Written by: Jenny
Katmai bear camp is one of the highlights of my adventurous year. Those summer days spent watching, photographing, breathing, and living very near the brown bears in Alaska's Katmai National Park and Preserve
re-inspire my silver bear jewelry collection
as well as my awe of the natural world.
We fly in over spectacular Naknek Lake, landing on water made an impossibly brilliant aqua by the area's glacial silt.
You can feel and see you are in bear country immediately. The air carries a vivid chill over the water, the earth a clean herb smell. If you're lucky, a brown bear or two lumbers nearby in a sort of informal greeting while we are briefed on the essentials of bear etiquette.
We will be spending ten days living amongst these beautiful animals, and everything we need must be packed in with us. I bring my camera, of course, and only the essentials. Well, and my Kindle for security, although there is rarely time to open it.
Several times a day, we hike the five-mile round trip between Brooks Camp near the mouth of the river to the falls where the bear are hunting salmon. We can only take water with us, making the return trip to camp necessary if you want a bite to eat. The bears themselves are very skinny at this time of year before the salmon really start to run.
It's critical that the bear do not associate their food source with humans for obvious safety reasons. Fisherman are required to cut their lines and remove themselves from the fish if a bear is spotted. They cannot clean or gut their fish here but must freeze them whole if they want to take a few salmon home with them.
At camp, we are somewhat protected by an electric fence. Still, we have to keep everything from snacks to toothpaste and hand lotion carefully stored in the food and gear cache in case a bear make it into camp, which happened this time.
During the day, however, we get quite close to them, often photographing from the falls platform, bridge platform, or along the trails (you must step off the trail to make way for any roaming bears, making for some pretty close encounters!).
Each of the bears has its own unique persona from slightly bored with our presence to goofy and outright wild.
And, if I'm lucky, one of them will show me just the kind of pose that gets me thinking of a jewelry design... such as our Bear on Bergs pin from the fossilized ivory and silver bear jewelry collection, inspired by this Katmai beauty.