Our 2004 Alaska Trip is divided into four parts: LOCATION: Alaska Part 1 - Brooks Falls PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES: Alaska Brown Bears, Salmon, Valley of 10,000 Smokes WHERE TO STAY: Brooks Lodge BEST TIME TO GO: Last three weeks in July, also 3 weeks in September for Bears. Here is a photo of Nan taking a photo from the platform. Note cubs on ground and mother above Nan's elbow. D-100 28mm! (All photos uncropped) Nan's photo of mother and cubs. D-70 70mm! Sometimes 300mm is too much! Falls from the lower platform Bears deciding who gets the best fishing spot D-70 300mm: New canyon in ash deposit at Valley of 10,000 smokes: DETAILS: This is in the middle of Katmai National Park, the only way in is by float plane. We spent 2 nights at Brooks Lodge. We flew in from Anchorage to King Salmon early on day one transferred to a float plane for a 20-25 minute flight to Brooks. Upon landing you have to attend a bear etiquette session with the park ranger. We had a quick lunch at the dining hall and then took the one mile hike to the falls viewing platform. There are three viewing platforms, like a deck on the back of a house. One is just after you cross a floating bridge about 1/4 mile from the Lodge. The other two are another 3/4 mile at the falls where the bears gather to fish for salmon. The "safe" distance from a bear is 50 yards, 100 yards if it is a mother with cubs. On the platforms the bears are maybe as close at 10-15 feet! You feel relatively safe on the platform, but I'm sure the bear could climb up if it wanted to. There are so many salmon to eat that they do not seem interested in us. We did encounter bears on the trail up to the platforms on two occasions and three times in the area of our cabin. It is scary to say the least, but they did not pay much attention to us. You can't run or they will chase you and they are twice as fast as you are (and 10 feet tall and up to 1000 pounds)!! We saw so many bears the first afternoon (300+ keeper images) we opted to take the all day trip to the Valley of 10,000 Smokes on the second day. This valley was created by a large volcanic eruption in 1912 and is the reason the park was created. The bears only started coming about 25 years ago. The ash deposits are up to 700 feet thick and we took a long hike down to a river cutting through the ash deposit forming new canyons. On the third morning we went back to the falls platforms after an early breakfast. For at least 45 minutes we were the only 2 people there! Another 200 keepers. We flew back to Anchorage leaving a 2 PM in about 4:30PM. There are only 16 cabins, they are quite rustic. It is a fishing camp the rest of the year. They are fairly small with space for 4 in bunk beds, but you better be good friends! Toilet in a little box room and a sink and shower stall in the main room. We felt cramped with just 2. For two people on the 2 night package from Anchorage + Meals + Valley Trip + Tip = $2500. More details at http://www.bear-viewing.com There are alternative ways to fly in and out from King Salmon the same day, but you would have to stay 2 nights in King Salmon and only really have about 1/2 day on the platforms. If the weather is good it would not be too bad to do this. We made reservations in early January for the end of July and got the last available cabin at the very end of the first salmon run. I would suggest you plan a year in advance. More of our photos at http://bob-nan.smugmug.com/gallery/344396 (Bears) and http://bob-nan.smugmug.com/gallery/344359 (Katmai) email us with any questions. Bob & Nan Added Note 2/4/05 - If the platforms are crowded, there is no room for a tripod to be set up there. A monopod would be OK, I think. Maybe take both an use what you can. The platform has a fairly tall railing and I just put both elbows on the railing to hold the camera steady and take the weight off of me. Also, on the float plane in and out, there is no room for hand luggage with you, but one bag (cameras for us) can go with you. You can take a camera with you on the plane to shoot in-flight, but you have to hang it around your neck. I was in the right seat - next to the pilot - and I had to hold the camera up at the ceiling whenever he pulled back on the wheel. It was really cramped there, no way to change a lens or battery, so select a lens and check your battery before getting on the plane.