Resilience in the Redwoods

 

Ahhh….

The mighty Redwoods.

Walking among the giants was mesmerizing…..peaceful…..majestic.

We were in California 2 weeks ago for our youngest son’s wedding and while there we decided to spend a couple of mornings seeing nearby sights. My husband and I love to travel and explore and seek out new adventures. And we don’t believe in letting an opportunity to find some hidden gem, pass us by…

On our second morning in California, we got up early to go explore Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. It WAS WORTH the early morning!

The first thing that hit us was the smell…..that redwood forest smell….ahhh…..we don’t get that in the desert and boy do we miss it.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park encompasses 40+ acres……acres filled with the tallest of the trees, the redwood. Here the coastal redwood survives and thrives. We walked the Redwood Grove Loop Trail in the park and were thrilled.

Walking with my husband through the forest of giant redwoods was exactly what I needed at that moment. The redwoods are giant, growing tall, some for over 2000 years. These coastal redwoods were magnificent! Majestic! Mighty!

The Redwoods grow tall….some reaching heights beyond 300 feet! Here in the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park the tallest tree—the Giant—stands 270 feet high. And among these trees we felt very tiny….just a spec in the forest.

As we walked through the forest I was awed by the beauty surrounding us. Learning about the redwoods in a book is one thing, but to actually walk among the trees and see for myself how they grow, how they spawn new growth, and how resilient they are, took my breath away.

Redwoods can live for over 2000 years. And some of the trees surrounding us had been here far longer than us, our parents, our grandparents and our great grandparents……actually, many of these redwoods were here long before any of my or my husband’s ancestors came to this land. It is hard to comprehend how any living organism can stand so tall for soooo long. Yet here they were, just waiting to tell us their story.

At the beginning of the trail we picked up the brochure that would explain the stops on the loop trail. We learned about the redwoods and how they grow. And seeing for ourselves the redwood family circles was beyond amazing. Redwoods have the ability to sprout from the tiny seeds, but it is their ability to sprout new growth from the base of the “parent” tr3ee that really struck me. These magnificent trees sprouted new growth from the base, and from their roots. Amazing! And as we stood looking at one of the family circles, it struck me….this was representative of our family, and of the young couple whose wedding we were celebrating….this family circle. Love, support and strength are found in the family circle.

And then we stopped and read about how the roots of these trees were shallow…only 6 to 12 feet deep….wow! These mighty trees, these VERY tall trees, did not have the deep roots that I had expected. Instead their roots were shallow. Then how could they survive? How do they grow so tall and withstand so much? The roots of the Redwood tree may not go deep, but they do travel out, extending hundreds of feet from the tree base. THAT is how they withstand so much. The roots of the trees extend to the roots of other trees and the roots wrap around each other, supporting each other through the forces of nature that threaten to topple them. The Redwoods not only sprout new growth from their base, but they reach out to the other Redwoods to support each other. Amazing! Resilient! Wondrous!

Not only do these trees thrive through their family circles and their extended root system, but when a tree dies, it gives life to more trees. Trees sprout from the dead trees, growing right out of them and the root system of the downed tree lives on, giving more life and supporting the newer generations of trees. Much like my mom has done for me! Even though she is no longer living, she is still my support, she is still with me, a part of me and my family.

Our walk among these magnificent trees was showing me a lot about my life…..

All of this amazed me, but the one thing that I discovered among these 4 (2)giants that really resonated with me and spoke to me was their resilience. Redwoods have a bark that is thick, REALLY thick and the bark has a Tannic acid within it that helps to protect the tree…from insects, from animals, from the forces of nature and even from fire. We stopped at one tree that had been hollowed out at its base, much of it burned away in a fire over 100 years ago. Silently I stood under the tree, in the hollowed out area and touched its scars. This redwood had deep scars from a fire that would have destroyed the life of any other tree. Yet this tree was still standing, still alive, still growing and healing, and still sprouting new growth. RESILENT! STRONG! It had survived the worst thrown at it. Not only did it survive, but it found a way to thrive, to grow and to heal. The scars remain, a symbol of what the tree has survived.

And standing there I couldn’t help but reflect on my life and my scars, both visible and invisible, yet through it all I am still here. Like the Redwood, my roots may not run deep, but they run far, joining with other’s roots and providing support for each other through the storms of life. My family circle has grown and the support I have found keeps me thriving. Despite the forces throughout my life that tried to destroy me, I am still standing tall. I am scarred. But I am alive. My scars remind me of what I have been through and how far I have come. And like this magnificent redwood, I am resilient. I am strong. I am a survivor.

Some say it takes a village. And here in a redwood grove, I realized that it also takes a forest!

 

 

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A Celebration of Love

Our youngest son….our baby, got married this past weekend. Surrounded by Redwood trees, in an outdoor ceremony witnessed by many of their friends and family, they became husband and wife….Mr. and Mrs.

We are thrilled!

Our family has been through a lot this past couple of years and the joy that this wedding brought us is priceless…..I am having a hard time putting into words what this wedding has meant to me and to my family.

We arrived in California Wednesday evening, ready to celebrate with family and friends. We all had been waiting for the day of the wedding to arrive.

My son and his now wife are perfect for each other and together they planned a celebration that reflects not only who they are as individuals but who they are as a couple…..

And it was beautiful!

As their friends and family gathered the few days before the wedding, I could see just how loved the two of them were and how much those who were there represented who the two of them were.

I was emotional every day leading up to the wedding and at the wedding.

This was my baby…..

And now he is married, a husband.

For years and years, I prayed for the perfect person for my son to spend his life with…someone who would challenge him, share his sense of adventure, and someone who would love him as much as he loved her. And our new daughter-in-love is that perfect partner and so much more for our son. I couldn’t have imagined a better person for him to share life with and to share in all the adventures that lay ahead of them.

4 years ago our son brought his now wife home to meet us for the first time. We introduced her to our family style of site-seeing…..and she didn’t run away! I knew that first time we met her, that she was THE one for our son. And she became a part of our family the day my son brought her home. Now, 4 years later we were “officially” welcoming her into our family and it felt so right! She stole our sons heart and she stole ours, too!

The two of them inspire my husband and I to be more present in the now, and challenge us to see the world a little differently. They make us so proud! And celebrating them was more than I could have imagined.

The wedding venue….the adventure theme…..the family and friends….the love…..perfect!

My heart is filled with joy….overflowing with happiness and love….

My family has grown…I now have a daughter! (And I did not have to go through labor to gain this beautiful daughter) And we have more extended family now….wonderful!

I am so looking forward to the adventures that are ahead for these two and cannot wait to see where this life takes them!

For 5 days, I left the world and the worry behind me….and I enjoyed! I cherished each moment, each conversation I had, each new person I met, and the love that flowed in every aspect of this wonderful Wedding.

I was mindful and present…..and though we missed our oldest son being there, our youngest still found a way for him to be present, through a recorded reading…..

My heart is bursting with love!

I wish my son and daughter-in-love many, many years filled with adventures and love!

The Great American Eclipse Trip part 3

Sunday morning came and we were up early, wanting to get started before the crowds. We had places to visit and things to do—A National Monument, a historic site, a state park and the city of Idaho Falls were on the list for the day. And what a beautiful morning for exploring!

We drove north on a 2-lane road, heading toward another out of the way National Monument. The drive took us through farmland, fields of potatoes and hay glistening in the early morning sunlight. As we drove we spotted something standing in the field, and then another….and still more….and then we realized that they were hawks, hunting in the early morning, standing in the cut hay fields. Magnificent site. We saw more hawks on that stretch of highway than on any other road trip…..simply amazing….a sweet surprise.

We drove through small towns, whose populations were 400 and 600…..yes, we were back in rural America. And then we came upon a town with a gas station and we stopped. The gas station had a small seating area and every chair was filled with one of the townsmen…..the older gentleman gathered there on a Sunday morning to talk and drink coffee. This scene made me smile. Life in a small town!

The fields and small towns, gems in our nations crown jewels.

We continued our journey, finally arriving at our first stop for the day, Craters of the Moon National Monument. It was early, but there were a lot of people already in the park and more would be coming….we needed to stay ahead of the masses……

Craters of the Moon National Monument was like entering another world. The lava flow covered everything. It was surreal….eerie…..and I thought about those early emigrants and how foreign this landscape must have seemed to them….how many wanted to turn around and go back to where they came from? Could they imagine a world beyond this barren, rippled, black landscape?

For thousands of years this land has been covered by this volcanic lava. This must be what the moon would look like……

A harsh land.

And in this harshness there was beauty….created by a flowing river of lava……and weathered over time. Beauty could be found even in the destructive forces of nature.

And life grows….finds a way to continue to flourish even in the harshest conditions. Here plants grew, flowers bloomed and animals roamed. Trees grew tall atop high cinder cones. Yes, life continues even in under extreme conditions…..

I found Craters of the Moon national monument fascinating, delighting in the flowing lava field….taking it all in. Here was another jewel in our nations crown jewels. Another example of the diversity in this country I love.

The British have their crown jewels, preserved and displayed in a tower for all to enjoy…..and we too, have our crown jewels—the diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires—found in the diversity of our country…the diversity in our land, our people and our cultures. Our jewels are found in the mountains and the valleys, the rivers and the lakes, the oceans and the plains, the cities and the farms, the parks and monuments, the battlefields and the historic sites, in the people and the cultures all across this great land. Our crown jewels are on display and preserved for all to enjoy….we just have to see them, experience them, respect them, understand them, and embrace them so that we never lose our gems!

I am forever thankful that I live in a country that is as diverse as America is. And I am grateful for a husband who loves this country and exploring it as much as I do. Together we have seen many of our nations jewels…….

One more jewel was discovered on our trip.

One more National Monument checked off the bucket list!

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The Great American Eclipse Trip Part 2

We were off on our adventure…. The eclipse our goal—full totality. But for us, well, we like to pack as much as we can into the little time we have and this trip would be no different.

As I wrote in part one, my husband was already planning on traveling to the path of totality for the solar eclipse a year out. My husband likes to plan trips. He likes to explore. So, I knew when he said we were headed to Idaho that it would be an adventure….. and he made sure it was!

We left home Saturday morning and flew to Salt Lake City on a flight filled with others migrating north for the eclipse.

We arrived in Salt Lake City in the afternoon and headed straight to the rental car agency. We needed to be on the road as quickly as we could….there was lots to do and see on our drive north to Idaho.

The line at the rental car agency was long! I was surprised, despite the warnings, that so many people were doing the same thing as us….off on the great adventure to see a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. Okay, so maybe the hype wasn’t too far off…. maybe we really did need to be prepared for anything! With hundreds of thousands heading toward totality, maybe the media hype and the dire warnings warranted paying attention to.

Finally, we were in our car and headed to our first stop, the store. We needed to stock up on water and snacks and get a gas can, just in case the predictions came true and gas stations ran out of gas. After all, we did need to make it back to Salt Lake City in two days to catch our flight home.

With supplies purchased and lunch eaten, we were finally on the road, driving north toward Burley, ID, where we were staying.

But first a slight detour on the way….

Yes, my husband likes to explore and often finds off-the-beaten-path, out-of-the-way, you-REALLY-want-to-go-there places to see. And I LOVE that about him. It makes our life interesting, traveling adventurous and gives us views of the world, specifically this wonderful country we live in, that we would not otherwise see. (Thankfully this trip did not involve any river fords!!)

We left the interstate before crossing into Idaho and headed west on a 2-lane highway. We were now amongst fields….ranches….farmland……all dotted with tiny towns that had no stores, no gas stations and no stop lights. We were in rural America and we loved the beauty and serenity.

As we drove down the road we wondered what life was like for these families, wishing we could just sit and talk and learn about this life that was so vastly different than where we lived… our life where there is a store or gas station on almost every corner, and restaurants to satisfy any desire. Out here, in the middle of fields and mountains there were homes that were surrounded by trees, islands in the midst of enormous fields and the nearest neighbor miles away. Strange to me to imagine life this way, yet the beauty and peace of this wide-open space invited me in. This life so foreign to me was just as strange and foreign as my life in a city was to those who lived here.

We enjoyed the drive, taking in the scenery and talking. And then we noticed a historical marker on the side of the road, causing us to make an impromptu stop…. History draws us both in, fascinated by the stories of life all across this great country. Here we learned that the road we were traveling and the valley along it were part of the California Trail, once traveled by pioneers and wagon trains….ahhhh….a happy place for me! I love the old west, the stories of the pioneers, the stories of traveling across the country in a wagon—setting out on a new adventure and traveling to a new place, unknown to them. I have longed thought I was born in the wrong century and often dreamt about living in the 1800’s and traveling in a wagon….life on the prairie…..life of a pioneer and explorer. It would have been so cool!

Now as we continued on to our destination, I began to wonder what it was like for those early pioneers, how strange this world must have seemed to them and how BRAVE they were!

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And then just a few miles short of our next stop we saw a Visitors Center, with wagons in the field, replicas of those used to travel the California Trail.

Heaven!

Now I could see the wagon in person and visualize what it must have been like traveling in that wagon across the rugged land.

Then I looked in the back of the wagon…….boy, those wagons looked much bigger inside when I saw t2hem on old westerns, or on Little House on the Prairie, or imagined them as I read books about the old west….hmmm….

I looked into the back of the wagon, looked at my husband and told him- “No! It’s too small. I wouldn’t have made it!”

He laughed!

 

I am so happy I could entertain him.

And then we continued on to our planned stop, City of Rocks National Reserve, a place you really HAVE to want to go to.

City of Rocks National Reserve is now a mecca for rock climbers….a place filled with massive rocks jutting up out of the ground. Beautiful. Huge. A paradise for those who seek the thrill of climbing….of heights. We enjoyed the drive through the reserve, stopping to take photos, explore and to watch those brave souls high on the rocks.

But City of Rocks National Reserve also has a history. Here the California Trail crossed and in the valley those early pioneers rested, setting up camp and carving their names in what is now known as Camp Rock. I stood with my husband overlooking the vast valley, dotted with huge boulders and surrounded by massive rock formations now used for climbing and wondered what it was like to travel this route in that wagon, the visual of the size now fading….I was once again transported to a time I had longed to live. After traveling across the flat plains, what did those travelers think about this rugged land? Did they fall in love with the beauty or did they fear what was ahead and the dangers of the ruggedness? Oh, how I wanted to sit there in that valley and be a part of those days…..

I loved City of Rocks National Reserve and our time exploring. My husband knows how to make our travels an adventure. I also enjoyed my time imagining a life long ago, one I could only dream about, a world I wished I had been born into….

And then the next day on our trip I had an opportunity to learn more about those early pioneers, their life and to see a part of the Oregon trail. And I learned that the reality of those wagon trains was VERY different than I had imagined….those wagons were more for the supplies and those very BRAVE souls WALKED….they didn’t ride….they WALKED most of the time. And a woman’s work was never done…at the end of a long day of travel, she would cook the dinner, clean, do laundry, take care of the chores and then go to bed, long after the rest of her family…..hmmm….walking long days and then long hours of chores…..hmmmm

I again looked at my husband, who was smiling at me as I read the information and I said “THAT would have been REALLY difficult! Nope! I wouldn’t have made it..”

He laughed even harder!

How I admire the strength and courage of those pioneers paving the way for those who would come after them. And I will continue to read the stories and dream of that life and what it was like for them, what it would have been like for me had I been born in that era.

And though, today, in this moment in my life…one filled with comfort and conveniences, I know that I would not have been able to live the way they did in the 1800’s, I also realize that this realization is not about me, but about what I know today. When I look back in time with the knowledge and context of 2017, of course I wouldn’t be able to live the way the pioneers did! I know different. I live different. So, with this context, no, I couldn’t have done it….

But….

Had I been born in that time it would have been different. In looking back on history it really is about context, the knowledge and the world at THAT time. Realizing that I needed to put it into the context of those days, that time, the knowledge and way of life then, well, THAT changed things. By looking at the past in the context of the past, the knowledge and the way of life, it changed my belief in my ability to do it. This epiphany meant that had I been born in the 1800’s, then those wagon trains, the traveling, the hard work would have been normal, it would have been doable. By putting it into the right context, I realized that I WOULD have been able to DO IT! Despite my doubts in my abilities, I am strong and brave and what gets me through my days now….my family, my friends, my faith….ALL would have gotten me through those days, those travels, those times.

As I shared this new thought process with my husband, he smiled and laughed.

And I once again began to dream about living in the 1800’s and traveling by wagon.

If I had been born in the 1800’s, I have NO DOUBT that I would have taken the leap……and trusted as I set out with my family to travel the unknown in search of a new life!

 

 

The Great American Eclipse Trip Part 1

I thought my husband was just slightly crazy when he told me over a year ago that we WERE going to go to Oregon or Idaho to be in the path of totality for the Eclipse. He was excited. He explained it was a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and he didn’t want us to miss it….

Except, it wasn’t just a once-in-a-lifetime event…. I was in the 8th grade in Portland, OR, in 1979 and my science class was preparing to view the total eclipse that would be happening right there in Portland on February 26th. I was excited back then. We built our boxes and prepared to see what we were told would be the only time in our lives we would get to see the phenomenon.

The morning of February 26 1979 arrived and……. the darkness I was told to expect did not arrive……I was not impressed……and so when my husband told me about this next eclipse and his plans, well, I wasn’t sure it would be worth it. I figured it would just be all hype with no substance.

I should let you know that on the morning of February 26th, 1979, I was missing my mom and we were preparing for her funeral, having lost her just 2 days prior……perhaps that was the real reason the eclipse that day did not impress me. I really don’t remember much about that morning other than we did not plunge into sudden darkness. (though in my research looking back on it, Portland did experience 2 minutes of totality and darkness on that morning, I just didn’t notice).

So to be fair, I decided to go along for the ride with my husband, thrilled at seeing his excitement.

He planned the trip.

He chose where we would see it.

And then he planned more for us to do in the quick 2-night trip.

My husband was in heaven planning this trip to see the total eclipse.

The day arrived and we left Arizona bound for Idaho. The eclipse was the last day of our trip and then we would drive back to Salt Lake City to catch our evening flight home……making the flight concerned us because of the hundreds of thousands said to be flocking to the area of totality….and the warnings to have extra water, cash, gas, emergency rations, just in case we lost cell service and gas stations ran out of gas…. hmmm…. the hype was making it sound as if the apocalypse was coming.

The morning of the eclipse we left our hotel room before the sun came up for the 2-hour drive to Idaho Falls and the city park we had chosen for our viewing spot. We were prepared just in case traffic was as crazy as predicted, giving ourselves plenty of time to arrive before the start of the eclipse.IMG_0302 copy

Once again, my husband’s planning paid off and we arrived at the city park on the south side of Idaho Falls and there were still a few parking spots. Woohoo! We were going to get to see the eclipse.

We walked around the small pond, made small talk with strangers in the line for the bathrooms, and talked with each other to fill the couple of hours before the eclipse would start. Anticipation building as the time grew nearer.

We were ready.20170821_082930 copy

The time arrived for the start of the phenomenon where the moon would come between the sun and the earth and cast us into total darkness……

It was exciting to be standing there with so many others who were just as excited. As the eclipse started and I watched my husband put his special glasses on and look up at the sun, I couldn’t help but smile……he was checking off a bucket list item and he was happy, and THAT made me happy.

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It took some time for the moon to move across the sun and as it moved the light became dimmer, and the air cooler.

 

 

IMG_0306 copyAt one point when the moon covered more than 2/3 of the sun, we noticed that the edges of our shadows were less defined… blurred…. strange…..

We kept watching the moon moving over the sun, amazed at how much light still emanated from the giant star. And then the time came……the moon covered the sun!

 

 

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Totality!

Everyone cheered!

And it WAS dark! We could see some stars! The light emanating from the corona of the sun was like that of a full moon night. Wow!

I was IMPRESSED!

We took our special viewing glasses off and for 1 minute and 48 seconds we could look at the sun without them. This was AMAZING!

And then the edge of the sun began to emerge…. time to put those glasses on again.

The total eclipse was amazing and surreal. Day became night, warmth turned cool, and shadows blurred with undefined edges. The biggest star in our universe was suddenly obscured and we were thrilled!

I couldn’t help but think about all those early pioneers and what they must have thought as day became night for just a brief couple of minutes, how strange that must have been.

And I couldn’t help but think about the 1979 eclipse and how it reflected my life at the time, my own personal darkness had come upon me and made the actual eclipse seem uneventful……

This time, despite the worry and storm for us now, I was able to enjoy this eclipse…to see the awesomeness and beauty created by God! I was able to step back for a time and be present, mindful and aware of the greater universe around me. How mighty God is and how amazing this life is!

The total eclipse gave me a wink from God…. that even on the sunniest days, day can become night, but the day will return and everything will be alright.

I am so thankful for my crazy husband who asked me to take a leap and trust him and his planning. This was AMAZING!

And I am so very happy to have taken the leap into the total eclipse…… (go ahead and sing, you know you want to…. total eclipse of the….)

“Living Our Love Song”

There were doubters.

They didn’t believe we would make it. 

32 years after saying “I Do”, we are happily proving them wrong! 

In the words of Jason Michael Carroll in his song “Living Our Love Song”—

Baby, just look at us: all this time, and we’re still in love
Something like this just don’t exist
Between a backwoods boy and a fairy tale princess
People said it would never work out
Living our dreams has shattered all doubts
It feels good to prove ’em wrong
Living our love song

It feels so good to prove them wrong.  

We met in high school. I was sleeping on my best friend’s bedroom floor, living with her family at the time. I had been through so much in my life already and wasn’t looking for a relationship. And then that fateful day, when my best friend and I decided to skip school with a group of guys…..and that is how I met my husband.

We have often joked that I was the bad influence on him, since that was the start of many skipped school days. Our love song started that day, hanging out with our friends.  And then a first date……..he says he knew right away that I was the one. I knew, too!

Today we celebrate 32 years of marriage. We married a few months after graduating from high school…..two young kids starting our life together. We had no idea where this life would take us, but knew we would travel it together, ALWAYS!

And together we have had quite the adventure……a life in the military, traveling the world….being parents…….sharing in our grief over the loss of loved ones……being the strong one when the other needed us to be……supporting each other’s dreams and not holding either one back……trusting that our love and our life together would last when so many doubted……and loving each other, especially on the toughest days…….yes, our life together has been an adventure.

There is a song by Blake Shelton—“God Gave Me You” and it says what I believe about us—I truly believe that God gave me my husband, that He brought us together, knowing where we had both been and what lay ahead of us….because TOGETHER we are stronger than we are alone and TOGETHER we can face anything and do anything.

I would not change a thing about our life because I have shared it with my best friend, the love of my life and my partner in this great adventure! My husband is my rock, my strength and my biggest supporter—he challenges me to look at the world differently and to push myself to step outside my comfort zone and he is there to carry me when life gets too tough. I cannot imagine this life without him!

I love him more today than the day we married!

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Happy 32nd Anniversary! I cannot wait to see where the next 32 years take us!

We are truly “living our love song” and we are doing it our way!

 

Katmai National Park, Alaska

Today is the 100th birthday of our National Park Service.

Visiting every National Park, Monument, Recreation Area, Forest and Historic Site is on my bucket list. Thanks to my adventurous husband, we have visited a lot of these national treasures already. But there are a lot more to visit and some I want to go back to and explore more of.

Today, in celebration of our National Park Services 100th birthday, I want to share with you one of the National Parks we visited in 2005. I have a hard time picking a favorite park, as they are all unique and beautiful. So, I have picked one that is one of our most memorable family adventures—Katmai National Park in Alaska.

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The memories that we created at Katmai National Park and the unique adventure we had there, makes this a standout park for me……and I would dare say it is for my husband and my boys as well.

What an adventure we had…..from our first flight on a float plane to landing on the water and seeing a mama bear and her cubs on the beach near us to the fabulous meals we enjoyed and the bears EVERYWHERE……this was an adventure we would not soon forget.

Our preparation for the overnight to Katmai National Park was easy…..we left most things in our rental car at the airport. All we could take was our change of clothes and toiletries…….NO FOOD was allowed in our bags or in our cabin while we were there…..Yes, NO FOOD in the cabin we would be staying in….YIKES! Would the bears REALLY enter our cabin if we had food? I wasn’t about to find out so I made sure neither boy snuck any snacks!

Finally we boarded the plane from the dock. We were on the last flight because we were staying overnight. The day trippers were on the earlier flights to give them more time with the bears. The flight was not as bad as I had expected and the scenery below us was beautiful. Watching out the window as we came in for our landing we could see a big bear soaking in the water near the beach……and as we stepped out of the plane onto the beach we were told to go straight into the welcome building because there was a mama bear and her cubs on the beach…..safety first.

Welcome to Katmai National Park!

We had a bear safety presentation where they told us to make sure we clapped and said “hey bear” as we walked the trails to the river viewing platforms…..that way we would not surprise any bears! Oh my!

We then were taken to the lodge to check in and given the key to our cabin. It was a cute little cabin with two sets of bunk beds and a bathroom. This was going to be fun. From our front door we could see part of the river and the trampled grass from the bears walking by…….Yes, bears roamed around the cabins.

The trail to the viewing platform took us across the river where a park ranger stopped us at a platform…..there was a bear on the trail ahead and the park ranger was holding us all at this point until the bear moved on……safety first!

The bear moved on and so did we. We walked down the dirt road with others and then took the turn into the woods, following the path to the river and the viewing platforms. At this point the four of us were alone……so the boys sang songs……all kinds of songs so that we wouldn’t startle a bear. And then we arrived…..

The viewing platform was built up off the ground and the ramp going up to the platform had a small rope across it…..like THAT would keep the bears out! And then we passed through the bear proof door. Okay, safe now. We stopped at the first viewing area and watched a young bear trying to catch a fish……he splashed and stuck his head under the water, trying so hard to catch the salmon swimming around him……but he never did. He was fun to watch.

Then we continued down the raised walkway toward the viewing platform at the falls. Suddenly, beneath us was a bear……he had a salmon and was looking for a spot to eat it. He walked right under us…..we could have reached down and touched him. AMAZING!

Then we exited through the bear proof door, out onto the platform and we were greeted with a spectacular view of the falls and the many bears in the river seeking salmon to eat.

We were not alone on the platform as the day visitors were still there. We watched those bears for a very long time—young and old, in the water and on land. The platform we were on had a ramp that went down to the ground and again, just a rope across to keep the bears out……hmmmmm…….

And then we headed back to the cabin for a rest and dinner with plans to go back to the falls after dinner.  Dinner was a delicious buffet with steak and salmon–heaven! 

After dinner we headed back down the trail.  The day visitors had left and with them went the park rangers that had been out on the trails and viewing platforms…….there was no one to stop us if a bear was blocking our path and no one with bear spray or the air horn to help if we needed it..…..it was just the four of us and the bears.  It was 8pm and we had the trail to ourselves. The boys sang crazy songs to let the bears know we were coming so we would not startle them. While they sang, my eyes and ears were on alert for any movement in the bushes we passed.

We arrived at the viewing platform and made our way out to the falls. We were alone with the bears. We stood on the platform watching over 20 bears in the river and on top of the falls. We watched them eat, relax and play.

We watched an old bear on top of the falls catch a fish that tried jumping up the falls—AMAZING! When he walked off with his fish to eat it, a young bear took his spot……but the young bear was too impatient to catch the fish and kept a watchful eye toward the older bear so he could leave before the older bear came back. It was so cool to watch.

And then at one point a mama bear with her two cubs came walking up to the river, right below where we stood on the platform. They were so cute!

Nowhere else in the world could we get this close to wild, huge brown bears. And they could have cared less about us…..all they needed were the salmon that were running upstream to spawn. Even the seagulls could get close to the bears without fear of being eaten….that Is how focused the bears were.

We had a restful nights sleep and woke ready to see more bears and ready for our tour to the Valley of 10,000 smokes. After the tour we had to rush to get to our float plane for the flight out…..but we were held up by a “bear jam” at the river…..5 young bears frolicking in the river and on the trail delayed us getting to the lodge. When they finally wandered off we were free to go.

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Katmai National Park is an adventurers delight! We hope to go back one day with others who want to join us on a great adventure.

Happy 100th Birthday, National Park Service!