How I Honeymooned Your Father, Part VI: Once Upon a Dawn Dreary

If you’re just tuning in to our Alaska adventures, here are the links to Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V. Where did we leave off last? After our first full day in Alaska, we climbed glaciery parts, celebrated our survival with two types of ice cream in a random beer lodge in the middle of nowhere, Alaska, and then we were followed home by an exquisite double rainbow.

Just the usual stuff.


Then we wound up back in Eagle River, Alaska, looking for moose at dusk. We had enjoyed ducking into the Eagle River Nature Center when we were checking into our cabin, and we learned the startling truth that one of the moosiest trails of the nature center would most likely be closed later that night, and early the next morning, due to salmon spawning/bear stalking.

As you know from my previous post, we did see two cow moose along the Eagle River after our first full day in Alaska. Then we had midnight pizza, set our alarms for some terrible pre-dawn hour, and wouldn’t you know it? We woke up to find moose. Every morning was a mad dash to figure out purse vs. backpack, as well as raincoat vs. fleece, 50mm vs. extreme zoom lens, or both, and what snacks/water to bring. You never really know how long you’re going to be out when you leave your home away from home in Alaska. It’s just how it is. With a big hug and goodbye for Cooper, the resident dog where we were staying, we left the cabin for the nature center. There was one other car there, but it was otherwise darkish and quiet.

We had talked to a nature center employee and had looked at the animal roster for the summer, so we could see where the most recent moose had been spotted. We were armed and ready! Well.. “armed” with a camera and a loud bottle of aspirin to shake to alert bears of our arrival. No bear spray for us! We went walking – slightly cold, slightly wet from morning dew, and me slightly not in the mood for heavy hiking with my giant lens digging into my hips? Oh well. We got to the first observation deck. CLOSED! We ducked under the chain and sign and walked onto the deck, anyway. Bears be darned.

Worth it.

We could definitely hear some sort of large animal thrashing around the woods and the stream, but with the trees and the lifting darkness and thick fog, we could only hear life. Life and also silence. My mind was still blown that I was in the middle of Alaska – pretty much another planet – and out in the darkish wilderness. We were alone. We didn’t really know the lay of the land here. Heck, we barely do on our own four acres of New England property. This was something else in every way.

For one thing, if we ran into a bear, it was our own fault for ignoring the “CLOSED” sign.

So we went walking. I often walk a step behind people, especially Cassidy. He has much longer legs than me so it never quite aligns. I also just like being the last. Somehow I don’t mind that my risk is being snatched by a bear from behind. I see the whole world back there – and I stop to take a zillion pictures anyway. Also, I’m totally scared, not only of bears, but of breaking the nature center rules and THEN getting attacked by a bear. It’s so much worse to be a rebel without a good cause. I’m usually much smarter in real life, I promise. But what happens in Alaska stays in Alaska. Well, hopefully not. Hopefully we all live to tell the tales and caution our children against walking too close to bears. Even the mild-mannered, New England bears we have at home should not be trifled with, and they generally only want to eat your trash or your butter lettuce.

(our garden)

(not our garden)

We looked on a map post and found a trail we wanted to take. The problem? It had a large bear sign warning, as well as a closed chain. As if to prove this point, there was a GIANT pile of bear poop right next to the sign. Just to say, “don’t do it.”

(not bear poop)

So we did what any non-smart hiker would do and we took that trail. Oh boy, did we take that trail. We were not even halfway through our 2.5 hour hike and my heart was pounding so wonderfully – because of early morning exercise, and the promise of moose, and the more legit promise of bears. Boy, did my body shake and did my heart pound. It really reminds you that you’re alive, and that you should probably stay that way too. Cassidy kept shaking that aspirin bottle. We kept walking.

Near the end of the hike, we were walking right on fresh bear & moose tracks. Ahhh, it was so thrilling and scary and awesome and terrible! In the distance, we heard a wolf howl. Huge salmon were swimming right up to us. Another planet.

I want to let you in a secret. We didn’t see any bears. We didn’t see any moose. Oh, but to be that close!! And here’s a tiny spoiler – all that stuff is coming later anyway. This morning hike was something else entirely. Visiting another planet.

An Alaskan morning looks like a changing painting, and I can barely keep up.

I’m happy to try to chase it. Or just get all caught up in it.

How do you follow a dawn like this? What’s it like to have an entire, open day in Alaska – stretched out in front of you like a moose and bear-filled painting of magic and clouds and the most vivid colors I’ve ever seen on this planet? It’s good.

I can tell you, but it’s so much more fun to show you:

(the cause of all the bear drama)

(moose tracks!)

THIS:

Then the sun rose above the peaks and it was time to start the rest of our day, and the rest of our lives, really, because we were so probably close to imminent moose, bear, wolf (oh my) death at that point. The rest of the day? Didn’t disappoint.

Next up, what’s my weakness? MEN! Just kidding – I heard “Shoop” on Sirius radio last night. Before that, even, it was in my head. What’s my other weakness? Ice cream! No, wait. Sigh. Next up.. coming soon. What’s my weakness? MOOSE!

See ya SOON!

Part VII


Comments

How I Honeymooned Your Father, Part VI: Once Upon a Dawn Dreary — 52 Comments

    • You’re first!
      Yes, I was petrified. It wasn’t even a small chance thing. There was a legit bear around there and we were warned about it, and we still hit all the trails!

  1. Whoa – that most glorious morning fog! And then lifting into a gorgeous new day – surrounded by nature with your life partner – what could possibly be better?! Wonderful photos, Tamara.
    I am just very slowly awaking myself from an involuntary or at least not-really-planned summer blogging break. I’m not really back at it, but… I think I am getting there. And I will most definitely check back to read the whole of your Alaska adventures. Seeing it on facebook is just not enough šŸ™‚

    • Well I’m glad to see you here, even if you’re not back yet. Getting there is big. A lot of bloggers take the summer off, and I think then re-evaluate in the fall. I do miss your blog!!

      And I agree about what could be better than this?

  2. Oh, those photos are incredible. But bears, Tamara, they’re no joke! I am terrified of them and am not so secretly glad you didn’t run into any big angry mamas šŸ™‚

    • I don’t know how we managed NOT to run into the bear. It was probably the dumbest thing we did on our trip, if that helps. Everything else we do is insane, but also controlled.

      This? Not so much!

  3. Oh the photos are stunning! I mean really Really stunning…and I haven’t seen it in real life. I could get lost in your photos of that morning, the shifting fog, the emerging comkrs, the dew and delight of it all! I so so so love nature and views and the awesomeness that is this earth were blessed to inhabit. Thank you for sharing…this story, adventure, life really and the photos, of course! šŸ™‚

    • And to think, these are only some of the photos. And the photos are only some of the story. I had to walk, and walk fast, while thinking about bears during the whole thing!
      Thanks for coming along on my strange journey!

  4. Before I even read the part about “morning looking like a painting”, I already kept telling myself while scrolling that your photos are like beautiful paintings – with all the foggy backdrop, and the streams and tracks. Everything’s gorgeous! That’s the kind of adventure I’ll forever treasure and cherish too!

  5. Hmm what is your weakness? Sprinkles? I am glad you chose to avoid the bear poop path or we might not be seeing these pictures of your beautiful adventure! where those baby bears in your garden at home? Cute, but the sight of baby bears makes me go weak thinking that the mama bear is somewhere close!

    • haha, sprinkles. Moose. Men. All three, right?
      The four baby bears were in my garden WITH their mama! Luckily I have a zoom lens and I was nowhere close, I promise!
      As for the story above, I chose the bear poop path and I’m just lucky I’m ok!!!

  6. I feel calmer just looking at your photos – breathtaking. I’m also impressed that you can identify bear poop – now there’s a life skill worth having. šŸ˜‰

    • haha! Well it was GIANT. And fresh. And since the trails were closed, we knew it couldn’t have been someone’s dog. There were wolves around, but I don’t think they poop this big!!!!

  7. You guys are BRAVE!!! I’m afraid of the thought of seeing a bear that is not at the zoo. If I saw bear poop I would freak out.
    Beautiful photos!!!

    • I was incredibly scared. Cassidy has been known to get me into some messes. This isn’t the first time I have followed him to the ends of the earth! Luckily, we’re ok!

  8. oh man I read and read but I fell in love with the photos, no matter how foggy it was that day. BTW those Moose tracks were awesome and I’m not so sure I would have taken that trail, but you guys are a lot more adventurous than me. šŸ™‚

    • Or we’re a lot more dumb! We shouldn’t have done it, not in the names of moose or photography, but I guess I don’t regret it because we survived, and I got these photos!

      • I’ve had an actual big black bear come to my camp fire… just par for the course up here. Oh, and on the golf course while I was golfing too. He was very nice and let us play through. šŸ™‚ Canadian bear, eh? ha

        • See!? And I giggled at your “eh.” The ones here wouldn’t hurt a fly.
          There, they say the black bears are worse than the brown bears. I don’t get it!

  9. The pictures of the bear! omg! Happy you didn’t get snatched from behind! The trails must have been so awesome for early morning exercise and moose tracks! Perfect.

  10. I swear it was ALL I could do to not scroll down fast to look for the pics of the moose or the bears!! And then when you finally told us you didn’t see any that day, I relaxed and just took in the breathtaking views…

    I could almost feel the chill and breathe in the damp dew. I swear!

    I can only imagine how ALIVE you felt walking through what looks like a true paradise. Nature without an intervention or interruption… organic, raw, and relentlessly captivating. Ahh…

    • I’m so glad you relaxed.. and I would have spoiled it for myself! By the way, moose and bears are coming! From a safe distance, luckily!!
      I can still feel it there. I can still breathe it. It’s all I can do not to go back sometimes.

  11. The photographs have a peace about them. I am so glad you spent this time with Cassidy. I know what you mean about walking a step behind. . . I am the same way with my husband. Sometimes it can be very frustrating – I am constantly saying, “Wait for me!”

    • It was peaceful – almost insanely so. Except for the deep bear fears.
      I like what you said about Cassidy – that was the undertone of all of this. Nine days spent with him, and really only him. Although we met some amazing characters along the way.

      Cassidy doesn’t even realize he’s doing it – but he’s always way ahead of us!

  12. Those little baby bears!!! I know they’ll grow up and be scary bears… but right now they’re ADORABLE!!
    These pictures look like mornings here in WA. and with the trees too. šŸ™‚
    XOXO

    • haha! Right. One secret, though. I took those photos five years ago when we first moved here, SO.. they’re probably all big, scary bears now. Yikes!
      Although New England bears are far less scary than Alaskan bears!!!!

  13. Tamara, the pictures are breathtaking. Amazing. And I agree, it does look like another planet. Your writing is exquisite. I feel as though I’m there with you. I think I missed a couple posts, so I am off to catch up.

  14. So beautiful, and I can just feel that morning, looking at your pictures. But I’m so glad you didn’t run into a bear, because they’re….let’s just say, I’m glad you didn’t run into a bear!

  15. Shoot – lol – what a throwback! Glad I clicked back, I thought I was on top of these posts but I missed this one. You’re braver than me. At that closed sign I would have said, “Awww man! Welp, let’s go.”

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