Ordinarily, this post would be for my monthly photo challenge, but that didn’t seem too popular, so I’m tabling that for now. Perhaps I’ll revive that sometime later. In the meantime, you get more bears!
In fact, this is the last daily installment of my grand backpacking adventure through the Alaskan bush.
Our previous day was somewhat rainy, but it brought us to within a mile of our final pick-up spot. The end was near!
We began the day with more bears on the beach.
And as we were packing up our tents, a juvenile bald eagle wandered into our camp. He stuck around for so long, just posing for our big lenses and letting us get quite close. I didn’t even recognize it as a bald eagle, as I’ve never seen one colored so. All those beautiful details!
We finally left camp to head to the main attraction. After 5 days, we had finally arrived at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge – where we would find most of our bears.
We got some pointers on the local bears, and we were ready for prime time. Unfortunately, we were too early for the primary salmon run (that was a bit late due to variances in the seasons), but we contented ourselves with spring cubs.
We were informed two main families awaited us in the sedge grass. A brown mother and her two juvenile cubs were a bit more docile, while the blonde mother – with her two much-younger, adorable balls of fluff – had shown more aggression in protecting her young.
All throughout our trip, we took adequate precautions to not be the next stupid photographers who got eaten by bears. Don’t camp on game trails. Store all food and anything with any scent (deodorant, toothpaste, etc.) at least a football field away from camp. Make noise while walking so as to not surprise a bear. Always carry bear spray. Never travel alone. Don’t ever get too close.
We had to be especially on-guard with these mothers. If we saw any signs one was about to charge, we’d be ready, but we preferred it never came to that.
The first family took notice of us but paid us no mind. The cubs stuck close to their mother as our machine-gun shutters snapped away.
And the blonde was equally tolerant. When we first came around the bend, her two tiny cubs were barely more than a slight fuzz mound in the grass, one sleeping atop the other. Mom was never far, keeping a close eye on her young.
Our timing was perfect, as they roused shortly after we arrived (click-click-click), yawned (click-click-click-click-click-click), and decided it was time for breakfast. They stumbled their way over to mom and pushed her over to nurse. Like the bears drinking from the river, our leader hadn’t photographed cubs nursing before; it was a special encounter.
After refueling, mom became a playground. But that didn’t last long; she wouldn’t put up with that (much like our own mothers, eh?).
Our SD cards sated, we left the field to return to the beach. There were more bears awaiting us, already the target of one of the lodge groups. I couldn’t believe how close the bears came to their group!
We had some time to kill before our planned bush plane rendezvous, so we continued down the beach to the next river – the Johnson River. This proved to truly be the end of the line, as we wouldn’t be able to cross this wide expanse without first going inland several miles.
We reflected on our journey and assessed our digital hauls. Personally, I was quite pleased! While I didn’t get any of the classic shots of bears snapping at salmon, those cubs made my day. Besides, that just gives me something else to look forward to on my next trip!
We had come a long way, and it was truly the adventure of a lifetime. I’ll definitely do it again – it’s only a matter of time. And I have no doubt it will be just as exciting.
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