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Geoffrey's Alaska Adventures, Summer Diary 2023

Updated: Dec 24, 2023

An Artist's Journey, heading to the land of the midnight sun, a wilderness of inspiration, excitement, and Alaska adventures. The Alaska Frontier brings many opportunities to view and study nature.

An Original Oil Painting by Artist Geoffrey C Smith

Trying to reduce 85 days and nights, mostly days down to a summary is no easy task, working diligently in the studio, plotting and planning, outings and adventures, catching and processing salmon. It was a very full season and it went by in a flash. I will try to touch on many of my adventures, and the Art that followed.

I’ll reflect upon the season as I work to close the cabin, putting the boat away for the winter. cleaning my palate, as I like to paint large and with heavy textures I have a large glass palette, the oil paints take time to dry, so days of paint build up on it, but it is easily scraped off, revealing the clean glass surface ready for my return in the spring. Cleaning my brushes and the palette knives, some of which are my favorites, like saying goodbye to an old friend whom you will not see for the whole winter, all part of the journey from one northern wilderness to another mild tropical wilderness. Cleaning the Traeger grill for the last time, the final batch of smoked salmon finished and vacuum sealed, and ready for the freezer. Then the long trip home.

Breaking down the 85 odd days or so is a daunting task I could start with the highlights, the epic, and the heart-pounding or I could go chronologically.

The end of June. I was filming turtles nesting on Jupiter Island and did not want to leave, but my Delta tickets were telling me otherwise on July 2nd I touched down in Anchorage.

I was comfortably situated into our cabin by July 3rd.

July 7, the epic bubble-feeding Humpback Whale Trip adventure happened.

The day started with spotting a large brown bear above the town of Seward Alaska, feeding on the hillside, along with a mother and cub black bear farther down the hill. From there are adventure began with Northern Latitude Adventures. We chartered a 25-foot boat and captain to explore Resurrection Bay and search for the Humpback whales That were bubble-feeding off the Creswell islands some 20 miles or so down the coast, as this is a quick recap I’ll be brief, filming and photographing the whales was truly epic, I created a 72 x 48“ oil painting of the event. We also saw many Seabirds otters and seals.

July 8 we ventured to Homer the end of the Sterling Highway, where we visited the Alaskan Marine National Wildlife Refuge headquarters. I spied a profound quote by Teddy Roosevelt and filmed sea otters in the marina.

“wild beasts and birds are by right not the property merely of the people who are alive today but the property of the unknown generations whose belongings we have no right to squander”. Theodore Roosevelt, US president.

July 9-12 photographed and painted an eagle head at the cabin.

July 10 painted the study for the Bubble feeding whale Painting 18 x 24 in Acrylic.

July 11 back to Seward to visit the Alaska Sea Life Center where they have a wonderful collection of sea birds, the living exhibit of the salmon at all stages of development, as well as a wild animal rehabilitation Center


July 13 we ventured to Skilak Lake to explore where the glacial water enters the lake, as well as the confluence of the Kenai River, as an opportunistic omnivore. The serendipity of the trip is what it is all about we launched our boat at the upper Skilak Lake campground, and headed northeast to where the Kenai River flows into the lake, it was the most beautiful day, blue skies glass calm water we spotted bear tracks on the shore and on our return, we passed a rocky island that was a Glaucous-winged Gull rookery. We watched filmed and photographed the glaucous-winged Gulls for quite some time. This is one of the many Gulls commonly known and misidentified as a "seagull".

July 15 and 16 created a driftwood bird sculpture from the wood we collected at Skilak Lake.

July 17 the sockeye salmon were running in the Kenai River. We caught our first fish of the season, over 2 million Sockeye also known as Red Salmon will swim up the Kenai this season to Spawn

July 19 fishing and my daughter Hannah arrived in Kenai, and we fish the 20th, the 21st and 22nd.

July 23 I start the big humpback whale bubble-feeding oil painting 48“ x 72“

July 24 and 25th we fished the Kenai River gravel bar below our cabin and I slow-motion filmed the glaucous-winged gulls as they fought and fed using the iPhone.

July 26, I created a large sockeye salmon- driftwood sculpture, this day was the peak of the sockeye run with over 195,000 fish swimming up the river on this particular day.

We fished July 27

July 28 I spent the day in the studio doing fish rubbings of the sockeye salmon on rice paper, and on Fred Meyer’s grocery bags with a black acrylic and colored acrylic paint. 12 works of art were created.

July 29 I painted a moose rib bone that we found at Kenai Inlet Beach. I painted a humpback whale on the bone. We fished that afternoon.

July 30 I fish most of the day and smoked my first batch of salmon

August 1 acrylic painting on rock of a resting woman, Carolyn arrive from college, flying into Kenai.

August 2, Carolyn Hannah, and Aleta and I drive to Anchorage, Hannah had a meeting for global entry. We went to Lowe’s and got a new dishwasher for the cabin.

On the way back, we stopped at Moose Pass to film the sockeye salmon spawning in Moose Creek. By myself, I slipped down to the Moose Creek in my element with the GoPro filming underwater. I was enjoying the moment. The solitude of watching the salmon and hearing their splashes, then upstream I heard a deeper splash. I looked upstream and then coming around the thick brush that covered the edges of the small creek, came large brown bear, I did not think, I only reacted. I yelled at the top of my lungs. She quickly turned and ran upstream, followed by her cub at under 20 yards distance. It was a heart-pounding moment. I immediately headed downstream away from where the bear was and tried to calm down. Eventually, I resumed my fish filming. Carolyn and Hannah then joined me, watching and filming the spawning Sockeys.

On August 3 we had a porcupine come through our cabin area in the evening as we were gathered around the campfire. It was not concerned with us at all and worked its way around the cabin and down the bank to the river.

We finished August 4 .

On August 5 we ventured up to the Russian River at Cooper’s Landing, and from the campground, we hiked the 2 1/2 miles up the trail to the Russian River Falls to film and photograph the salmon in the river. I was hoping to see brown bears, but we did not see any. We had most of our kids with us. Carolyn, Hannah, Jess, Ren, Aleta, and myself. After the hike, we went down to the fishing area at the mouth of the Russian river, where it meets the Kenai. Along the way we filmed a family are black bears, and watched a black bear travel under the raised Boardwalk where it peacefully ate its salmon catch while the fisherman walked right over him, even our dog, Brandy was unaware of his presence.

On August 6, I smoked a bunch of salmon bellies, Carolyn, Ren, Jess and I took a boat ride down almost to the mouth of the Kenai River, stopping just before the Warren Ames Memorial bridge. We spotted several bald Eagles and sandhill cranes along the river.

August 7 we hiked the Byron Glacier on the road to Whittier just off of Portage Lake.

August 8 fishing we caught a Jake King Salmon (non-spawning early return king salmon) and let him go along with many sockeyes.

August 9, I snag a big bundle of sticks fishing line, and lures. We seemed to be bio-accumulating as the mass traveled and rolled downstream. I was told that there was a 6-foot ball of fishing line and hooks at the Kenai visitor center, one should think of the consequences of losing just a small amount of fishing tackle.

August 9 I worked on the Turn Lake oil painting it’s 36 x 48” , and reviewed GoPro footage from Moose Pass Sockeye salmon spawning underwater. Fish the gravel bar with Hannah and Carolyn, we catch lots of fish.

August 10 work on the Turn Lake oil painting and Carolyn paints a black bear.

August 11 we ventured back to Seward and out on resurrection resurrection bay, this time in hopes of seeing not only the humpback whales, but the more elusive orcas, the weather was not only raining, but there were large swells, making the open ocean very rough. We chartered a small boat, and Captain, with an enclosed cabin, so mostly we stayed warm and dry. From Seward, we went out to Fox and Ragged Islands, and then around to Day Harbor to see the Day Harbor Glacier. There were no humpbacks to be found as the rain basically poured most of the day. It was a tough trip. I did manage to photograph several groups of harbor seals, as well as the massive rookery of black-legged kitty Winks between the rain squalls, the troops were getting worn down by the weather, but Aleta had not given up hope, and at 4:02 PM towards the end of our charter, she spotted the unmistakable black dorsal fin of the Apex predator of the sea, the killer whale or Orca, the mood on the boat immediately changed, no longer was anyone wet or cold. With the pod of Orcas in front of us, as we watched in amazement as they plied the water together cows and calves, bulls, teaching calf’s to hunt . It was beautiful for about 45 minutes we even saw two breaches and had one Orca come right up to the boat. We got back to Port about 6 PM dinner in Seward and then the 2 Hour drive home.

August 12 we go for a short hike in this Soldotna area.

August 13 we head back towards Seward but we stop short and go to the Kenai Ford’s National Park where I will paint and Mark, Jen, Carolyn and Hannah will hike the Exit Glacier Trail, up to the Harding ice-field. We hiked the trail the year before but stopped just short of the Harding ice field, this year Carolyn and Hannah were determined to complete the hike. I bowed out due to my knee surgery only a few months prior (at least that was my excuse and I’m sticking to it)

Dropping the kids off, Aleta and I head back down the mountain, stopping at an over viewpoint along the Resurrection River with a view of the exit glacier, for the next 5 1/2 hours I painted en plein air, talking to all the passersby watching one black bear across the gravel River bed. I finished the painting Aleta drove up to the trailhead, picked up the troops, and then came back to get me. A quick drive to Seward for dinner and then back home to Kenai, one great thing about being in the land of the midnight sun is the long days as we headed north on the Seward highway and then West on the Sterling highway. We took a detour along Skilak Lake and with plenty of daylight at 10:15 we came across a mama black bear with three cubs. They were eating grass along the gravel road. The cubs were very small and Aleta worried they would not be would not be big and strong enough to survive the harsh fall and winter.

August 14 Mark, Jen, Carolyn, Hannah, Aleta and I all fished the gravel bar, they call fishing for sockeye on the Kenai flossing as you use the flyrod to pull the fly across the fish mouth as they do not feed when they are coming up the river to Spawn.

Sometimes the gravel bar can be quite crowded with fishermen, but most all get along and help each other, with families, kids, dogs, and Guides, it’s sometimes a three-ring circus, and has been described as combat Fishing. On this day the lady upstream of me hooked a Glaucous-Winged Gull, I was able to catch the bird untangle it from the fishing line, and release it mostly unharmed.

At 6 PM Hannah and Carolyn, took the Raven flight back to Anchorage and then to Florida for for Hannah and Atlanta for Carolyn to go back to college.

August 15 Mark Jen and I hike the Bear Mountain Lookout Trail at Skilak Lake. We just finished the hike and got in the truck before the big rain storm hit. last year I painted en plain air in this area.

August 16 Mark, Jen, Aleta and I drive to Homer. We stop at Anchor Point to visit the Norman Lowell Art Gallery Foundation, a fantastic artist who moved to Alaska in 1958 homesteaded, and built a life as an artist now in his 90s his legacy lives on in this beautiful setting, with a large body of work of truly inspirational paintings of Alaskan landscapes.

August 17 we had to Skilak Lake with our neighbor Terry using his boat, Mark, Jen, Aleta and myself. We launch at lower Skilak campground and travel southwest to where the Skilak Lake drains into the Kenai River, careful to watch for gravel bars in the shallow waters. Terry navigates the river and teaches us the topography. We fish for Silver Salmon in an area called the Narrows and then work our way downstream drifting with artificial salmon eggs, we catch and release, many beautiful, rainbow trout.

We get to a little tributary opposite where the Keely River meets the Kenai. There, Aleta, and Mark, both catch Silver Salmon. The highlight of the day came when two brown bears came down to the river to try their luck with the Salmon and fortunately for them, this area held a lot of post-spawn fish and many were already dead so their pickings were easy. We watched and filmed for a good hour or so I always have the filming equipment along. We were a good 20 miles upriver from our cabin, a much more wild and remote part of the Kenai River. Towards evening we headed back up the river and across Skilak lake to our truck and then drove home.

August 18 Today Mark, Jen, and I headed back towards Cooper’s Landing. Mark and Jen wanted to hike the Fuller Lake trail I was game but remembered my knee, I hiked about half the trail I think 3 miles or so to the lower lake where I stayed and painted for a few hours until Mark and Jen returned, and we all hike down together.

August 19 Smoked more salmon

August 20 Up to the funny river area of the Kenai fished with Tim Palmer, Mark and Jenny . We caught a few nice silvers. I think I got my limit I photographed an eagle along the river which I intend to paint.

August 20 evening fire take interesting photos of the cutouts on the fire pit, with the embers and glow of the fire coming through.

August 21 Cooper’s Landing, the Russian River Campground is shut down for construction. We head up there but take the Russian River ferry across the Kenai River, giving us access to the Russian River, here to film the sockeye salmon, and hopefully brown Bears, Mark and Jen graciously accompany me on this hike getting Getting along better with my knee I make the nearly 10 mile treck with no issues. We whore hip boots to cross the Russian River and then switched to hiking boots for the hike up to the Falls, with the campground closed. We had the trail to ourselves. When we reached the falls we struck gold, a big mama brown bear with three cubs were fishing right there in the falls.

Overwhelmed with excitement and Camera in hand we watched and Filming Great Bears. It was a little, spooky as there were half-eaten Salmon everywhere, and I kept looking over my shoulder so as to not be part of the web of life so important in this environment. I got some great photos and inspiration for my art. We headed back down the trail, filmed a few salmon and caught the ferry across the river and drove home that night..

August 22 moose at the cabin I start a painting of the Bears at the Russian River Falls first completing an underpainting of acrylic about 48” x 60“ on canvas. My intention was to paint over it in oil, but I was enjoying the acrylics and just kept going with it. I worked on the Bear Painting for the next three days along with smoking another batch of salmon.

August 25 Created two quick acrylic sketches of puffins on pizza take-out boxes,

I worked on at 18 x 24” oil of the eagle along the Kenai River. I saw it while fishing with Tim Palmer I will give this to him as a thank you for his years of guiding us on the river.

August 27 smoked salmon, and reviewed the GoPro from the Russian River that afternoon. My neighbor Jim came over to the studio to inform us one of our resident eagles appeared wounded or sick. Sure enough, a beautiful juvenile female bald Eagle 2 1/2 years old is on our Riverbank, unable to hardly move, phone calls to the proper authorities and we go into rescue mode. The plan was to cover the bird with a blanket and put it in a dog crate overnight in the garage, Tom our neighbor would fly the bird in his plane up to Anchorage to a wild animal veterinarian hospital.

Unfortunately, the bird did not make it through the night, a biologist from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge came by the next morning to pick up the bird a necropsy was performed, and it turns out she died of peritonitis from a fishhook in her stomach. she was also tested for avian flu (she was negative), which has killed hundreds of Kitty winks down in the Homer area and is a big threat to all birds. It was a sad day to see one of the Eagles that we had watched grow up and I painted a 48 x 72“ oil last year of the same bird, and it died on our watch. Our family was extremely upset at the loss.

August 28 with the campground closed and no road access the Russian River suddenly had a lot fewer people on it and so I figured my bear viewing would be much better with that in mind. It was a rainy day on the Kenai River and I hoped that the weather would break in the mountains, so I headed up to the Russian River, crossed the Kenai on the ferry, and walked up the Russian River going quietly, walking on the raised boardwalk. I film the sockeyes at a few places, but with no other people around, I keep a keen lookout for the bears.

The bear spotted me about the time I spotted him, and he ran up the river. I quickly got out my got my camera ready, and to my surprise, he came walking down the raised boardwalk right to me. A couple of photos and a little video as I backed up, and backed up, as my pulse quickened, and he kept getting closer. I remembered you can’t run from a Bear, hoping he would take a turn off the walkway, but that did not happen . I ducked off the walkway into the river, I readied my bear spray as our Bear-friend stopped and looked at me, not 10 feet away, and on he went. I had two more encounters at close range with this brown bear. Thankfully He was interested in salmon and posed no threat as long as I stayed calm, he knew I was there, but he let me be. He went on to fish in the river and I was able to slip past him and catch the last ferry across the river.

August 29th we embarked on a journey by car, Aleta, Grant, and myself driving to Anchorage then Palmer up to the Matsu Valley to Sheep Mountain, and then down to Valdez, where we would take the marine highway ferry to Whittier through the Prince William sound, and then through the mountain tunnel at Whittier and home. All in a three-day two-night trip, mostly fogged in by bad bad weather, but with glimpses of sunshine, it was beautiful.

Just outside of Palmer up on a bluff I was able to film and photograph of a group of ravens, plying the wind and showing some remarkable acrobatics, possibly a breeding behavior as we drove up the Matsu valley along the braided river flowing out of the many glaciers that we could only get a glimpse of.

Our first evening was at Majestic, Wilderness Lodge at Sheep Mountain a winter, helli- skiing lodge, open in the summer as a wedding venue. We were fogged in, so our views were limited as we continued on our journey to Valdez. The Worthington Glacier gave us a view as well as the many waterfalls just outside of Valdez. Arriving in the evening, Our time in Valdez was uneventful. Pizza at the Dead Canary Mine, and then the Best Western motel and off to the ferry terminal the next morning at 6 AM. Prince William Sound it was beautiful even in the fog and rain. The site of the 1989 oil spill. We passed right by Blythe Reef which was the fateful location struck by the Exxon Valdez.

August 31, We took the Marine Highway Farry Boat across Prince William Sound to Whitter from whare we drove home that night.

September 1. We had a big windstorm at the cabin. Lots of trees were downed over our neighborhood. I headed back to the Russian River. I did the almost 10-mile hike with no bear cited, upon getting to the mouth of the Kenai River I saw my friendly brown bear chasing and catching fish. I was on a time schedule to catch the last ferry so I had only a few minutes to film the bear with the drone and the R5 Cannon. I made it to the ferry with a few minutes to spare to cross the river. Back In the parking lot, I ran into a poor little orphan brown bear cub that I had only seen in the distance over the last few trips. One of the fishermen said that his sibling and mother bear was shot by a fisherman in fear for his yellow-belly life. (I carry bear spray instead of a gun) Anyway, This little guy came up behind me and was licking a barbecue grill and scavenging for food because as the water level in the river had risen, there were a few salmon carcasses along the river banks. Very likely the orphan cub will starve over the harsh winter or end up shot himself. I made the hour's drive back to Soldotna that night. We had an Aurora view from the cabin that was beautiful.

September 3 I started on the harbor seal painting a 48” x 60” oil on canvas September 4, painted half the day, then we went up to Skilak Lake and down the Kenai looking for the bears and fishing for Silver Salmon with our neighbors, Terry, Tom, Aleta, Grant, and myself. The water level was really high, and the bears were nowhere to be found. We had a shore lunch, where the Keely River meets the Kenai, and caught a few Silvers. At sunset we went back across Skilak Lake, it was beautiful, and I photographed a loon in the golden glow.

September 5, back up to Skilak Lake and down the Kenai we caught and released one king and no Silvers, Terry Grant Aleta Tom, and I. The water was very high, no bears were to be found.

September 6, I worked on the harbor, seal painting, and cured silver salmon eggs for caviar, very rainy that day.

September 7, we fished the gravel bar where we were fishing for Silvers, I inadvertently caught and released a large spent King salmon.

September 8 worked on the harbor seal painting.

September 10 I went out with my neighbor Tom on his 182 Cessna we left the Kenai field about 11 AM and headed north across the Cook Inlet towards Lake Clark National Park, spectacular views from the small plane. We pretty much followed the Talkeetna River drainage up to Lake Clark and then landed in Port Alsworth, where Tom checked on a remote cabin for a friend, flying back on a similar route. I was mesmerized by the beautiful mountains, rock faces, clouds, and snow-covered peaks. We landed in Kenai at about 2 PM, Tom flew to his home in Anchorage and I returned to my studio inspired to paint a mountaintop as seen from the cockpit of a small plane. I worked late that evening on two 11 x 14 paintings, one horizontal and one vertical. I painted all day on September 10.

September 11 today we start a three-day journey up to Fairbanks with a return loop down to Delta Junction, Paxton and across the Denali highway, the original gravel Road to Denali Park, 135 miles nestled between the Alaska Range and the Talkeetna Mountains. Our first stop was just outside of Anchorage at Powerline Trail State Park, an excellent area to see Moose, with the fall rut coming on. I was excited to see what I could find, as we were late in the day only about an hour of light left I spotted several bull moose across the canyon, as well as Dall sheep on the steep, rocky-covered mountains. At my vantage point, I met a retired polar bear biologist, and he had a spotting scope and was generous enough to let me view the animals. He was studying. Meanwhile, Grant and Aleta stayed closer to the truck and had the experience of watching a black bear at close range following a young Moose, as darkness fell upon the land, we drove to Wasilla for the night. Our conversation was very lively, bears moose and Dall sheep, in other words, Alaska. The best Western on Lake Lucille provided us with a beautiful view of the Chugach mountains.

September 12 heading north on Highway three towards Denali. We took the 15-minute detour to visit Talkeetna a small historic town along the Susitna River. Unfortunately, many tour buses were there too and the place was more like Disneyland than a historic outpost. we then made our way to the entrance and headquarters of the Denali National Park.

Upon entering the headquarters of the park, we were met by a large resting Grizzly Bear sculpture created by Bill Berry in the interpretive center. I learned about Charles Sheldon who first visited the area 1906, and then again in 1907, a big game, hunter, a Biologist and conservationist. He became the Parks first ambassador and lobbied to create the park in an effort to save the Dall sheep, which were at the time hunted to near extinction by market hunters, 1500 to 2000 sheep were killed annually in the Toklas and Teklenika river basins to supply meat for Fairbanks residence as well as sled dogs. The National Park was established in 1917 with the Dall Sheep as its symbol.

In addition, one of the Rangers told us of an area where you were not you were not to leave the roadway on account of the rutting moose, a 5-mile stretch of the park road, we could not get there fast enough, and I enjoyed several hours of slowly driving and glassing for the moose. The large antlers would give them away when the sun would hit them just right there were several moose jams, where the cars were backed up. We were able to find one old bull with no other cars on site. As darkness approached, we left the park and made it to Fairbanks for the night.

September 13 we got in late to Fairbanks. Our motel was on the north edge of town with a large natural area nearby where I hiked and filmed Canadian geese coming in and landing in the foggy morning light. We then spent the morning at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, learning about the natural history, native cultures, and prehistoric animals, such as the woolly mammoth and steppe bison. In addition, there is an excellent whale exhibit, and an art collection. The highlight of the museum was the educational movie about the aurora borealis.

Late that afternoon, I traveled out the Chena River basin and painted en plein air at a beaver pond along the Chena River. That evening we experienced, the aurora borealis ourselves and even did a little photography of it..

September 14 we left Fairbanks traveling along the Tanana River on Highway three toward Delta Junction. The skies were blue and we meandered along this large braided river. We thought we were seeing Denali so we stopped and photographed it, but I think we were actually looking at Mount Deborah either way. It was a beautiful site. We had a golden eagle flying over us as we photographed. After Delta Junction, We took Highway four towards Valdez we paralleled the Trans Alaskan pipeline for quite some time until we turned west at Paxton, on Highway Eight the original Denali Highway, still a primitive gravel road 135 miles long to Cantwell, other than a couple of roadhouses, there is absolutely no services. We drove through rain and snow but did manage to see a few moose. Mid-September is an interesting time. Many of the Lodges had shut down for the season and the ones that were open, were full, so we pushed on and drove all the way home to Soldotna arriving at 2 AM. Exhausted.

September 15 Friday we slept in and recovered from the trip

September 16 I started painting of the brown bear that I spent so much time with up the Russian River as he stood up looking at me 48’ x 60“ a rainy day spent in the studio.

Sunday, September 17 painted all day in the studio as it was another rainy day.

Monday, September 18 the weather cleared a bit, and at 2 PM. I drove to Anchorage to the powerline trailhead to Again look for Moose. I saw a young bull and two cows and a very dark brown bear far up on the mountain while glassing I met a nice couple and we discussed where the Moose were, and I made my plan for the next morning as the daylight faded just 12 minutes from the trailhead, I overnighted at our neighbors home in Anchorage I was greeted with a glass of wine and a bowl of chili, right after I was asleep the Aurora went off, but I was too tired to get up and view it. Aleta called she was seeing it in Soldotna too.

Tuesday, September 19 I left Tom and Mary’s before they woke up to get to the trailhead early, about a quarter mile up the trail there’s a good glassing spot. Two photographers were already there. I introduced myself to Colin a local photography professional, and Max a photography professional from Spain. They pointed out at least seven moose. We made a plan to stock up on them. They were a mile and a half away. I joined them in the hike, much better for us all to stick together and not mess up each other, photograph shots or spook the moose away.

We came upon the big Bull as he was bedded down and surrounded by cows and calves, as we waited for the sun to peak over the mountains and shine on the bull. The trail was covered with frozen moose tracks as we waited. The cows and calves moved around feeding, one small bull came walking right down the trail that we were standing on. I moved through the tall, frozen grass and foliage, working to get good shots of the various moose. As we waited for the sun and the big ball to get up and move, over the next five hours we watched the moose and we were often surrounded by them, all 25 to 40 yards away in every direction at one point I heard a loud swoosh over my head as a bird of prey swooped down and hit the ground not 20 feet from me and then flew off. Instantly I swung my camera and caught the bird as it flew away. It was a Nothern Goshawk, an Arctic Falcon, I moved around a large tree. I noticed a large cow moose was coming my way. Minutes later, I saw the cow had flushed a ptarmigan grouse into flight. Suddenly as it flew, It was attacked mid-air, and two clumps of feathers filled the sky around where the bird was still flying. A narrow escape for the Ptarmigan Grouse, and a missed meal for the Goshawk, the circle of life.

Back to the Moose, the big bull got up and thrashed the brush with his mighty Antlers as it walked directly toward us, Colin said he was letting us know we better get out of the way and we did just that.

As the big bull was surrounded by cows, we observed he would urinate and roll in it, and then the cows would follow and roll in the urine too. There was plenty of sniffing, and I thought there would be some breeding going on, but it did not happen about 1230 I hiked back up the trail. At the trailhead, I could see the moose and the photographers across the canyon. An excellent experience now the 3 Hour Drive Out the Kenai Peninsula and back home about 20 to 25 minutes down the road traveling along the Turnagain arm of the Cook Inlet, I stopped at Beluga point and watched a pod of belugas, heading out the inlet they were only about 50 to 100 yards off the shoreline, and there was quite a few of them, I traveled on in spotted more as I drove. I parked at the next pull-out and waited to see if any more would pass by as they periodically came up for a breath of air. It is believed that the Cook Inlet population of Beluga Whales numbers about 331 individuals as of 2022. Their numbers have been dwindling for the last two decades in 1972 when the Marine Mammal Protection Act was enacted the population was estimated at 1300, and subsistence hunting was halted in 1999, but the population has not recovered. The Belugas are an arctic and subarctic cetacean. It is known as the white whale, the sea canary due to its vocal calls, and the melon head due to its head shape, they have no dorsal fin, males grow to 18 feet and 3500 pounds they migrate through the Arctic Ocean from Greenland to Russia. The subpopulation in the Cook Inlet is considered critical and endangered. They are hunted by both polar bears and orcas, ( no polar bears in cool inlet )

I continued down the Seward Highway turning to the Sterling Highway at Turn Lake, I spotted a forest fire at the Quartz Creek campground. I reached home at about 430 or so filled with inspiration not only for the moose encounters but the belugas as well.

Upon getting home, I remove the last batch of bringing-salmon out of the fridge and prepare to smoke them, setting my alarm to get up at midnight to turn the smoker off and let the fish naturally chill in 40° temperature, and package them up the next morning

Wednesday and Thursday we prep the cabin for the winter converting the studio back into a garage and storage for the boat and truck

Friday we fly to Seattle overnight there and then onto West Palm Beach on Saturday and home.

This summer in the midnight sun has gone by so fast, but when I look back at the many great encounters, not only with the wildlife and the environment but with the people here in the northern wilderness. I already miss it, the Art will endure and I will return ,

Be well, be loved,

Geoffrey Smith

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