My up-close-and-personal encounters with Old Sow fresh in my mind, we ride through the wildflower meadow to the mouth of the creek.
Old Sow is fishing up stream. She comes up the creek bank towards us, walks up to the beach vegetation behind us before going to the mouth where she starts fishing again, a fat, beautiful brown bear sow in the blue water. How they catch fish after splashing through the water is inexplicable. My experience with silver salmon is that they are quite spooky after entering fresh water. Any disturbance and they are gone in a flash.
She is fun to watch, and judging by her belly, and her hindquarters that jiggle when she walks, she’s pretty successful at it.
|Note the color of her claws. That, according to Rick, is an indicator of advanced age.|
She's not catching any fish this evening, so off she goes across the meadow to the forest.
Soon, Crimp Ear and her cubs show up. Crimp is studiously fishing, while the cubs—as kids will do—are making all the noise they can as they play and splash in the surf.
Crimp has a look on her face I can’t quite interpret, but I guess it’s something like, “Why can’t those two hold still long enough for me to catch a fish!"
Soon she moves on down the beach, the cubs following. Well, one of them follows.
Rick has us load up. We go back to the creek crossing and wait.
There’s a bald eagle just around the bend and I watch it for a while. It dove at something in the water and as I watch—I can see only its head—it appears to be trying to drag something up onto the beach. Its movements are the same as the eagle I saw along the Kenai River that was dragging a salmon out of the water.
I’d like to go check, but right then Rick says, “If you left anything in the trailers, and you want to keep it, you’d better go get it. Don't leave anything in the trailers. Crimp and the cubs will be coming down the trail soon. ” I realize I don’t have my lavender bag with me. I don’t recall leaving it in the trailer, but I thought I’d better go look.
I get about 50 feet up the trail when Crimp comes out of the narrow band of trees, cubs behind her.
“I think I’ll wait,” I say, turning on my heel and walking back to the group. Later I find I’d left the bag back in the cabin, so there was no danger of losing it to nosy, playful cubs.
I was heading for the red ATV on the right.
|Checking out the river crossing.|
Crimp fishes a bit at the creek crossing, then leaves with her cubs.
It is our custom to have a couple hours off in the afternoon when the bears are less active. I spend that time downloading photos onto the small laptop I have with me, in case I lose a flash card. Inevitably, when I sit outside, no bears appear, but when I’m in the cabin, bear(s) walk through the camp.
|Yes, bears walk right through here. That's my cabin in the center.|
One afternoon I hear some shouting but when I look, there’s nothing going on. Kate comes in the cabin and says that Crimp and the cubs just walked through. “What was all the shouting?” I ask.
“The cubs grabbed the garden hose and one of the staff yelled at it, saying ‘No! We just bought a new one!’” The cub dropped the hose and ran off after its mother.
The next time I passed the hose, sure enough, it was patched with hose clamps.
The last afternoon, I’m again downloading photos and hear a commotion. I rush out and someone says a bear just passed through. I reach a path in time to see it go into come out of Oliver’s cabin, then make a left turn onto a path through the brush.
|The main room in our cabin. There is a bedroom on either side of this.|
A herd of us scurry along an adjacent path as if we’d never seen a bear before. Finally I catch up with the group waiting at an intersecting trail. I look at the spot when the bear will be in the open and the possibility takes my breath. The sun in backlighting a gorgeous patch of magenta fireweed and I instantly grasp what a magnificent photo that could be.
Just as I lift my camera, the bear passes through the narrow opening and I don’t get the shot.
"What a photo that could have been," I say to Ron.
"Yeah, that's what I was set up on," he replies
Despite all the wonderful bear and puffin photos I captured during this trip, the one I missed is the one I will always remember.
|My bed to left, Kate's to right.|
|Through this window, I took the following photo at a little after five in the morning.|