At Meyers Chuck the wind is calm at 4:30A when I start the coffee and we listen to the marine forecast. Looks good to go back into Clarence Strait early to then turn to starboard into Ernest Sound, but the current against us is too strong for efficiency. Skippers agree that 9:30 would be better, and our intended destination is an anchorage at Thoms Place on the southern end of Wrangle Island .
Jim decides to go, so Ray and Herb release his lines and give him a push off the dock.
At 8:10 we cast off our lines, intending to fight the current rather than the later winds, and we encounter ocean swells soon after entering Clarence Strait. Two foot waves crash against the rocky shore.
Thirty minutes later we see several dolphins dancing around the boat – on both sides of the boat they dive down and come up to the surface just enough for us to see their markings, but do not jump out of the water. None of my photos are clear.
Seas settle down west of Westerly Island and we cruise lazily onward.
Always watching for other boat traffic, we see one coming toward us from our starboard as we head for Thom Bay. What a wonderful surprise to hear Russ on R-27 Traveler call on 16 to tell us they have us in sight, and we switch to 69. Herb alerts Ray to switch. Our boats drift toward each other and get close enough to have a four way conversation.
Russ and Toni have just come from the Bear Sanctuary Observation Deck at Anan Bay. The season is not open yet; however, the pinks are running and the black bears are hungry! Toni says the Rangers told them to anchor near their float, dinghy around the bend to the trail head and walk the sturdy boardwalk half a mile to the viewing deck.
They tell us they stayed two hours, seeing six bears – and the bonus is today it’s FREE. During the season the procedure is to get a permit in advance at a cost of $10 for the pass and $6 for a reservation. (www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass/).
This sounds too exciting to miss, and Toni says it is a chance of a lifetime. Actually, I think it will be anticlimactic after the thrill of seeing her and Russ! As we say Goodbye and start to resume our journey, I take no more photos, as Toni and I are too busy throwing hugs and kisses! It has been a long couple of years since we have seen them.
Skipper revises his plotted course and heads to Anan Bay. It is flat calm as we cruise the northwest side of Deer Island and approach the US Forest Service Ranger station. Three Rangers come out on deck to greet us and we inquire about going to see the bears. “Sure,” one says, “you can anchor near the crab buoys and dinghy around the bend to the trail head. Be sure to make a lot of noise as you follow the path.”
|US Forest Service Ranger Station|
We tie the painter to a tree by the Information Stand and begin our half mile walk to the viewing platform. As Ray, Herb and I walk the boardwalk, Ray says that three have gone before us: Anne Cox, Russ and Toni – and we make six! There is so much lush vegetation, fallen trees of decades ago, moss, critter holes,-- evidence of nature's taking its course in the wild -- but I dare not stop for many photos or these guys will leave me for bear bait! It is a fast, noisy hike as the boardwalk steps us up hills and down hills. I hurry to keep up.
|Ray sees evidence of bears here!|
Finally we arrive with heightened anticipation to see the black bears fishing for salmon. I am not sure how many we see, as they come and go, but at least three different ones delight us in the space of minutes apart. As the salmon jump or swim up the falls to spawn, the bears grab one in their mouth, scurry off to their den and devour it in seconds. Then back to fish for another. It is so cool to see them stick their necks out to catch a fish, miss it and try again. Ray takes a video on his phone and I can’t wait to see it.
|Fish in Mouth|
A raven watches and waits.
I zoom in to get a glimpse of the many salmon swimming in the pool at the base of the falls.
Several other small groups of tourists arrive and tell us of their previous adventures here.
In the lower right a bear is searching for the best way to get down the rocks to dinner.
Another has finished his meal and comes out for more salmon, slowly making his way down to the pool teeming with fish.
This one considers the best way to get down and later gets back up the hill and walks the log to the lower rocks.
"I see one!"
"I'll quickly take him to my den to eat in privacy and safety from other bears."
Of particular interest is the small bear who seems at times to be disinterested, but actually is unsure of how to get down the rocks to the water. He ambles along and finally makes it. He is thinner, so is probably just learning how to fish.
Got one! Now to shake the water off as I scurry up to my den!
He says, "Oh, that was so good," as he licks his lips.
The eagles watch their chance, but I do not see one fishing yet.
The viewing platform has an outer deck, an inside room with viewing windows plus a canvas covered stairway leading down to the water’s edge. Oh, up close and personal. The Rangers come in on their holiday off and bring chairs for us. We take a few photos from this area, and reluctantly leave to continue the cruise to our home for the night.
I jokingly tell Herb that we can stop scanning the shorelines for bears now, as we have seen bears!
Ray took the following photos of our return to Willie's Tug.
Russ and Toni had also told us they anchored in Berg Bay last night and we head north through Blake Channel, arriving at 7P. We read in the guidebook that crabbing is great here, and see many, many trap buoys about. There is a US Forest Service cabin with some kayakers out front around a campfire. They invite us to tie up to their float, since they aren’t using it. What a deal. Willie’s Tug takes one side and just fits along it, and Nudibranch takes the other. Lillie lounges on her rug on the deck.
This place is beautiful with some of the vegetation appearing like soft carpet. Herb and Ray drop their crab traps night off the end of the float.
It is a great day. We finally see bears!
|At Bear Santuary Observation Deck, Anan Bay|
and of Walldog, Willie and Jake
Saturday, July 4, 2015