircraft in question - the bears had climbed onto to horizontal stabilizers:



Juvenile bald eagle in camp:



Red-backed vole:



Another view from camp:





After lunch it was right back to the falls:



The number of fish was staggering. A ranger and I counted over 800 of them jumping the falls per minute:



There were such insane numbers of fish below the falls that there simply wasn't enough room in the river for them - they were literally being pushed out of the water:





Fighting for control over a prime fishing spot:



Poor guy:



But this is just insane luck:



So how close were we to the bears? Close enough that you can actually see us reflected in the bear's claws:





My best estimate is 15-20 feet; it may have been closer.

Gobble gobble:


(Note the splashes to the right - the fish was still alive and flapping at this point.)

Meet Lefty: one of the biggest bears in the area, and the 2018 and 2019 Fat Bear Week runner-up:



This big guy commandeers the very best fishing spot in the park, known as the Jacuzzi. This is actually right beneath the falls, not on top of it, and is deeper than the rest of the river creating a natural fish trap. He just stood there catching fish after fish after fish:



You'll notice that he barely takes a bite out of the fish before he drops it and goes for another one. This is known as high-grading, where they eat only the fattiest and most nutritious parts of the fish - the brain, skin, and roe. There are so many fish that they can afford to be picky, even discarding a fish if they realize it's a male.

One bite for the eggs and he's all set:



Here's another bear beneath the falls, simply sitting in a mass of fish and just reaching out to grab what he wanted. Note the high-grading here as well - he just eats the skin and throws the rest back:













...And that is it for today.

Lots more to come in the next segment - another day of bears and the rest of the trip.
Check out my site for epic kosher adventures: Kosher Horizons

Offline EliJelly

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #55 on: February 24, 2021, 01:51:21 AM »
Wowow.. Absolutely best of the best!! (Can it be any better??) Was well worth the page loading time..


Something Fishy Special (aka pickles)
And as a little token of appreciation.. There is a new sour pickle brand, "Crunchies", if you haven't tried it yet go ahead and do so and you'll bless this day forever!
« Last Edit: February 24, 2021, 01:54:56 AM by EliJelly »

Offline YitzyS

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #56 on: February 24, 2021, 09:13:11 AM »
Absolutely incredible!
Monkeys don't fly unless you put them on airplanes

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #57 on: February 24, 2021, 10:58:51 AM »
Awesome!



How did you manage to get the heads to be at the same height?


So there is literally absolutely nothing to do in King Salmon, unless you count inhaling mosquitoes as an activity.
Lol. I felt that way about many trips I was taken on.

Turn out that not only do grizzlies understand what you say to them, but they even do so in Yiddish!

Lol. Thanks for the awesome segment, can't wait for the next one.

Offline YitzyS

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #58 on: February 24, 2021, 11:14:34 AM »
How did you manage to get the heads to be at the same height?
Reminds me of a profound vort my rosh yeshiva said.

It says in the last Rambam, "Umalah ha'oretz Da'ah es Hashem Kamayim layom mechasim," - like water covers the seas. He explained that although the sea looks like a uniform amount of water all across, some spots - the deeper ones - have much more water.

So too Daas Hashem. It is our mission to dig deep into ourselves to allow for Daah es Hashem. When Moshiach comes, Daas Hashem will flood like the ocean. Those of us who dug deeper will have a lot more Daas Hashem.
Monkeys don't fly unless you put them on airplanes

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #59 on: February 24, 2021, 01:11:52 PM »
Wow, those are some amazing pictures. You were especially lucky that no one was at the falls and you had as long as you did.