Caprice Stoner spends her summers in Alaska. But not just anywhere. For the past ten years she has served as hostess, manager, gatekeeper and naturalist at Great Alaska BearCamp®. A member of the Great Alaska Adventures family of lodges, this remote outpost sits at the entrance of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, some four million roadless acres bordering Cook Inlet, accessible only by Alaska bush plane or boat.
Her stories resonate with the excitement of returning year after year to this site and recognizing families of brown bear matriarchs and offspring that come to chow down during fish runs and to graze in lush salt marsh meadows that border this camp tucked into a clearing in a coastal mountain range. In 2013 Great Alaska BearCamp® hosted a crew for the filming of the nature documentary Bears, a 2014 Disney release. For more on the film please see http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2458776/
Between June 1 and Sept. 1 the camp accommodates up to 16 guests at any given time who overnight here for on average one night and sometimes two, with daylight hours spent bear viewing within an hour walk of the camp that is surrounded by an electric fence. Ambling along the beach guests view one of North America’s grandest carnivores digging at low tide for clams or harvesting fish. They also see bear in surrounding sedge meadows and marshes. Guests may also see a family of foxes, mink and short-tailed weasel, an occasional moose and even wolves and whales. See: http://www.greatalaska.com/pages/bear_viewing_camp/118.php
In this perfect-for-bear, unaltered-by-man ecosystem where Great Alaska Adventures (http://www.greatalaska.com/) has had a presence for some 15 years, Stoner and her team work closely with the National Park Service on best bear viewing practices that have minimal impact on the bears and environment.
“I have a personal love for these bears. I don’t want them to be pushed away or to lose their habitat. This is a Nirvana for them. If they have enough food and feel safe they will come back to same area. They are creatures of habit,” says Stoner, who is one of the most experienced bear guides in Alaska. “How do I know these are the same bears year after year? They have markers and personalities.”
When not engaged with a guide outside the camp, guests can view bear activity from the raised platforms that secure their accommodations. Heidi Solum, a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef prepares the meals; wine is served at dinner and late evenings but hard liquor is not available because Stoner wants to her guests to be alert at all times. The resident chef can accommodate most dietary issues. The camp provides a solar panel for charging batteries and CPAP machines.
After meeting guests who fly in for various multiday packages, Stoner’s job includes helping put them at ease.
“They are looking to me and crew to protect and inform them. Our do’s and don’ts during a 30-minute orientation set their minds at ease,” Stoner notes. “We live out there with bear; we sleep in tents next to bear. I am kind of a mother hen.”
Children are welcome, but Stoner hopes they will be at least five years old and can be quiet in the presence of the bears.
This is a permanent camp that allows bear to become habituated to the movements of humans while providing comfortable viewing for visitors who lodge, dine and socialize in Weatherport extreme weather cabin/tents on raised wooden deck platforms. The tents feature wooden floors, solid doors, propane heat and light, writing desks, clothes hooks and ensuite potty facilities. A community bathhouse has composting toilets and eco showers. One large tent is dedicated to cooking and community dining.
Great Alaska BearCamp® is available for one and two-night stays. It is an ideal complement to a cruise or other Alaska-based itineraries such as those offered by Great Alaska Adventures. Guests fly from Soldotna airfield in groups of four and six, landing on the shoreline right in front of the camp after a fly-by of Mount Itiamna and Kalgin Island.
Per person double rates at BearCamp® start at $1,495 per person for a one night stay or $1,995 for two night stays.
About Great Alaska Adventures
One particular love affair with Alaska began more than 30 years ago. Since then a venture that began as a fishing lodge has morphed into Great Alaska Adventures. Laurence John, Principal and Founder, son Kent John, and partner Kathy Haley, an Alaska native, have grown a sport fishing enterprise into opportunities for diverse adventure travel on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, just 20 minutes by plane from Anchorage. The company is recognized as an industry leader by virtue of its world-class offerings of trips: sport fishing, bear viewing, family safaris, multi-sport adventures, eagle float trips, Kenai Fjords nature cruises, photo safaris and more.