June 23, 2016
The last few days have been sunny and something approaching hot in Cordova, and the town has sprung to life to take advantage of the good weather. The harbor is humming with the busy sounds of fishermen getting the seine fleet ready to fish, and everywhere you look grease and paint splattered crews are repairing nets, splicing new rigging, mending nets, and tuning up engines.
The crew of Deception has been hard at work as well, and were are happy to welcome aboard our guests for leg three! After yesterday’s orientation meeting and individual check-outs were are all chomping at the bit to get out and explore, and we were happy to steam out past the breakwater this morning and turn north past the salmon processing plants the hum around the clock preparing sockeye and chum salmon for market.
Steller’s sea lions snooze on the green and red buoys that mark the channel through Orca Inlet’s many shoals and they snort and raise a flipper in salute as we cruise by. Around the point from Cordova’s hustle and bustle we find ourselves totally alone, seeing only two other boats for the rest of the day.
Beartrap Bay is a narrow cleft amongst the mountains near the head of Port Gravina, which is a broad mouthed bay at Prince William Sound’s eastern end. Steep forested slopes interspersed with yellow-green boggy meadows rise s to the rocky treeline where meltwater flows from late season snowfields and falls from the heights in white torrents. Clouds have begun to cling to the mountaintops as we set out in the dinghies to explore the small coves and stream inlets that carry on up the valley behind the anchorage. A sizable stream flows into the bay from the northeast, and we carefully motor through clear water up its broad curves, where great schools of chum salmon dart across the gravel bars, starting their long and vulnerable journey upstream towards their spawning grounds. The eagles and gulls are well aware of the opportunity the salmon present and line up along the banks, rising in squabbling choruses around any bird lucky enough to snag a fish.
We are drifting in the shallows watching the show when the bear first appears. He is a young brown bear who trots loosely through the tall grass along the bank and then drops splashing into the water, failing and lunging at the salmon which dart easily from his grasp. He is a young bear and still has not learned the best way for a bear to fish; by feel, standing patiently in roiling whitewater with extended paws and hair-trigger reflexes. He hustles back and forth through rocky shallows for a few minutes before turning empty-handed and hungry to retreat into the forest, perhaps having learned something.
We continue on, clambering over a mossy forested slope to the base of a thundering waterfall before returning to the boats for an entertaining happy hour aboard Deception as the clouds which have hung all day on the mountain peaks roll slowly down the hillsides and envelop us in an easy grey twilight.