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Katmai Sky High

Posted on February 26, 2018 at 4:05 PM

  It's amazing the women you meet out there in the world. I am lucky my studio has allowed me to meet so many! I have met doctors, lawyers, pilots, all types of women doing what they love, taking care of families, and fighting through amazing lives. One such woman I have to say is just so much fun and I admire so much for her impressive career and for being so willing to share and enjoy life. She let me tag along this summer on a helicopter trip. She and her now husband own Alaska Ultimate Safaris. I never thought as a potter I would be able to go on a trip like that but she brought me along for the day just to fill a seat and it was such an amazing trip. You don't get many perks owning a small art business but it affords such awesome opportunities to meet and connect with people you would have never come across any other way. 



   During our time in the studio together we talked alot about her life. Her dad was a teacher and her mom a stay at home mom. They put all their money into sending her to ground school. It all started when she went on a flight with her uncle, who was a pilot. She said it was at that age, around six or seven, that she learned what she wanted to do. She finished ground school and worked for Grant Aviation for a time. She then started Alaska Ultimate Safaris with her signifigant other after they had rented a helicopterr to get their training. Trips like the one she was offering to take me on ran upwards of $700.00 which seesm expensive however they have to lease their helicopters and pay for repairs as well as fuel.  The trip is well worth it, its a once in a life time change to witness bears in their nature habitat. 



   It was a cold morning in the summer that I arrived to their lauch pad. A small cabin with flower boxes sat locked next to the water. I watied in my car putting on my hat and mittens as I was told it would be a cold ride. The last time they had gone out for bear viewing a curious bear had dented in the side window, we would have to fly today without it. She was sure to let everyone on the flight know and even took us up for a test run just to make sure we were comfortable. The other passengers were up from Texas for a real estate conference. They were a very nice couple who were staying in Cooper Landing for the weekend. 




   It was an amazing trip. The helicopter lifted off the ground and it just felt like we were floating. It is weren't for the really loud hum of the propeller I wouldn't have even known we were in a machine. I felt like the good witch in the bubble in the Wizard of Oz. It was so effortless to move, the air was rushing in to the cabin. I did not realize my coat had a ripe where my dog had chewed it. Down feathers started swirling aroudnt the cabin and I quickly squezed my hand over the tear to stop the flow from my North Face jacket. It was rather embarssing but only made me worry about crashing, not very many pilots can navigate while breathing in feathers. They quickly exited the cabin, I smiled ackwardly at the woman sitting next to me. The ear phones I had on made it had to hear and my mike was too close to my face. I muttered a "sorry" but it just came out as white noise. 



   Its amazing what you can see from a helicopter. We got to get super close to the mountains and glaciers because with helicopters you didnt have to worry about wind currents as much as with planes. You could see where a rich layer of ash and soil had settled on top of the glacier and trees started growing from the rich soil. We flew up over the top of the ridge looking down to spot some bears. The only thing I could see was a small black speck. " Oh oh there!", I yelled and pointed down. I could see it moving up the grassy cliffs occasionally stopping at a bright orange and red set of rocks. We lowered down closer and the bear appeared much bigger. Down the hill one more bear, then two, and then tree. The black bear looked up at us as if to say what the hell is that thing. They were foraging for berries that grew near the peaks of the mountain. Kirsten explained we would be landing to view the grizzlies but black bears seemed to be more protective and it was not recommended to land that high up and get close to them. 


   We circled around and got closer to the water. The world below looked like a topograhpical map spotted with lines from animals trailing over the landscape. They almost looked like a childs scribble. The land closer to the beach was marshy, with bright yellow and green colors. Occasionally but not often a lonely tree interupted the flat landscape. Swans with their mates were nesting in the light green pounds of water scattered in an odd arrangement. As got closer we discovered the grizzlys. They were alot easier to spot being as large as they were. That was 900 lbs a piece of pure muscle and bushy auburn hair. We touched down on the beach and the helicopter landed with a thud. 

   We walked along the beach awhile waiting for the bears to get closer. Kirsten explained that these bears were very curious beings. They loved to come up the helicopter and chew on it, lick it, or even try to sit in it.  This land was pretty much untouched by anyone who did not have use of a plan in the folds of Katmai National Park. The bears were protected for hunting here and since they were not used to people they were generally more afraid of us than we were of them. Kirsten brought many tours out here in the summer including photographers for national geographic. She had names for her favoirte bears and the ones she would see most often. We were hoping to spot a momma bear with two new babies she had been seeing off and on the past several months. 

  The bear we were spotting out near the water and walking inland, slowly being pushed our way by the rising tide. It was amazing because he was closer he looked right at me. He locked eyes with mine and I was amazed how similar it felt to making eye contact with another human. He knew I was there and he continued to walk closer. As he approached I just nervous and kept looking from our guide to the bear..Ummm... ummmm....Ummm. She just motioned me to crouch down in the rocky sand and to not make a sound. She was more afraid we would scare him off, I was more affraid I would be a snack. About ten feet in front of us he did a circle and sat down with a thump. His upper body was still off the ground and his nose was pointed straight up in the air. You could tell he was sniffing us out from a distance. All of a sudden he started rubbing his rear end back and forth and side to side, making a comfy place to sit. Then he layed down facing us and just let us watch him. He was so cute! For a 900 pound mass of teeth and fur. It kind of made you want to walk up and pet him but hopefully most would know better. Off in the distance we  heard a splash. 

   A female bear was standing in the water fishing. She had already catch one and had dragged it up on the sand bar to chow. It took all of three mintues before she was back at it again, ankle deep in the water. All of sudden she raised her head, her fur hung in dark strains dripping water. We looked in the direction she was looking and didnt see anything. We were shocked when she took off running. I was amazed how fast she was, it made me nervous for the next time I hiked because I know now that they is no way you can out run a bear for very long. She was running throug the water no less. About a hundred yards out she plucked up a salmon like she was plucking a berry from a bush. 

  

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Reply gilmers
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