Almost half way through our trip, the crews took a “choose your own adventure” approach to our lay day in Wrangell. Our fishermen, Ken and Bill, left early in the morning with Night-N-Gale Charters to attempt the land the big one! They returned victorious that afternoon having bagged both Chinook and Coho salmon. The crew of Grand Adventure invoked the true meaning of a lay day and relaxed by taking care of little things around the boat and moseying around town. Inception’s crew, likewise, walked into town and visited the Nolan Museum to learn more about the local history.
That afternoon, Patos’ crew (Kate, Al, Christina, Will, Paul and Ron) along with Virginia and Barb all piled in Breakaway Adventure’s jet boat and headed up the Stikine River to look for bears at the Anan Bear Observatory. Our guide, Glenn, led us through the Sitka spruce-hemlock forest along the windy boardwalk. Along the way we uncovered evidence of bear everywhere. Dug up skunk cabbage, over there! And over here, a massive five clawed foot print in the grey clay! Glenn, pointing up the hillside, explains that a drainage with bent over plants and the low brush trampled is a bear’s idea of a forest highway. Slowly, we sunk into the sounds and smells of the forest, tuning into the cues and signals of the bears’ home.
After a walk through the forest, our group crested a ridge and arrived at the observatory. From the platform viewers, we could look down at the river below. The observatory also features a photo blind that puts the views right on the rivers bank, and if you are lucky, at eye level of the bears. And lucky we were! Earlier in the day the rangers had had a single brown bear wandering up the river, hunting. When we arrived, we were delighted to find at least six black bears in and around the rushing river. What good luck! Forest Ranger Imes chatted with us about the different personalities and habits of the Anan bears. One young male, named Crack, likes to fish from one particular spot, a crack in the boulders lining the river. Another male hunts along the shore line and then drags his catch up the bank and under the planks of the observatory deck to devour the salmon in peace. Our group watched, enchanted, as a mother methodically, patiently waited to strike and catch one of thousands of salmon running up stream. After the catch, mother and her two roly-poly cubs scampered up the boulders to eat their salmon in a hidden cave. As the afternoon sun broke through the clouds, we sat and watched the secret life of bears unfolded before us.