Buck got us up and out the door by 6am. The days are getting shorter and the light was still too low for photography. The fact that a thick cloud cover returned didn’t help things either. The plan was to skiff into the river, but we missed high tide and got off in the middle stranded in a slough. It wasn’t dangerous; it was just a matter of waiting for the water to go down enough so we could wade out. There was an occasional bear here and there, but if the salmon were running the bears couldn’t find them. We hiked around looking for a more promising spot, passing numerous deep depressions in the earth and vegetation. Tell tale brown tufts of hair indicated that these were bear beds. Some were quite close together - kind of a bear condo.
Eventually we worked our way back to the shore where a family of four fished together. The mom and her teenage off spring pounced on things together. Every so often she growled at them big time. It was as if she was saying, “Why don’t you kids go fish by yourselves and leave me alone? I’ve already taught you everything you need to know.”
A cold wind blew into our faces and it began to rain. The guide needed to return to the boat and we took advantage of this transfer to hitch a ride back to the warmth and dryness of Cathy’s galley.
Cathy is the cook on board. There is nowhere else for us to sit, but her galley table so we’ve had plenty of opportunity to hang out, get to know her, and watch her in action. In a kitchen about the size of our motorhome she feeds 8 - 10 people lavish meals cooked from scratch three times a day supplemented with snacks whenever we happen by. If the pilot thought we were overweight when he brought us here, he’ll be even more unhappy when it’s time for us to leave. We done a lot of marching around in the sloughs, beaches and river beds, but Cathy has made sure we’ve replaced every calorie burned and then some. We’ve had scallops, halibut, giant shrimp, king salmon, and rock fish for dinner so far. Lunch is a sandwich thick enough to break your foot if you drop it and a hearty soup. Ken put in a request for chocolate chip cookies. We got back from a bear viewing and there they were hot off the cookie sheet. Cathy lives in Montana, her husband whom she seems quite fond of is a pilot in El Paso, and she has cooked here seasonally for the last five years. We never see her get off the boat, but she gets to enjoy our tales and photos every day as we gather in her galley.
Every day we’ve watched three - four planes land mid morning bringing a tour group to Katmai for a day trip. They are not nearly as well equipped as we are and often cannot get as close to the bears. And most significantly, after a few hours they have to fly out again. We admire the skill of their pilots, landing on small strips of beach that were covered by the waves a few hours before. It’s nice when they leave again and we have the place to ourselves.
I also should describe the medieval torture devices we wear every time we leave the boat - hip high rubber boots. My long winter underwear, blue jeans and rain pants bunch up above my ankles beneath the boots and cut into my shins with every step I take. They are absolutely essential for all the wading we do, but after we take them off, all those pants layers are damp anyway from the inside out. We are in the deepest water getting in and out of the skiff and I got caught by a wave that came in over the top and spent an hour drying two pairs of socks and two pairs of pants with my hair dryer. The boots are heavy and don’t bend and don’t seem to have enough tread to give me a stable footing in the muck. In short I look forward to never having to put them on again.