Sunday, January 29, 2017

ALASKA! GRIZZLY BEAR WATCHING ON CHICHAGOF ISLAND AND A CRAB LEG FEAST IN JUNEAU

Because of bad weather, we had missed a planned trip to fly out of Homer to Katmai National Park to do some grizzly bear watching. A few days later when our ship docked in Juneau, we booked two seats on a similar trip Princess Cruises offered to Chichagof Island.

The cruise people drove us to Bear Creek Outfitters, where we were fitted with stylish rubber boots and loaded on a float plane--a first for us.

Our Bobcat plane had six seats. We were joined by a second plane, also carrying six people.

We were in the air for about half an hour, and the scenery from our eagle's eye viewpoint could have been footage for a Hollywood movie:




Our plane landed close to shore, but we still had to wade a few steps and were very grateful for our rubber boots:



It was a little unnerving to watch our plane take off, leaving us on an island best known for its grizzly bear population:


Finds like this on the beach didn't make me feel exactly over-confident:

We followed what our guide called "the bear trail" into the forest. In addition to humans, apparently the bears like to eat these red berries that were growing alongside the path. They do look tasty. I myself tried to look as unappetizing as possible.

We walked through the fairly dense forest for about 10 minutes . . . 


. . . until we came to the broad, deceptively silky freshwater bay of Pavlov Harbor:

Pavlov Harbor is fed by a beautiful waterfall:

Our guide set up three folding benches for our group, and we took our seats, waiting for the show we were sure was about to begin on the far side of the river. A light rain was falling, and before long, my boots came in handy yet again as the tide began to rise.

One member of our group had set up a fancy-schmancy camera that he had a difficult time keeping dry, but he kept his telephoto lens trained on the opposite shore:

We waited and waited, and then we waited some more. Our guide reassured us that bears were usually (but not always) sighted at this location, but after about an hour and a quarter of increasing sogginess, we were beginning to feel a bit pessimistic about our odds.

And then suddenly--finally--a large grizzly appeared on the other side of the river. She cruised around for a bit, and then  . . .

. . . she was joined by two cubs that our guide said were in their second summer. They seemed huge--maybe two-thirds the size of their mama:

It was so much fun to watch the cubs play under their mama's watchful care:






Eventually they began to make their way to the falls:


Mama hung back for a while and watched the kids try to catch a fish:

After 10 or 15 minutes of trying, they came back to her empty-pawed.
I imagine she was thinking, Really? Again? Do I have to show you how to feed yourselves EVERY SINGLE DAY? 

She got up and plodded across the rocks and through the water to another spot, the spot our guide had told us earlier is the best spot for fishing. They all three started to watch the stream for salmon, although Mama didn't seem too into it.

Bob had a more powerful lens than I did, and he captured this wonderful family photo:

Then one of the cubs caught a salmon! He was quite selfish and wouldn't really share it with his twin. In fact, the second cub tried snatching a bite, and we could hear the first cub's angry growl from where we were sitting. It was a true National Geographic moment.

We got to watch the little family for just over an hour. When the time was up, we made our way back to the beach to meet our plane.

The beach was littered with huge empty clam shells. I'm guessing they were the detritus of many bear dinners. I picked up a few to take home, and they are now on the coffee table in our living room, a nice reminder of a wonderful day.

Hey, what is that in the upper left-hand corner?

Yeah, that's when I realized our guide was prepared for anything:

We flew back to Juneau:



Our ship was set to embark at 3:30. Bob had the shuttle drivwer drop us off at Tracy's King Crab shack at around 2:30. It was the one place he had his heart (and his stomach) set on visiting in Juneau.

Note the beautiful legs on the sexy sailor:



The restaurant's website notes:

Our King Crab is the "Deadliest Catch" from the Bristol Bay and Norton Sound. Our  Alaskan Red King Crab is caught primarily during the months of October through January.  Each crab is immediately flash frozen and packaged by the processors to keep it fresh.  Throughout the season we have opportunities to get local (king and dungeness)  and fresh Norton Sound crab (snow and king)  from the boats.  Ask our crabby crew about our specials.

Bob knew exactly what he wanted: the large crab bucket with one Alaskan king crab claw and 5-6 legs. It was really, really good, but it was also really, really expensive.

I had to include this random picture because it seemed WAY out of place in Alaska but strangely fitting (the snowy white flowers) at the same time:

We managed to make it back to the ship with a few minutes to spare.

Coming up: Anan Bay: The best Bear Experience of the whole trip 

3 comments:

  1. Both highlights for me on our trip to Alaska. Love, loved, loved seeing the brown bears and the Alaskan king crab was at the top of my culinary want-to-have list. A very good day.

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  2. Wow-such great photos of another Excellent Bob and Judy Adventure! Fun to see what Grizzlies look like when romping around in the wilds. Yummy looking crab legs, too!

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  3. What an amazing day! The scenery can't be beat, and seeing bears in action is thrilling. Those king crabs looked pretty delicious to me!

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