Eight Fathom Bight Bear

The paddle to Chimney Rock takes up up Port Frederick toward Necka Bay.  The wind builds as we travel to produce small  waves. They present no problem until we approach the spit marking the passage into Necka Bay. We land to survey the passage around the spit, calling out in confident tones to any bear that might be sleeping in the tall grass bordering the beach. When none rises to our voices we hop out of the kayak and find recent bear sign.

The sun breaks out from the clouds to make the beach a warm and inviting place. The captains finds a sunny hollow at the point lined with more Bluebells of Scotland. From here he raises a couple of bars on his cell phone and makes a last call home.  There will be no more cell coverage until the ferry ride from Tenakee Springs to Juneau. While he calls I watch a fat black and yellow bumble bee climb in and out of the flower bells, completely disappearing on each foray into the flower.

After making a quick sketch of Chimney Rock  I join the captain in a survey of the passage into Necka Bay. We could make it in but would have a hard time on the return trip. Then an ebbing tide would be working against the wind to build a nasty little sea. It would be worse at the exposed spit. Saving the bay for the next trip we paddle down Port Frederick to the Forest Service cabin at Eight Fathom Bight. We saw out humpback whale heading up bay he was heading back to Hoonah. We never saw him again.

Wanting to pass through a choke point in the bay before the tide turned we paddle without rest. This flooding tide and tail wind gives us a nice push.  Waiting would mean fighting waves and current produced by the ebbing tide as it pushed through the choke point.

Just past the narrow spot we hear a waterfall and then see where a small stream enters the bay. Here we refill our water jugs and eat lunch washed down with clear stream water. Here also we watch the sun chase off the remaining clouds then sit quietly in the newly delivered warmth.

It’s an easy paddle down back to the Eight Bight Cabin where we will stay the night.  A cloud of white gulls erupts from a nearby stream as we approach the cabin, telling us that the stream holds spawning salmon and probably brown bears to eat them.

After helping to unpack and secure the kayak above the high tide line I put together a fishing rig while the captain heads over to the stream to stretch out on the gravel bank.  A yearling Brown Bear suddenly walks out of the brush to disturb his rest. We are downwind so are able to watch the bear from a respectful distance. From other bear tracks along the stream we know that other larger bruins are fishing the choice spots of the stream. They must have driven this young one here where deeper waters makes for tougher fishing.

The bear manages to display a wide range of emotion with body language as he tries different methods to dig a pink salmon out of the stream. Sometimes he looks like a playful cat with upraised bum and half submerged face. When that doesn’t work he tries batting a fish out of the water with his strong left paw.  Once he looked right at us with his weak eyes.

In time the bear forages a meal and we head back to the cabin for ours.

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