I have visited the Anan and Wrangell area many times over the years, however 2021 was the first time I have offered a stand alone photo tour just based around this amazing location. Everyone on this year's trip traveled with me on my Bear and Whale Photo Tour during the previous week, so by now we have gotten to know each other very well and are now all friends. This just adds to the experience in my opinion.
We were all a bit sad to be leaving our yacht home for the past week in Juneau, but excited for this next adventure. I had lined up a fancy van to pick us all up and take us to the airport - this worked so well that I will be doing it in the future. From there it was a short flight to Wrangell where we all checked in to our waterfront rooms. It was unusually sunny and warm for coastal Alaska!
For dinner we were picked up by our wonderful hosts John and Brenda and brought to their house for a delicious dinner with them and their key employees. They have a beautiful place overlooking the Wrangell Harbor; the perfect place for our trip orientation. Having dinner at the home of these long-time Wrangell, Alaska residents was a wonderful treat and the ideal way to begin this adventure.
Day 2 is a trip to LeConte Glacier, one of the most active tidewater glaciers in Alaska. Access is a bit tide dependent, so to get to the glacier we went via the Wrangell Narrows with a stop at the little town of Petersburg for a seafood lunch and walkabout.
From Petersburg, we got back into the jet boat and headed to the glacier. There were lots of huge icebergs, waterfalls and stunning scenery - it helped that it was sunny! We spent an extended period of time exploring this raw glacier fjord, even went to shore a couple of times for further exploring.
By now the tide was almost high, and we were able to head back to Wrangell just before the waterfront restaurant closed for a great meal while watching a colorful sunset.
Day 3 would be one of two days we would spend at Anan Wildlife Observatory. I love this place for bear viewing because of the absolutely stunning rain-forest setting with a beautiful river and waterfall, it is hard to beat. Since we arrived early, we were the only ones there for the first part of the day, and the bear activity was fast and furious. Seemed like I didn’t know which side of the viewing area to stand on, as you never knew who would show next. We also took turns down at the blind next to the river which was equally productive. I can’t always differentiate the different bears, however the rangers counted some 20 plus individuals including a wide range of cubs to bores. Unlike past visits, we didn’t see any brown bears this time, but lots of black bears and eagles.
Day 4. Stikine River. I have been looking forward to this day for sometime as I have heard so many great things about this critical waterway over the years. This is one of the few places where a river actually breaks through the Coastal Range. The Copper River is another one, and since I grew up along the Copper River, it was going to be great to compare the two.
The river was beautiful. Early on we saw large groups of seals and lots of eagles. A quick stop revealed lots of wolf and moose tracks. Subsequent stops throughout the day would reveal tracks of wolverine, wolves, bears, moose, deer and more. A side trip into a clear creek full of salmon was an interesting detour. The highlight for me was definitely Shakes Glacier and lake. Here we targeted a couple of areas with wonderful wildflower foregrounds. This combination with the icebergs or glacier and mountain background provided endless photo opps. After this, we went up the Stikine almost to the Canadian border, however Covid restrictions kept us from going any further. On the way home, we stopped at Brenda’s cabin along the river, which was another fascinating highlight. She grabbed fresh produce out of her garden for our lunch the next day, and talked about growing up in the area - she is fourth generation resident, and explained how her grandmother hunted seals for a living. Having someone like Brenda with us was certainly a bonus. At the end of the day we met for dinner at the waterfront restaurant where we are now becoming regulars.
Day 5 Anan Wildlife Observatory. Another early start for an exciting day. We have had great weather, however today we had a little light rain, not enough to be problematic, but it sure made the forest look lush. Again we had another 20 plus bears, and since we saw a few new families, many of these bears were new to us from two days earlier. An adult chased two little spring cubs up a tree right next to the viewing area, and the ensuing interaction between them and the cubs mom was fascinating. Everyone survived!
This was our final evening at the waterfront hotel and restaurant which by now began to feel like home. We had fallen into such a fun routine of amazing adventure during the day, and then reliving them at dinner each evening, I’m going to miss this routine.