Today we motor south towards Ketchikan. It is amazing that we are only a day or three away from being out of AK. It seemed like we had so much time. It will take us three plus weeks to get home and we need to go back into Seattle for some help with our Single sideband radio. So we move ever southward with wonderful memories of Alaska but with high hopes for getting out of the rain forest and into some summer weather.
Yesterday was a wonderful day. We made a mid day stop at the AnAn bear observatory south of Wrangell. We almost didn't go but it was one of the highlights of the whole trip for me and had a wonderful bonus too when we met a great couple ,Peter and Cathie on Bee Weems . They are the owners of the Weems and Plath Company. Famous for barometers and clocks and navigation equipment along with all of that beautiful brass boat jewelry -clocks, lamps plaques etc.)
We are not big pre planners and the bear observatory requires a permit to enter from 7/3 through 8/25. We just squeaked by. We wondered too though if we were too early to see any bears. We were not disappointed as the "pinks" are already running so the bears are in the creek to feed. We got there and anchored out to take our dingy in. It is strongly advised that you leave someone on board as an anchor watch but the weather was very settled so we decided to brave leaving Island Bound alone and took the dingy in. We didn't have any problem getting anchored but somehow I managed to get the anchor tangled up first on a forward cleat and my right thumb and then the chain jumped the wildcat on the windless and my fix for that caught a couple of the fingers on my left hand.
It is a 1/2 mile walk (it seemed more like a mile) through the forest along wet boardwalk to the observatory on a river. I slipped and fell twice on my way in and again twice on my way out. All four times I wiped out pretty good and this morning between the klutzy falls and my mangled fingers from anchoring I am black and blue and feel like i got hit by a truck. Any of you who dot know this about me I am a klutz. Always have been and suppose I always will be. If I can drop it or fall over it or tangle up in it I will, twice at least. My big rubber boots make it worse. Anyway, so we took the dingy in and left it on the beach with the anchor pulled on shore and walked in through the woods. There is abundant evidence of bears all along the way. I carried a couple of my Grandma's brass bells from Spain on a string around my neck. Bill said the bears will come and eat me just because of how obnoxious i sound!)
Once at the observatory you enter an enclosed area that houses a platform overlooking the river with steps down into a blind where you can see the bears right at the waters edge. When we got there there were half a dozen people already there. I could tell they were looking at something but as we approached the enclosure I couldn't see anything moving. Then the crowd pointed behind us and we turned to see a black bear (yearling?) behind us on the trail. The bear was just walking along the fence line and sniffing. Wondering who had been eating the pizza i think. I was startled to see him so close. Truly about ten feet away. Then someone in the crowd pointed out that the gate wasn't closed. The the bear could have walked right in and said hello. The fence around the observation platform is only about 3 1/2 or 4 feet tall and it is right in the middle of a forest so there are boulders and tree roots and paths that curve about. The bears I am sure would have no problem getting over the fence. At one place he stepped onto a boulder and would only have had to step over and down and he would have been right inside with us.
After that we settled in to watch the bears. Several came and went, all walking along the path we had to take to get back to the boat and along the shoreline and into the river to fish. It was a wonderful experience to watch the bears in their natural home doing what they do to be bears. We got some great pictures and video footage of the bears catching fish and all the while we were talking with Peter and Cathie about there trip and ours. They are on their way north and we got talking about places to go and things to do. They walked with us back to our dingys' (they had come in right after us and also left their skiffs at the beach.) It was incredibly lucky on our part that they did because the tide had come in and our skiff was a deep wade away off the beach. Peter and Cathie had left their skiff on the top of a rock, in fact not even tied down, when they returned it was "just" afloat and would have been on its way to Wrangell if we had taken too much longer gawking at the bears. Thankfully they were able to retrieved their skiff and went out and drug our anchor up and back to us. It would have been a very cold end to the bears if we had not made their acquaintance.
Also Peter and Cathie shared with us the place they had spent their last night at, a place a friend had shared with them. A secret place complete with coordinates for a good prawn spot. It had started to rain on our walk back from the bears and by the time i drug myself out of the mud again and we had gotten out dinghy and returned to IB it was pouring pretty steady. We had another three hours in the cold and wet to the secret spot but it was worth it. We dropped the prawn trap on the way in and the crab trap right before we anchored then spent a short evening drying out. After a good nights sleep we pulled anchor and retrieved the crab and shrimp pots. 5 keeper dungeness-all male -and 44 huge spot prawns. Feast!