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Getting up close with Grizzlies

Let's talk about bears

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Good Night Reaction GIF by San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

Good afternoon. Ever been to Alaska? If so, you know it’s an incredibly wild place, with open land and tons of wildlife. If you haven’t, and you’ve dreamed of going, (and if you’re looking for something beyond an Alaskan cruise) you might find some inspiration in today’s newsletter, where one of our writers shares her incredible family trip to Homer. During their travels, they experienced Alaska for its rugged charm… including plenty of grizzlies. Let’s jump in.

Together with Inside Hotels

Meet the goodtime hotel…

The name says it all.

Just outside South Beach from music icon Pharrell Williams and nightlife entrepreneur David Grutman.

Trading bustle for bliss, the goodtime hotel features an indoor-outdoor restaurant and 24,000 square foot pool deck and lounge. Spend your days here lounging at the beach club, bike riding around the neighborhood, working out at the cutting-edge gym, or hanging out in the striking library. That is when you're not relaxing in your whimsically designed room overlooking the ocean and the city.

Wild Alaska: Up Close With Grizzlies in Homer

“Oh, nice, are you going on a cruise?”

This was the response I got last summer when I told friends that we were going to Alaska on our family vacation.

“No, we’re going to Homer,” I replied. This answer was generally met with blank stares followed by me explaining why we chose this far-flung destination devoid of any fancy buffets and planned shore excursions.

My husband and I and our two teenage sons like active, off-the-beaten-path trips. Homer, Alaska promised up-close bear encounters, hiking, fishing, berry picking, and a touch of Russian history. Located 200 miles south of Anchorage, the town of 6,000 people also had a few good restaurants, a must for our foodie family.

Here’s what we did.

One of the activities that lured us to Homer was the chance to see grizzly bears in the remote wilderness. We signed up for a half-day guided bear-viewing trip with Alaska Bear Adventures. The day we arrived, we headed to their office to check in and get weighed. We would be taking off the next morning in a Cessna bush plane to grizzly territory. It was critical to have accurate weight distributions in these small planes, the guide explained. We also went over the rules: bring lunch, but no tuna sandwiches or snacks with crumbs; don’t wear any clothes worn fishing. Grizzlies have an acute sense of smell and can detect food from 20 miles away in certain circumstances.

The next morning, we had a safety briefing about how to send an emergency distress signal, donned life vests and hip waders, and boarded the four-passenger plane. I hoped my older son paid attention to which buttons to push on the radio, since he was sitting next to the pilot. Our destination was Lake Clark National Park, one of the world’s most renowned bear-viewing locations. The only way to get to this remote glacier-fed lake is by plane or boat.

The clouds parted as we approached the lake, and our pilot (who was also our naturalist guide) circled a few times before landing on the beach. Small black dots moved across the landscape. As we descended, the dots morphed into bears splashing in the river. After a bumpy landing, we hiked along the beach toward the furry mammals. Summer is feeding time, and they were bulking up for winter. A mom and her cub grazed on sedge grass just across the stream from us. A mature male napped nearby, his distinctive hump visible above the tall grass. He didn’t seem to be bothered by us at all.

The hour passed quickly as the bears roamed in front of us with the snow-capped Aleutian Mountains in the background. Reluctantly, we climbed back into the plane. The pilot had a surprise: he took the longer, scenic route back to Homer, flying over icy blue glaciers, volcanos, snow fields, and turquoise lakes. I pressed my face (and my camera) against the window to capture the jagged mountains and fertile valleys. I’m not sure which was the most impressive part of the day: the majestic bears or the view of their remote, wild habitat.

Pro tip: Nature buffs who want to spend more with the bears can book a six-day immersive experience at Nat Hab’s Alaska Bear Camp, complete with heated tents and gourmet meals.

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