The day dawned with a steady drizzle and temperatures in the 40º’s. Once again we put on everything we brought and boarded the skiff. One bear was fishing fairly near the shore. After studying the water looking for salmon, he began bounding around splashing. All of a sudden a fish appeared between his paws. He sat with it between his legs and stripped the skin away. Yum, yum. More fishing ensued with no results. His attention turned inland and he moseyed away from us eating grass. Eventually we lost sight of him altogether.
We waited for a while getting colder and wetter. The guide decided to lead us inland, where the bear might have gone. There was no bear. We got colder and wetter. We forded a few streams to change location. The current was strong in some of them and the rocks slippery with moss and algae. The guide noticed an eagle sitting on a sea stack about half a mile away and we worked our way toward it. The sand bars were slippery and mucky and at one point one of the men got stuck. The mud almost reached the stop of his thigh high boots, but as he rocked and pivoted, he eventually worked his way loose.
After doing this job for 23 years, the guide has a good sense of bear behavior and body language. He said we could have followed the bear, but it is much wiser to wait for the bear to come to us. This is more likely to happen when we are with someone who knows where the bears like to hang out. As we waited for a bear to appear and do something interesting he told us story after story of his bear experiences over all those year. In a few weeks he is going to guide a camera team from the BBC, who will be here to film part 2 of a documentary that we will be able to see on the Discovery channel next fall. If he’s good enough for the BBC, he’s good enough for us.
As we photographed the eagle, the bear suddenly reappeared behind us munching on grassy mounds almost as tall as he was. It would be easy to hike through the grass and surprise a bear, whose reaction could be unpleasant. He was within a good camera range for me, but the horizontal rain made the lens on both my cameras so wet, I finally gave up and put them away. The guide talked to him in calm tones, but I wondered if his calm voice was really intended for us. He told us not to move or make any sudden moves. The bear ate his way toward us, eventually standing about six feet away from Ken. I was so sorry my camera was put away, but we were not to make any moves with him so nearby. Finally the guide took a step forward and the bear moved on just as he hoped he would. We all started breathing once again.
Once again the bad weather has been frustrating. Even if we wear enough clothing to stay warm and dry, I can’t take decent photographs with water droplets on the lens.