heinzle.org home 4x4-ihcscoutphoto & videoscubaalaska
bear camp
seward, ak

alaska links:

bear camp-hallobay wilderness
Our first objective of the trip was the bear camp. Chris had his DV camcorder (he bought it for scuba video) and I packed all my camera gear. I FedEx'ed my film to Anchorage to avoid the airport search (which, by the way, was *very* thorough, cough!). After a night in Anchorage and a drive to Homer, we were ready to take off in the morning for camp.

We awoke with anticipation on the morning of our departure from Homer to bear camp. The proprietor of Vista View B&B, Janet, had bad news--the camp had called via satphone and informed her that fog had rolled in on top of the Hallo Bay camp.

homer_midnight_cropped.jpg (15102 bytes)
Homer at sunset- Homer Spit extends out into Kachemak Bay under an 11:45pm dusk.-jh

This is kinda a big deal because the bush plane lands on the beach at low tide. If the pilot can't see the beach, you get a boat ride at the end of your plane ride. The decision not to fly is pretty well made if the camp is socked in. Looking at the bigger picture, the tides vary so much that if you miss the tide window, you may have to wait another 12 hrs for the next tide window and hope the weather clears at the same time. So just 'cause the fog clears off, doesn't mean you fly either.

We were kinda bummed, but prepared for delays from reading the info on the Hallo Bay website. We were prepared for another night at Vista View as noon approached. Then the phone rang, the wind had shifted and was now from the southeast. The fog had cleared. The flight was ON! The Chinese fire drill was on and we bolted down the hill in our drive-a-dent.

Upon arrival at Homer Air, we were instructed to grab a pallat out of a pile and put all our stuff on it. I like this self-sufficient kinda travel--no skycap for us!! After all our stuff was on the pallat, the guy brought a fork-truck over and put the pallat on a scale to make sure the plane would take off OK. We passed!

They tossed our stuff in the plane and we loaded up.

The flight in the Cessna 206 with a treat in itself. The Kenai Peninsula seems like all mountains and Katmai is the same. We flew southwest down Kachemak Bay, and south of Augustine Island-a volcano that sometimes belches steam. Proceeding southwest down Shelikof Strait, with the outline of the mountains of Kodiak Island to the southeast and the mainland to the northwest.

Chris had guessed at a GPS waypoint based on the maps on the Hallo Bay website. This was the pilot's first trip to the camp solo and the GPS in the plane needed a smack, so i think the guy was glad for a secondary guide. Anyway, he found the camp (it's right on the coast--geez), flew over for a beach check, then took us in. The landing was real nice! The camp folks met us and we jumped out, grabbed our junk and humped it the 80 yrds to camp.

Ok, so we are in camp about 30 min. We met Clint, Amanda-the camp manager, Susan-the chef, Simyra-guide and photog, Brad-guide, and a couple from Washington State. We get a quick once over on the rules and off we go to see some bears!!

There are NO motor vehicles at the camp. Everything is a hike, which is fine with us. So we set off to go north up the beach. We no more than get on the beach and Brad spots a bear coming down the beach toward us. Brad says we'll just stop and let the bear come to us and low-and-behold, that's exactly what happens. Our first encouter with a brown bear ends up being about 45ft away! He was messing around chewing on a stick or a bone and just kinda checking us out, kinda like my cat does with squirrels. It set the stage for 5 great days of hiking and bear watching. I've got a pile of slides to prove it and chris shot a pile of footage.


Chris's digital stills...

DSC00323.jpg (8324 bytes)DSC00331.jpg (8324 bytes)DSC00371.jpg (8324 bytes)DSC00474.jpg (8324 bytes)

DSC00684.jpg (8324 bytes)DSC00827.jpg (8324 bytes)DSC00855.jpg (8324 bytes)DSC00935.jpg (8324 bytes)

DSC00233.jpg (8324 bytes)DSC00310.jpg (8324 bytes)

Chris's edited
video clip. 8.6MB


bearfarm.jpg (6929 bytes)
This is Nancy's Meadow, named for a momma bear, that hadn't been seen in the '02 summer up through the time we were in camp. The meadow is full of a thick grass that the bears eat. Brad said this is one of their main sources of nutrition until the fish runs start in August.-jh

bearstanding.jpg (8413 bytes)
When the bears could smell, but not see, they would stand up to get a better look. The female with cubs- Ursula- was nervous and would stand a lot. This treeline is on the edge of Nancy's Meadow. BTW, this isn't Ursula. -jh

beartrain.jpg (8204 bytes)
Ursula and her cubs foraging the beach for clams. The beach was littered with broken clam shells from the bears eating them. -jh

mom and cubs.jpg (8472 bytes)
Ursula and her cubs pause for a look in Nancy's Meadow.-jh

prints-sand.jpg (8708 bytes)
A couple of medium footprints on the beach gravel.-jh

otterbear.jpg (9512 bytes)
This guy was cleaning up a sea otter Brad found washed up on the beach. Brad dragged it up above the tide line knowing the bears would smell it and come for a nibble.-jh

airwhiffs.jpg (8511 bytes)
Picking up some good whiffs of something.-jh

earscratch.jpg (8144 bytes)
Ear rubbing to get the bugs off-- or an itch? -jh

bearlove.jpg (8534 bytes)
Bear love. Brad identified these adolescents as too immature to actually mate. The two in the extreme background had the same idea.-jh

scout.jpg (8739 bytes)
Yes, even in Alaska we keep our eyes peeled for the comforts of home. There were several IH vehicles around Alaska. We probably spotted 6 or 8 in the 6 days we were not in bear camp-jh

bad boys of the pasture.jpg (7949 bytes)
These two adolescents were wrestling around quite a bit one day in Nancy's Meadow. Chris got some great video of this.-jh

bearstanding2.jpg (8194 bytes)
Another standing inquiry into what's that smell.-jh

bearbait.jpg (8740 bytes)
Here's Chris (left) and Dad (white shirt) in Nancy's Meadow surrounded by brown bears.-jh

prints to scale.jpg (7094 bytes)
A big rear print (right), my print (12) and a cub print (left) -jh

yummy grass.jpg (8324 bytes)
Pausing to take a look at the humans inbetween mouthfuls of sage grass. -jh

peek-a-bear.jpg (7402 bytes)
A bear in the deep grass near a large tidal flat south of camp.-jh

bears jousting.jpg (7266 bytes)
These two had a short joust near the tidal flat. -jh

beachfissures.jpg (13210 bytes)
Water from the tidal flat trickles down to the sea at low tide. On the way back from a hike south of the camp.-jh

eyeballin.jpg (8860 bytes)
This one was eyeing the humans as he worked his way across Nancy's Meadow. -jh

heinzle.org home

Copyright 2001-2003 by Joe and Chris Heinzle. All graphics, images and video are the property of Joe and Chris Heinzle and any unauthorized use is prohibited.