Starting in Anchorage we planned out moving in three directions from here, South to Homer (4 hour drive) and Seward, East to Valdez (5.5 hour drive) and North to Talkeetna (about a 2 hour drive)
The plan was to stay in Seward and charter a boat in Resurrection Bay before heading over to Homer. In Homer my buddy would take us to a Yurt for 2 nights which is situated around 120 miles south east of Homer, close to Dog Fish Bay. Then we travel up to Talkeetna for some glacier landings, after that we travel 11 hours round trip to Valdez, where we would be taken out into the wilderness and dropped off in Heather Bay. Surviving for 3 days of living off the land with some kayaking in-between the icebergs that broke off Columbia Glacier some 5 miles away.
Sounds action packed ? Yes indeed but before all that I would take a float plane over to Chinitna Bay where the bears are gathering before the Salmon runs which start mid June / early July. Getting to Chinitna Bay is a 90 mins flight from Anchorage but you can get flights from Homer which is closer, and I expect cheaper. As you know I run bear tours in Alaska in Kodiak and Katmai National Park but I wanted to see other places with large a population of brown bears bears, especially before the coastal feeding starts.
If you do get to Alaska early in the season it’s a great place to see grizzlies with an “almost” guaranteed viewing both on the beach and meadows. Just be aware there is a lodge over there and while you can stay for an outrageous fee and the accommodation is average at best. Food is included for overnight stays, I haven’t tried the food as I wasn’t a guest, however if you’re going for bears, its well worth the day trip at least.
Long glass is the best option, throw in one wide lens into your bag as a few vistas are begging for pictures, plus the wider lens is easier to use on the plane out and back. In my case I took the Nikon 500mm NIKKOR f/4 adapted to the Nikon Z7II. Also in my backpack was the 24-70mm Z f/2.8.
Next onto Seward after I collected my buddy JR (of Outex fame) from the airport in Anchorage. Seward is a great town with some brilliant places to eat and still keeps its charm even when it’s flooded with tourists with its vintage style shops and marina stuffed full of people. After reaching Seward we found the weather to be unusually glorious, almost every time I have been the weather is never good. By “never good” I mean sideways rain or thick mist, or sometimes both. So you can understand my delight that our chartered boat would not only run, but run in fine weather with a half day on the water.
Unfortunately the whale watching was a little lackluster, but we did see almost everything else from Puffins, Sea Lions, Mountain Goats, Bald Eagles and much more. We really got to test out our gear, while I was shooting the Sony a9 with the 200-600 G lens, I also had the Nikon Z7II and the 24-70 Z f/2.8 both covered with Outex to fight the elements (incase of a change of weather and the wave spray from the boat).
However we had another chance to see more wildlife over in Homer, on the Sothern tip of the peninsular. A short 2 to 3 hour drive, and on our way we could stop off and check out some Moose and Bald Eagles which distracted us nicely. We did stop off to hike the Lower Russian Falls, a short 6 miler and has some spectacular falls to view and of course a chance to see some wildlife.
Homer has an abundance of Bald Eagles which feed off the local fishing industry. Homer is also known to be the Halibut capital of the world no less, so rich pickings for the Eagles that live on the spit, which is a strip of land around 50ft wide that goes out a mile or so into the bay.
I took the Sony a9 with the Sony G 200-600mm lens out onto the Homer Spit to see what shots I could get in the rain of the Eagles and they didn’t disappoint.
After exploring we had to stay overnight for the weather to clear so we could use the boat to take us out to the Yurt, however the weather wasn’t being kind to us. Again Homer is situated on the coast so that means we are more likely to get fog and rain, of course that’s exactly what we got. That afternoon we managed to get out into the bay via a skiff and got some sea otters and birds enjoying Halibut Cove.
We spent overnight and left the next day to head to Talkeetna. A 6 hour drive via Anchorage.