It's April Fools Day! What have you got up your sleeve? Do you have a prank you are famous for? With the Covid - 19 Virus in our midst, I'm sure we are hoping for a benign April fool's joke to lighten our burden and make us laugh. As I post this, I just received a prank from my 9-year-old grandson who posted a picture of himself with "blood" all over his knee from a bicycle fall. After I sympathized with him over his injuries, he told me it was ketchup! Hahaha! He got me!


 I didn't get to post a March blog what with all the lifestyle changes and confusion this virus has wrought. One of my New Year's resolutions was to faithfully post every month - oh well. So much for that!


How are things going in your neck of the woods? Are you in quarantine? Under lockdown? I'm currently hiding out in the panhandle of Pensacola, FL, my hometown. My mother passed away just as the Coronavirus began to impact our country. We did have a small funeral service for her, and I must tell you it felt very strange. Being from the south, we are used to hugging, kissing, embracing and handshaking in times of happiness and in times of sadness. Unfortunately, I had to insist upon social distancing with limited elbow bumps for the safety of my dad who is 93 years old, God bless him, and for others in our midst who are immunosuppressed for various reasons.


Our gathering was the last service at our church before they shut the doors. The ladies of the church wanted to provide a luncheon after the service for our family and any attendees of the funeral. Initially, that seemed like a lovely option in honor of my mom, but shortly before the funeral, as the Coronavirus cases began to appear, we decided that a large gathering would be indiscrete. Instead, we opted for a small family dinner at a local restaurant. Our reservation was one of the last ones as the very next day restrictions mandated take-out/delivery only. 


We are living through strange and frightening times for sure with these viruses popping up. I'm afraid that if we don't change our lifestyles here on earth, we are setting ourselves up for more tragedy.


I believe that this is Mother Nature's way of telling us she has had enough and needs respite. And you know what? She is achieving her goal. On the positive side of things, because most of the world has been affected by this virus, we have a world economy that has been almost entirely shut down, BUT our planet is getting a breather.


Travelers are staying home, parks are closed, and industries are temporarily shuttered thereby leading to less pollution of our entire planet. Think about it...Mother Earth is gaining a well-deserved nap. Fewer boats and ships on the water, less factory pollution being poured into our rivers, oceans, and skies. Not as many cars on the road resulting in fewer emissions. Our air has less smog, our waters are less cloudy. And I'm sure the animals out there are rejoicing! They have their forests and habitats back to themselves for a little bit of peace and quiet.


KATMAI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE

Below are some photos from a previous trip to Katmai National Park in Alaska. We were supposed to visit the park again this summer, but it's not looking good. We may have to put our plans on hold for next year.


Katmai is well known for its fishing bears at Brooks Falls. It's not an easy place to get to - one either has to arrive by floatplane or by boat. Most people choose air transportation. If you want to stay longer than a day, be prepared to camp and make your reservation at least a year in advance. Check out this link for making reservations: https://www.nps.gov/katm/planyourvisit/lodging.htm


Campsites, as well as the cabins, are limited. Once you arrive, whether you stay for a few hours or for the afternoon, you must first attend an orientation given by a park ranger. Katmai is full of bears, and you will be walking in their midst. These bears are well-fed on the salmon they catch at the falls, so you are not the entreĆ© they desire - but you do have to learn how to coexist in their territory. For more information about Katmai National Park and Preserve click on this link: https://www.nps.gov/katm/index.htm 


After the orientation, you must store all your food items in a locked room behind a bear-proof fence. No one is allowed to take any food items whatsoever with them on the trail. No chewing gum, no breath mints...no beverages....nada...nothing. By adhering to these strict guidelines, the bears do not associate food with humans, therefore they have no interest in you.


If you brought your lunch with you, you are free to sit down at a picnic table inside the secure, fenced area to eat either before you hike to the falls or after you return. Everyone is on their own. Brooks Falls is about a mile or so down a well-marked gravel path. Don't be surprised if you find a bear walking, possibly running down the same path you are on. They like a well-groomed trail just like we do.


To my knowledge, there have been no intentional incidents between bears and humans in the area, however, remain vigilant. If you hear thundering footsteps, don't think unicorns, think bears and step out of their way or they might run you over while chasing each other. For many young bears, this is their form of play, and you just might be their collateral damage.


The park service built a very nice, elevated boardwalk leading up to the falls to protect animals and humans alike. There is a large platform at the lower falls where one can observe the antics of the wildlife in the river while you wait your turn for space at the upper falls.  When you reach the lower falls, be sure to sign in with the park ranger. Depending upon how many people are waiting, you may have to entertain yourself for an hour or more before your name is called.


Visits to the upper falls last for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, again depending upon the population. Just an FYI - when the upper platform becomes crowded in peak season, tripods may or may not be allowed, but you won't regret waiting your turn to see these bears fish. It is quite the experience and often times even a cell phone is close enough for a decent picture. I can't think of any other place where you will be this close to grizzly bears.








VIDEO: Catching salmon at the top of Brooks Falls

VIDEO: Catching salmon at the top of Brooks Falls

Here are a few more positive notes from these mandatory restrictions we are all facing. I've noticed that with people staying home, there is a little more feeling of community in the air. People are outside working in their yards, walking their dogs, biking with the kids, and grilling out. The sounds, the images, and the smells remind me of a simpler time when I was growing up. These reflections are reminiscent of my childhood which I had completely forgotten until now. 


Please know that these good things can never outweigh the burden of losing people to this pandemic. As a retired R.N., I understand the gravity, the enormous task our front line healthcare workers are facing, and I'm afraid for them and afraid for all of us.


Most of us will get through this with a few bruises possibly to our physical health or at the very least to our retirement funds, but I hope and pray we all stay safe and healthy. For now, we make the best of our new normal, but in time we shall return to our old normal, but maybe with a different set of values contributing to better health for our planet. 

Comments? I'd love to hear from you.

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