FAQ - Sheila Mattson Fine Art & Photography
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What kind of weather & temperature should I plan for?

The weather is coastal which means rain can be likely, so bring a raincoat, although we do experience periods of sunshine. Expect temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s (F), and sudden changes, including wind, are common. Bring layered clothing.

Any restrictions on the amount of luggage to bring?

     Because you will be transported by small plane, the lodge asks that you limit your gear as close to 50# per person as possible. Please limit your gear to clothing, a few personal items and photo/fishing related equipment.  Boots and/or hip waders will be provided at the lodge.

     Weight exceptions are allowed for photography groups such as ours, within reason.  Please be aware that additional charges may apply if more than one trip is necessary.

     If you NEED something with you that would exceed any reasonable weight exception, please let me know.  I can work with you to have your item mailed ahead of time.  This could also include any special food or beverages.

What size Lens should I bring?

     The maximum size lens that you bring is completely up to you, your budget and level of interest in photography.  For years I used a 400 mm lens and have been 95% happy with the results.  

     We get close... How close depends on the situation.  I've been on a lot of bear trips over the years, and this one is by far one of my favorites.  Why?  Because this location provides an environment like no other, where bears have been habituated to humans.  This allows us a closer proximity to bears.

     If you bring a lens 400mm or larger, you will need some sort of support to avoid camera shake.  I would highly recommend to everyone photographing, to bring a monopod or tripod.  We may find ourselves watching a female with her cubs for a while and then suddenly she plops down and starts nursing them.  It is at that moment, that you will fully appreciate the support of a monopod or tripod keeping your camera up and shooting.

     We may be able to borrow or rent you a lens, just ask!  Also, there are reputable companies that rent lens.  I've not used them personally but many of my colleagues over the years have and have had positive experiences.

How much walking will we be doing?

The lodge is equipped to transport people into the field who have difficulty walking long distances. This includes the use of ATV’s with trailers that will transport you for bear viewing, photo excursions and fishing, but it is important to expect that a reasonable amount of walking will be necessary. There are areas where walking can be challenging, such as on the tidal flats and places around the creek which are muddy.

Will we be transported by boat during our stay?

You will have the option of boat trips to bird sanctuaries, coastal explorations and fossil beds, and the boat is necessary for halibut fishing.  The lodge's charter vessels are operated by coast guard licensed captains, and we have a 100% safety record in 29 years of operation.

How Bad are the Insects?

     I'm from Minnesota, and I find that the bugs in Alaska are not terrible throughout June and early July on the coast.    On my first trip to Alaska, I packed major bug protection sprays and never used them!  With that said, you never know if it is a buggy year or not.  The lodge addresses the bug issue with the following thoughts:  

     There are annoying insects throughout Alaska but they are easily managed by a combination of insect repellent, head-nets, or simply ignoring them.  Mosquitoes are more common in early summer while no-see-ums and “white sox” (small gnats) more common later in the summer.  

     The lodge will have a good supply of repellents but you are welcome to bring your own. Alaskan insects do not carry diseases but the bites can result in swelling and itching.

What measures are taken to be sure we are safe from the bears?

The guides are trained to understand bear behavior and know the parameters surrounding safe bear viewing practices. Most of the bears we see are already somewhat acclimated to the presence of humans, and there has never been a serious negative encounter with bears in the lodge's 20-year history of providing bear viewing services. With that said, the bears around the lodge are still free-ranging wild mammals and need to be approached with caution, and the guides will ensure your safety while assessing behavior and possible stress signs of the bears. People react to the close presence of bears very individually, and if you are uncomfortable with the proximity between yourself and the bears, we will accommodate your concerns and make adjustments accordingly.

What if we have dietary restrictions?

The kitchen staff is very sensitive to any special dietary needs. By letting me know well ahead of time (and reminding me again by email 1-2 weeks before your arrival if possible), the lodge is able to accommodate most requests.

Are boots necessary?

Yes. For daily bear viewing/photography in the local area, most people get by fine with knee boots, which they have a large supply of.  Some people, especially photographers, prefer hip or even chest waders. The nearby meadows and tidal flats can be marshy and wet. Boat activities require hip waders, and while they have some in stock, many guests prefer bringing their own. It is best to contact me a short time before arriving in order to know if a correct size is available for you.They are limited in knee and hip boots of size 13 or larger. Hip boots can be purchased at any sporting goods store in Anchorage, Soldotna or Homer.

Are there incidental costs that we may incur?

Are there incidental costs that we may incur? There is a $6 a day per person park user fee (even if you hold a National Park pass) and a sales tax due with your balance. Other optional costs are vacuum sealing any fish you want to retain ($1 a lb), halibut charters at $140 a person (3 minimum), and international cell phone calls ($3 a minute). Gratuities are not included in the charges and are always greatly appreciated.

Is there a chance our arrival or departure will be delayed by weather?

     Because we use chartered small aircraft for transporting you, there is always a chance that bad weather may pre-empt a flight, but it’s unusual and delays are often only a portion of one day. For this reason in addition to the possibility of a domino affect on your travel plans after leaving the lodge, we strongly encourage trip insurance.  In the event weather forces an extra night at the lodge, they charge $100 per person for room and board.

     I would suggest to arrive in Anchorage the day before your scheduled bear trip and plan your return flight home for later in the day or better yet,  the next day after returning from your bear trip.  

     I can help you with suggestions on where to stay in Anchorage.

Is there Internet available?

Yes, they have a satellite dish and you are welcome to bring your own laptop computer. However, they only have limited band-width and it is imperative that you not send photos, stream videos, or access programs that will exceed their band-width allocation. When that happens, the system gets shut down for 2 days and everyone suffers. Emails without photos are fine.

Will my Cell Phone Work?

     Yes, depending on your provider. At the current time the lodge has good luck with Verizon, only fair with AT&T, and Sprint does not work.

     I have AT&T and have found a couple good spots where I can make and receive calls.  Outside of those spots, I can text and post updates on Facebook.

May we bring our own alcohol beverages?

Absolutely. The lodge does not have a full service bar, but you are welcome and encouraged to bring any alcoholic beverages you wish. In the case of large amounts of beer/wine, they may be able to purchase that for you ahead of time and store it at the lodge, if notified at least 1 month prior to your arrival.

Do you offer a choice of places to depart from to reach the Lodge?

Yes. Groups of 3 or more can leave directly from Anchorage and sometimes parties of one or two can also, depending on existing plane schedules. The flight from Soldotna is only 35 minutes and many people enjoying the Kenai Peninsula depart from there. A Soldotna departure usually works best for parties of one or two in addition to larger parties. Homer is available for parties of 3 or more, or two with an additional fee.   I've been coming to Alaska for many years and can make suggestions to help you plan your trip.

Do you have recommendations of places to stay in Soldotna, Anchorage and Homer?

 Yes. I have many recommendations for the Soldotna area.  If you are interested, please let me know.   In Anchorage , the lodge  recommends the Courtyard Marriott (907) 245-0322 or the Holiday Inn Express (907) 248-8848. They, along with several other reasonable motels, are very close to the Lake Hood airstrip (wheel planes) where you will depart from. If you have additional time to spend in Anchorage, there are several luxury hotels downtown including the Captain Cook, Sheraton and Hilton.

Are there laundry facilities available?

Yes, the lodge has a washer and dryer and you can arrange with a housekeeper to have your laundry done, on a gratuity basis.

Can we use a Hairdryer?

Yes, but only when the generator is on. The lodge operates alternately on a direct AC diesel generator current and a solar/battery system. Typically the generator is running between 6 and 10 AM and also between 5 and 11 PM. Hairdryers draw a lot of electricity so please use only during designated generator times or check with staff as to the status of our power grid.

Is there a gift shop?

Yes, they have a small gift shop that includes hats, T-shirts, sweatshirts, thermal mugs and children’s books plus books of poetry by an Alaskan author.

Will we be required to sign any paperwork?

Although they've never had an incident where serious bodily harm has occurred, we will be required to have all parties sign an Acknowledgement of Risk form and a Release of Liability form as required by their insurance company and my attorney.

What type of physical disabilities or medical conditions might create difficulties for me?

You don’t need to be in perfect shape, as the walking is generally over short distances. There are stairs leading to the dining area and we are set up for CPAP users. There is usually a board certified emergency medicine physician on-site who will be happy to answer any medical questions prior to planning your trip.  If you need me to forward any questions or concerns to her, I'd be happy to do so.

Are there hiking opportunities around the lodge?

The lodge sits in a coastal section of Alaska, where there is dense brush and undergrowth making long hiking treks difficult. They do have short hikes available around the premises and longer ones available along the beach and inland along riverbanks.

What is a typical itinerary for an overnight bear viewing trip?

 Your plane usually leaves at 9 AM and you arrive 35 minutes later (from Soldotna or Homer). You are taken to the lodge by ATV, shown your room/cabin, given a short orientation about moving around bears, then taken into the field until a 1 PM lunch. At 2 PM you are transported back into the field to view bears, then returned to the lodge no later than 6:45 PM, in time for a 7 PM dinner. Depending on weather and your interests, we can sometimes continue with bear viewing, with a 10 PM curfew on national park activities. The next morning there is a short window for bear viewing following breakfast at 8 AM, until your departure at approximately 9:30 AM.


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