PN Katmai, Alaska

In the Footsteps of the Grizzly Man

back to civilization
Airplane soars into the sky over Katmai, bound for Homer.
bear curiosity
Females and grizzly cubs peer over the horizon.
alaskan queue
Participants on a Katmai tour follow in line behind the pilot and guide Michael, for safety reasons.
Ephemeral Marks
Brown bear footprints on the waterlogged soil of Katmai's coastline.
Guaranteed snack
Brown bear searches for bivalves in the waterlogged soil of Katmai.
grizzly family
Female and two cubs of grizzlies.
Michael the guide
Michael, pilot and tour guide to Katmai.
summer rest
Bear rests in a green meadow along the coast.
bear and mountains
Large bear walks with the snowy mountains of Katmai in the background.
dry footprints
Brown bear footprints on the soil of Katmai.
Female and offspring "grizzlies" detect the presence of visitors.
Pilot and passengers around the plane has just landed on the coast of Katmai.
Prospecting Patient
Bear searches for bivalves in the hard bed left by the ebb tide around Katmai.
Katmai of the air
Panorama of the inhospitable region of Katmai seen from the air.
brown bears
Two brown bears are looking for bivalves, one of their favorite snacks, along with salmon.
Timothy Treadwell spent summers on end with the bears of Katmai. Traveling through Alaska, we followed some of its trails, but unlike the species' crazy protector, we never went too far.

We watch the endless sunset over Homer, pleased that the Alaskan days remain as summery as they are long.

The moments of total relaxation in the trips we take around the world are not frequent. Aware of its value, we remember the image of the mirror lake and the tiny seaplanes anchored on the banks, against the surrounding coniferous forest.

We had few illusions that this lull would last. To confirm it, the cell phone relic we used in the United States shows signs of life.

On the other end of the line, a pilot tells us: “Well, my friends, I think you are in luck. I have vacancies. Come to the hangar at 7 am!”

Pilot Airplane Grizzly Steps Katmai National Park Alaska

Michael Hughes, pilot and tour guide to Katmai.

Homer's Providential Flight to Katmai

It's not the first time we've praised Werner Herzog's films. Nor will it be the last.

We had seen and admired “Grizzly Man” – his work from 2005 – twice. We knew it would be difficult to get so close to the wild scenery that reveals where we were. THE maritime end of Homer's panhandle it even allowed us to glimpse the still snowy mountains of Katmai National Park.

Aerial view, Katmai, Grizzly Steps, Katmai National Park, Alaska.

Panorama of the inhospitable region of Katmai seen from the air.

Some surgical contacts had left us hoping to get a flight and guide. Michael Hughes granted us that wish. Before the time he dictated, we were already at his company's aerodrome facilities.

Worried about filling the waiting time, the pilot delights us to tell part of his adventurous life in Alaska: “Well, as you might guess, bears are only visitable in late spring and summer.

For the rest of the year, I do other things that are much more risky”. “You're watching National Geographic's programs on Alaskan fisheries (in “Radical Fishing” or, in the original version, “Deadliest Catch) ? “That is really dangerous but it is me and my colleagues who indicate to the boats the position of the shoals, from the air.

Often, on stormy days not conducive to these planes. We made good money but I already got some scares. It's easier with bears, you'll see!”

And Cook Inlet's Panoramic Flyover, Gulf of Alaska

However, missing passengers are admitted. Michael gives us an exhaustive briefing.

We then boarded the plane and took off for the skies over Kachemak Bay. we flew over the Homer's Spit. And Seldovia, an isolated fishing village. Before long, we enter the Gulf of Alaska.

Airplane Homer Grizzly Steps Katmai National Park Alaska

Airplane soars into the sky over Katmai, bound for Homer.

Twenty minutes after take-off, we reached the surroundings of the opposite mountains. Michael asks us to confirm that the seat belts are fastened securely. After which an abbreviated descent begins. We didn't detect any clue signal.

Instead, the pilot brings the plane closer to the sands of the peninsula that Timothy Treadwell made famous.

Timothy Treadwell: The Failed Actor's Career and Loss of Course

In the 90s and early 2000s, Treadwell became a frequent flyer on this route. His repeated arrivals and departures never excited the national park rangers. These officers had a recurring conflict with Timothy due to the environmentalist's ongoing infractions.

Timothy Treadwell was born in Long Island, New York.

His parents claim in the film he always remained a normal child. At least until he left them to pursue university studies. At this stage of his life, he will have started to spread among his colleagues that he was a British orphan born in Australia.

It is known that after losing the role of Woody Boyd to Woody Harrelson on the Serie "Cheers”, became an alcoholic and a drug addict.

It was, in fact, after barely surviving a heroin overdose in the late 80s, that Timothy Treadwell decided to travel to Alaska.

The Self-Proclaimed Defender of the Katmai Bears

Treadwell realized, on that occasion, the urgency of changing his life. He became convinced that his protection from bears was a kind of divine calling he couldn't ignore.

Footprints, Bear, Soggy Ground, Grizzly Footsteps, Katmai National Park, Alaska

Brown bear footprints on the waterlogged soil of Katmai's coastline.

Thereafter, he returned to Katmai year after year. He fraternized with the grizzlies with increasing ease, so much so that he dared to caress and even hug some specimens.

Park rangers and the inhabitants of nearby towns saw in Treadwell an imminent calamity. Disgrace was postponed again and again.

Bear Bivalves Snack Grizzly Steps Katmai National Park Alaska

Brown bear searches for bivalves in the waterlogged soil of Katmai.

In October 2003, with winter just around the corner, salmon hardly appeared in rivers and the hibernation period forced the bears to feed. Timothy pushed his luck in animal territory.

Nature has not forgiven your insolence. Treadwell and his accompanying girlfriend were devoured by a hungry male.

Drama Revealed as Cinema by Werner Herzog

His life was about to be portrayed by Leonardo di Caprio, who would star in the film, but Timothy Treadwell had delivered the videos he had accumulated to an ex-girlfriend and instructed her to show them to the cinema.

Jewel Palovak always thought Werner Herzog was the right man to do it. Out of Jewel's conviction emerged the acclaimed “Grizzly Man”, the main reason we were about to land on a beach in distant Katmai.

light aircraft pilot passengers grizzly steps Katmai National Park Alaska

Pilot and passengers around the plane has just landed on the coast of Katmai.

As soon as we got off the plane, we realized that the coast was full of bears digging for shellfish. We put into practice the instructions given before by Michael.

Finally, among the bears of Katmai National Park

Single file behind the guide, we slowly approach the grizzlies who, satisfied with the natural abundance of food, detect us but ignore us.

Rider Guide Tour Bears Grizzly Steps Katmai National Park Alaska

Participants on a Katmai tour follow in line behind the pilot and guide Michael, for safety reasons.

We left the beach. We go into the adjoining meadow that runs almost through our chests. From there, we got as close as possible to different specimens and photographed them with insufficient care, called to the attention by the guide, each time we were left behind.

An hour and forty minutes later, we take a break to recover energy. Michael makes sure there are no salmon or other fish in the sandwich.

Satisfied with the inspection, he leaves us to snacks and conversation. Then, pressured by the rising tide, we return to the walk.

We spotted several bears within the allotted time. Unexpectedly, we are caught between a female protecting her offspring and a male.

Female Cub Bears Grizzly Footsteps Katmai National Park Alaska

Females and grizzly cubs scan the horizon.

Michael recognizes the risk and gives the signal to withdraw. We still managed to photograph the two plush-looking bears, under the supervision of the mother, but we were forced to catch up with the group already back on the plane.

We knew Herzog's film backwards. We knew the Grizzly Man had lasted 13 years among bears.

Getting caught after a few hours was not in our plans.

Bears Family Cubs Grizzly Footsteps Katmai National Park Alaska

Female and two cubs of grizzlies.

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