On a bear hunt at Icy Strait Point, Alaska

Leaving Vancouver we travelled through Sunday night and the next day.  Reaching Icy Straight Point about 2.30pm on Tuesday.The area Icy Stait Point on the Chichagof Island is owned by the Huna people. They  have a strong sense of culture and community.  They believe in looking after the ecology of their island so that it can be preserved for future generations.

Our cruise ship the Celebrity Century was too large to dock at the pier, so we had to tender  a short ferry ride to the landing pier at Hoonah Trading Post. I had chosen a field excursion, searching for bear and wildlife in the Spasski River Valley and bear search. I should have realised that a bear SEARCH was not going to find any bears.

When we left the trading post to board our bus, it took me back to my school days, when the old school bus with rattling windows, squeaky brakes and grinding gears, would pick us up at the end of the farm and chugged its way into town to school.We had a twenty minute ride to the Spasski River Valley. We visited a sink hole, which can swallow animals, humans, and even vehicles if parked in the wrong spot.  The area that was home to the sink holes , was like a boggy marsh, with stunted, struggling trees, pools of greasy water which our guide pointed out was caused by decomposing vegetation. Intermittently he would speak into his two way radio, indicating that his co-tour  guide had spotted a bear in another area !!!! After another ten minutes of walking we came across the Spassky River.

The Huna people have erected viewing platforms and this particular platform was well hidden in the trees and undergrowth.  We didn’t see any bears, but a beautiful bald eagle decided to perform for us and was gliding over the river, obviously looking for salmon, which our guide said this year they were very scarce and should have been “running”, but for reasons unknown were nowhere to be found.The river was very shallow, with the crystal clear water trickling over huge round pebbles.  We could see fish jumping every now and again, but not much sign of salmon.  We had two more viewing  platforms, each about a ten minute walk apart. Each time we all watched intently  and were told that yesterday a tour guide saw a big grizzly bear on the path “just over there”.The bald eagle performed again for us and perched himself in a beautiful large Douglas Fir, long enough for those of us with long lens’ to capture him in all his glory.

The darting dragonfly and his mate were too fast for me. He wouldn’t stop and rest on the bracken ferns and undergrowth while I a took a photo, so all I had was a memory. The bus trip back told us of bear encounters, which we didn’t have and delivered us to the trading post, where we were enticed by local hand made quilts,  beautiful artwork of local scenes and totem poles, animals carved from timber,  smoked salmon in vacuum sealed packages, fresh salmon in cans,  and jewellery of jade, haematite and fur hats in the shape of wolves, bears and fish.

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