Bears, Bears, Bears

The miserable rainy weather continued and the wind and waves in the ocean were ugly, so we headed northwards in the protection of Peril Strait.  We had a lot of quiet time with all those rainy days, though at one point I dressed in my foulies and went out in the kayak despite the pouring rain.  As we headed north into Chatham Strait the weather started to ease and dry out a bit – some relief!  Pulling into an anchorage one day we remembered that it has a big stream that was probably full of salmon right now… meaning that we were likely to see bears too.  20160815 0737 pavlov bear 39 chase r

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This is the time of the year when the best food is available to the bears, and they have a short time to eat as much as they can before the long winter sets in.  For the bears, a salmon stream is all about survival so we make sure we stay far enough away so we don’t alter the bear’s feeding behavior.

We sat for hours over two days, watching as many as 7 bears feeding in the stream.  Low tide seemed best, with mothers (sows) teaching their cubs to fish or sharing their catch.20160816 0901 pavlov sow 2yr cubs 2 r20160816 0979 pavlov sow 1yr cubs fish 3 rAt one point, a sow with cubs got into a fight with another sow.  The cubs retreated to shore and the two sows stood their ground, growling, baring teeth, and snapping at each other.  I will confess that the growling made my shutter finger shake!20160816 0913 pavlov sow fight 7 r20160815 0700 pavlov bear 26 teeth close rThere was so much action in the stream that it was hard to know where to focus the cameras – the bear running after a fish on the right, the sows fighting in the middle, or the cubs sitting on the shore.  These two cubs are 2nd year cubs, meaning that they were born in February-March of 2015.  20160816 0935 pavlov 2yr cubs sitting funny rWe also saw 1st year or spring cubs, born during hibernation this past winter.  20160816 1053 pavlov 1yr cub close rOne of the days we were watching for a while and the tide had fallen quite a bit during that time.  With so many bears in the stream and the bear pecking order re-sorting itself as various bears came and went, a good-sized bear started moving towards where I was sitting.  She was moving slowly, catching and eating a fish along the way, but she was getting closer.20160815 0875 stella face 2 rI took the photo when she was close enough, just before I had to wave my kayak paddle and talk to her to get her to move off.  She wasn’t threatening in any way, but a bear is a bear.  It seems that I was probably in the way of a path she wanted to take to get to a lower part of the stream, and she was looking to see if she could pass by.  Yes, it took a while for my heart rate to slow down.  I had bear spray at hand in case the situation changed.  People come to that particular spot to view the bears so they are exposed to humans sitting quietly nearby at this time of the year.

Our butts were pretty sore from sitting in the kayak or on rocks for two long days watching the bears, but it was worth every second!


After our adventures in Kalinin Bay we decided that it was time to catch up on some laundry and pick up some fresh groceries, so we headed into Sitka for a few days.  We had a happy surprise there, finding our friends Knut and Gerry on the next dock.  Unhappily, the weather was not the best – gloomy and rainy, sometimes raining hard enough that a few fishermen actually broke out the umbrellas!

Although our main reason for stopping was practical, we always enjoy seeing the signs of Russian culture around town, especially the Orthodox church in the town center.20160807 0264 sitka church towers rWe enjoyed lunches or dinners out – always a treat after weeks of eating nothing but our own cooking, and I was happy to visit the yarn shop to see what’s new (though I resisted buying anything this time).  In between chores we decided to re-visit the National Park Service totem park, talking with a Tlingit lady tanning and sewing with various types of fish skins, talking with a master carver whose designs come to him in dreams, and visiting the carving shed where some young guys were working on a log canoe.20160809 0531 sitka totem carvers rThe Tlingit log canoes are carved from a single log, hollowed out by hand using an adze.  Unfortunately this log developed several cracks, and the carvers were spending a lot of time making plugs to repair them.  When a log canoe like this is completed it’s soaked in salt water, then filled with water and extremely hot rocks to steam the wood.  The sides of the canoe are slowly spread apart to make the canoe much wider, also causing the ends to rise up.  It’s time-consuming and requires a lot of work by a lot of people – in the spirit of cooperation that’s integral to the culture of the tribe.

We enjoy seeing all the different totems, and I like to study the many details in each pole’s design.  20160809 0550 sitka big totem r20160809 0563 sitka totem 9 r20160809 0539 sitka totem 4 r20160809 0545 sitka totem 1 rThe rain held off long enough for us to enjoy the totems and a nice walk through the woods, and we even got to see a little bit of the sunset one evening, looking over the harbor.20160807 0265 sitka cloudy sunset 2 r