I admit it- I like hotels where the thread count is 300 or above, and where I can roll out of bed when room service brings the coffee.  But if you want to see bears, the only kind you are likely to find are the human variety- they are far more dangerous than the grizzly bears at Silver Salmon Creek.

Silver Salmon Creek is on the west side of Cook Inlet, in the Lake Clark – across from the village of Ninilchik and a one-hour plane flight south of Anchorage.  It is at the base of an active volcano, Mt. Iliamna.  It hasn’t erupted in 300 years but still sends plumes of ash in the air just to let us know the subduction of the Pacific plate underneath the North American plate makes this a part of the “ring of fire.”

I like small planes, they glide even when the engines go out. But as we began to land,  I wondered where the landing strip was…it was the beach,  a long sandy strip dotted with occasional logs, bears, and rocks.  Thankfully the pilot knew where to land, and onto the beach we went.

Down there is our beach - and landing strip


Yes, our landing strip

Did I say bears? Yes, bears – big ones, grizzly bears that were hungry. Thankfully we had Bill and Chuck.  Bill and his wife lived their summers on the property- and Bill never let the young grizzlies get too close to camp.  He had a shotgun, and when a grizzly would be a bit too close Bill would fire a shot in the air and they would scamper off.

Bill, with the noisy shotgun

As they became older they took a wide berth around the camp, which gave “some” consolation.  Chuck Clement, my good friend, always kept a gun on his side, “just because,” and that was good enough for me.

My plan was to shoot bears – with my Cannon SLR – and, as you see – I did.

Cub intimidating a seagull (the seagull was not impressed)

The bears were on the beach in full force- most of them having been named by Bill because the moms came with their cubs every ear. They were digging clams, in hopes that the salmon would make a return and they wouldn’t starve.  Bears like humans adapt – they will eat anything (which is why humans don’t want to get too close to the bears) – hence the Cannon 100-400 mm lens.

Fishing was fun, but unproductive.  One of my friends caught a nice trout, only to turn around and see the grizzly watching him.  The trout went to the grizzly, and my friend kept fishing.

It's not fishing in Alaska - it's "catching"

The grizzly eventually went by the fish box and tried to get out a few more trout- but to no avail.  As the fish, still alive in the box, jumped and made a noise against the tin, the small grizzly turned and ran away.

This small bear was most interested in our fishbox - until the fish inside flopped

Next to us, was the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge  where they have hot and cold running water and fine accommodations. Just south of us the Katmai Park, where more grizzlies await tourists with cameras, and there are a few lodges to treat clients well.

Razor clams- great for hungry bears (better than us)

No silver salmon, one of my favorite meals, especially over an open fire…but I did shoot a lot of bears.

Mom and Cub going next to a tidal pool, in search of clams