In July, we were lucky enough to set foot on Alaska.
We went to Katmai National Park to watch bears and savor the mystery and magnificence of life; we hiked on the Matanuska Glacier to experience the passage of time and the supreme charm of nature; we went to Kenai Fjords National Park to have close contact with marine animals. Explore the wonders of the fjord and feel the shock of ice collapse.
Every journey in Alaska is unforgettable.
Bear watching in Katmai National Park
At dusk, we took a flight from Anchorage to Sandmon, preparing to go to Katmai National Park for bear watching the next day. Kinshamon is a small administrative district with a population of less than 300 people and is the closest city to Katmai National Park. For those who come to watch bears, this is the best stop for supplies and rest.
The curtains of night are drawn away, and the light of dawn blooms not far away. At six o’clock in the morning the next day, we took the shuttle bus and finally boarded the water bus after half an hour. After 40 minutes of turbulence on the water, we arrived at the bear viewing area at Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park. Katmai National Park has a rich and diverse natural landscape, including spectacular mountains, vast forests, vast grasslands, and majestic glaciers. It is one of the best wildlife viewing areas in the United States. Thanks to the rich natural resources, the entire reserve is home to more than 2,000 brown bears, as well as deer, foxes, wolves, eagles and other wild animals.
At the reserve we followed the water trail. Various waterbirds shuttle among the beaches and aquatic plants on the roadside. In the distance, brown bears play on the beach or walk along the river. The estuary is full of salmon about to migrate. Entering the forest trail, you will find lush greenery and full of vitality. Birds sang in the branches and rabbits moved cautiously through the trees. But bear dung on both sides of the trail reminds us to always be vigilant and aware of potential dangers. We made noises from time to time to let the bears know someone was nearby and avoid getting too close. Brown bears will not actively attack humans and will only fight back when they feel threatened. If you accidentally approach a brown bear, don’t panic, stay calm, back away slowly and give them enough space.
With the sound of water splashing in our ears, we arrived at the entrance to the viewing platform of Brooks Falls and stepped onto a long suspended corridor. On the corridor, we saw a tall brown bear walking slowly and leisurely towards the river. Its body was as tall as a mountain peak, and its fur was golden and gorgeous. Tourists were recording this scene quietly on the corridor, but the brown bears seemed unaware of our presence. We arrived at the waterfall almost at the same time as this brown bear. It stood in front of the waterfall, its strong body was awe-inspiring.
Although it was nine o’clock in the morning, several brown bears were already waiting near the waterfall, looking forward to the salmon leaping out. In summer, it is still rainy in high-latitude Alaska, and the rapid river water constantly washes away the limbs of brown bears. For some brown bears, the short wait failed to bring them the expected food. They left silently, but soon new ones joined. In order to compete for a better hunting position, brown bears move through the rapid water and sometimes even fight. During the bear watching process, we witnessed two brown bears standing up and roaring fiercely.
However, because the water temperature in the early morning is low, it is not conducive for salmon to rush up the waterfall, so only a few occasionally jump out of the water and try to swim upstream. But this does not affect the brown bears’ desire for food. An adult brown bear stood at the top of the waterfall, watching the water flow alertly, his eyes flashing with excitement and anticipation. I saw a silver salmon swimming upstream, fighting hard, and rushed over the waterfall. At this moment, the brown bear at the top of the waterfall opened its mouth as quickly as lightning and accurately caught the salmon jumping out of the water. The caught salmon struggled in the brown bear’s mouth, but its fate was sealed, and the brown bear showed a satisfied expression… We almost forgot to breathe. This life-and-death struggle in nature was shocking. At the same time, in the downstream waters not far from the observation deck, many anglers stood in the water and used traditional fly fishing methods to try to catch salmon.
As the sun gradually heats up, the water temperature beside the waterfall rises, more salmon begin to rush up the waterfall, and the brown bears’ fishing spree reaches a climax. We were immersed in the scene and witnessed with our own eyes the thrilling action of bears catching fish. According to other friends who live on this land, in Alaska’s summer, the sun does not set until 11 o’clock in the evening. The water temperature of the river is warmer at 8 or 9 o’clock, and more fish will come up. The number of brown bears here will also be Increase, the scene will be more spectacular.
After spending four or five hours at Brooks Falls, we took the water bus back to Sandmont and then flew non-stop back to Anchorage to prepare for the rest of the journey.
Matanuska Glacier Hike
The Matanuska Glacier in Alaska, USA, is the largest glacier accessible by car in North America and one of the destinations we explored.
Driving from Anchorage, we encountered beautiful mountains and rivers, crisscrossed by rivers and streams, and every scenery was like a grand symphony, leading us towards the embrace of glaciers. Two hours later, we arrived at Glacier View Town. This town is the bridge between us and the glacier, and all the wonderful things are about to unfold before our eyes.
The tour guide is a young lady from Boston. She wants to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and experience a different life. She has just moved to a small town. Under the guidance of our tour guide, we began our journey to the glacier.
At the beginning of the journey, a glacier lake came into view. Due to the special geology, the soil at the bottom of this lake is black, so the lake water also appears black, deep and mysterious. We walked across the long bridge and stepped onto the glacier, and found that the black soil under our feet was actually ice with stones. After walking through the black ice covered with silt, we came to a resting point, and the tour guide distributed crampons to us, making it easier for us to walk towards the ice field not covered with silt.
The Matanuska Glacier carries endless time and witnesses the changes of nature. This huge glacier forms new ice blocks from high altitudes every year, while old ice blocks are pushed out of the mountain, creating a cascading glacier landscape. After resting, we continued on and reached a corner of the glacier. Here, the glacier melt water flowing down from the heights forms a huge waterfall with clear water. We took a sip of the water from the waterfall and had a sweet aftertaste. Many people poured out the water in their own bottles and went to get a bottle of water from the glacier waterfall.
As we traveled deeper, the tour guide explained to us the differences between white ice, blue ice, and black ice. White ice, as clean as water, is what people see on most glaciers. When the sun shines on the white ice, it will shine like a diamond. Blue ice is a special kind of ice. When the sun penetrates, its backside will appear crystal clear blue. Black ice is ice mixed with silt, sand and rocks squeezed up from the lower part of the glacier during the movement of the glacier. It looks like black briquettes from a distance. Continuing to walk inside, we saw a huge lake in the ice. These lakes gather the trickles of melted glaciers around them, like gems set in the ice sheet, like the heart of the glacier. The white ice, black ice and blue ice on the lakeside seem to be a natural palette, which fully interprets the beauty.
The glacier trip is not only a visual feast, but also brings the gospel of skin care. The fine black mud on the glacier is rich in minerals and is considered good for the skin. Many tourists smear glacier mud on their faces to enjoy free all-natural skin care.
However, in this beautiful place, there are also dangers. There are many tiny pools scattered on the glacier. The tour guide inserted a hiking stick into a seemingly ordinary small pool, but the tip of the stick could not touch the bottom. She told us that such small pools are sometimes tens of meters deep, and it would be dangerous to fall into them. In addition, there are long and narrow ice cracks between glaciers, through which much melted glacier water flows into glacial lakes. Some of these ice cracks are only a few meters deep, while others are a hundred or two hundred meters deep. If you step on the wrong foot, you will most likely be shattered to pieces!
After two hours of exploration, we witnessed the great changes of nature and felt the power of time. Every piece of ice and every lake in the Matanuska Glacier is like a work of art of nature, revealing the mysterious beauty of the earth.
Kenai Fjord National Park Yacht Tour
On the fourth day of the trip, we set off for the port city of Seward. We planned to depart from Seward and take a sightseeing yacht to view the scenery in Kenai Fjord National Park.
Kenai Fjord National Park is famous for its ocean and glacial landscapes. This national park is home to spectacular glaciers, turquoise bays, diverse wildlife, and beautiful mountains. A boat trip is a great way to see Kenai Fjord National Park. Throughout the voyage, people can see puffins, eagles, dolphins, humpback whales, otters, seals, sea lions and other animals.
After arriving in Seward, we boarded a luxury sightseeing yacht. This yacht has three floors. The first and second floors are warm cabins, and the third floor is an open-air observation deck where tourists can take clear photos of animals and scenery. Although it was raining heavily today, our emotions were not affected and we looked forward to capturing the unique postures of animals in the rain.
As soon as the yacht left the harbor, we saw two sea otters in the distance. The fur of these sea otters is soft and thick, protecting them from the erosion of the sea. They lie on the sea with their little paws flat on their chests, as if they are taking a bath. A slight wave passed over their bodies, causing ripples.
Our first stop was a small island called Horse Island. Thick trees dot the island, and the bald eagles perched among the tall branches have become the guardians of this tranquil sea. On the sea, flocks of puffins sometimes float in the waves, sometimes swoop into the sea to hunt for food, and sometimes soar in the blue sky, presenting a vibrant scene.
When we arrived at the next island, the rocks on the beach were covered with brown sea lions. Their huge bodies and majestic postures were intimidating. Since rainy days are not suitable for hunting fish, Steller sea lions rest on the shore to keep warm and reserve energy for the next hunt. On another reef next to the Steller’s sea lions are a group of kittiwakes resting in groups. The kittiwake’s feathers are as white as snow, contrasting sharply with the gray sea rocks. The rain gently lapped at the sea surface. They stood on the sea rock, raising one foot and gently retracting the other foot, forming a unique scenery.
During the voyage, we were also lucky enough to witness humpback whales gathering together and cooperatively hunting krill. In the distance, the calm water began to boil, and the large mouths of countless humpback whales suddenly emerged from the water, greedily devouring krill. Surrounded by a group of seabirds reaping the benefits, they picked up the shrimp that had slipped through the net. After eating and drinking enough, the humpback whale will continuously slap the sea surface with its pectoral fins, making a loud noise. This may be to attract the attention of the opposite sex, or it may be to drive away parasites.
Humpback whales use “bubble nets” to hunt, which is one of their unique skills. Humpback whales emit air bubbles as they swim underwater, and these bubbles come together to form a giant bubble network that holds scattered krill together. This bubble net traps the krill, making it impossible for them to escape, and also pushes the krill toward the surface. Then, the humpback whale will emerge from the water, open its huge mouth, swallow the water and plankton, and then use its baleen and tongue to filter out the excess water to complete the meal.
After three hours of sailing, we arrived at the end of the voyage – Aiyalik Glacier. The scenery here is picturesque, with seabirds soaring and sea otters floating gracefully. They complement the ice floes floating on the sea and form a natural work of art. Goats, black bears and other land animals on the shore quietly watch the passing ships.
The blue ice and spectacular ice avalanches of Eyalik Glacier make it one of the most popular attractions in the Kenaifjord region. There is a thick layer of floating ice in front of the glacier. A large group of seals are lying on the floating ice very comfortably, like black pearls scattered on the ice. The towering ice wall stands on the blue sea, like a huge natural wall. As the ship approached the glacier, it seemed insignificant.
A rumbling roar began, warning of the spectacle to come. Suddenly, huge chunks of ice broke off the glacier and fell into the sea. The moment the ice hits the water, water splashes high. In an instant, the entire sea surface was shaken, and the turbulent waves began to stir, creating layers of huge splashes. Tourists on the boat took out their cameras and camcorders one after another for fear of missing this rare scene.
On the way back, the rain gradually subsided, and we noticed some fast-moving black and white figures on the water. They were lively and agile, like elves on the sea. After asking other tourists, I learned that these little elves turned out to be white-rumped porpoises. The white-rumped porpoise is a small dolphin over one meter long. Its body shows eye-catching black and white stripes. It has a slender and streamlined body and is an excellent swimmer. They are the fastest swimming mammals, reaching speeds of 55 km/h, and are the only porpoises that swim with ships.
When white-rumped porpoises spot a ship entering their territory, they eagerly come to greet it. They swim at the stern of the boat, jumping out of the water from time to time, rolling and playing with the boat. White-rumped porpoises swim in the waters of Alaska, enjoying the beautiful atmosphere of harmonious coexistence between humans and animals. However, as far north as Japan, hunters kill thousands of white-rumped porpoises all year round, which is deeply distressing.
The six hours were like a wonderful dream. We traveled through the songs of nature and touched every moment with our hearts. The magnificent scenery of islands, glaciers and valleys has left an indelible mark on our hearts. We look forward to setting foot on this magical land again and dancing with nature again.