My pant legs are as wet as Aki’s fur. I’ve spent the last half hour pushing through rain soaked meadow grass. Aki followed close behind. When I could, I used a bear path. The bear’s wide body crushed a nice swatch through the meadow grass. The bear and we were heading to the Peterson Salt Chuck—a flooded staircase of rock that homecoming salmon used to climb from salt to fresh water.
At the edge of the meadow the bear trail lead us over a forested headland, past a river otter den, and down to the salt chuck. Careful not to step on any of the partially eaten salmon littering the ground, I walk toward splashes on one of the salt chuck pools. Several bald eagles, a coven of ravens, and some watchful gulls stirred during our approach. Three or four chum salmon squirm in the pool. They had had to clear several waterfalls to reach the pool. Now they wait to jump the falls feeding the shallow basin where they stage.
Wanting to photograph one of the salmon in mid-leap, I stand and wait for action. Aki rests on of her rear paws on my soaked boot. She looks behind us, covering my back. When a Stellar’s jay scolds us from a nearby rock, I turn away from the pool. Seconds later, the dorsal fin of one of the salmon cuts the water above the waterfall. I missed it. Resolved to photograph the next attempt, I ignore the efforts of a belted kingfisher to get my attention and the didgeridoo sound of a raven flying just above my head. An eight-pound chum salmon throws himself onto the waterfall, thrashing with his tail, and slumps back into the pool. That will have to do little dog, we don’t want to keep the bears from their lunch. Aki and I climb over an exposed headland and drop onto the beach occupied by a landed raft of mergansers and their three-gull escort. Between the ducks and the woods are fresh tracks of a black bear. Aki follows the tracks into the forest and disappears. But when I catch up she isn’t growling, just smelling the scent left behind by the bear.