Well, summer solstice came and went, and the sockeye still aren’t here. People started spotting a few here and there, but not the massive runs they expect every year. I heard some rumors that they were 35 miles out in Bristol Bay still, and then a few days later, someone else said they were closer to 100 miles away… that’s a pretty big difference, so I have no idea which is true.
The bears seem to be anticipating their arrival as well, because we saw many more bears than usual the last few days. There were five on the beach Monday morning—a sow with two cubs and two subadults who decided to take a nap right next to a float plane that had just landed. The people on the float plane hadn’t gotten off yet, so they got stuck there for nearly 45 minutes while the bears finished their nap!
These two subadults, plus one more (no idea where it came from), made their way out to the river mouth eventually, and I spent the rest of the morning on bear watch, managing visitors to ensure they stayed on the viewing platforms and didn’t harass the bears. You’d be surprised how weird people get when they see a bear up close! One of the subadults plunked itself down right next to the viewing platform for over an hour, grazing on the grass and lounging; it couldn’t care less that there were a dozen people standing above it, taking pictures.
Later that day, I boated 4 hours round trip to King Salmon and back for a 15 minute appointment to pick up my government ID card and to get fingerprinted again. Fortunately, they were kind enough to let me pick up some groceries while I was there, since that is quite possibly the only time I will get out of Brooks Camp this summer. The store was pretty wiped out from all the fishermen and cannery workers who’ve also being coming in for the season, but I managed to pick up some eggs and produce, which is mainly what I wanted, since these aren’t easily obtained online.
Aside from that trip, most of my days on duty are spent staffing the visitor center and roving trails, talking to visitors and keeping an eye out for bears. I’ve met so many cool people here, and I’m always fascinated to find out what brings them to Katmai. I met several visitors who are on a quest to visit all the National Parks in Alaska, or across the country. One pair of visitors was attempting to visit all the Alaska National Parks in a single week!
I met several others who are world travelers, and just enjoy finding obscure, remote places to visit. There was a group of old college friends from Chile who camped for about a week with their small children (I was very impressed—adventure parenting at its finest!). I also met a man and woman, probably in their 70s and 80s, who have been traveling the world together for the last decade. She was a birder from New York, he was from Hawaii and told me he likes to take pictures of plants. We spent a while watching some Wilson’s warbler’s on the bridge. I ran into them later that day on my walk home, and he told me about some of the other places they’ve traveled together. Next year, they’re going to Antarctica. I told them I hoped to travel the world like that some day, and they assured me, “You will.” I take it they don’t know how much park rangers make, but I appreciated their vote of confidence. 😅
In a few days, our schedule is changing to accommodate the expected July crowds. In the next month, we’ll be giving bear orientations all day long, and staffing the falls platform all day long, instead of a mix of roving, orienting, and working at the visitor center like we’ve been doing. I’m a little apprehensive, since the park is so understaffed due to COVID. Having seen how ridiculous people are around bears in the last week, I’m nervous for what it will be like when there aren’t as many of us roving to keep an eye on things and help manage bear jams. But, here we go!