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met our new "Alaska Discovery" tour group the night before we
left Juneau. The next morning we all drove to the airport (there is a
body of water that is adjacent the runway where all of the floatplanes
are docked) and hopped on two floatplanes
(twin Beech and a DeHavoline Beaver). We flew about 50 miles southwest
to a spot near Staunch Point, at the mouth of Windfall Harbor on Admiralty
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DeHavoline Beaver on floats
Peggy waiting for the Twin Beech to come in.
made camp near Staunch Point. There were two mink that shared our campsite
the next 4 days and didn't seem to be even slightly concerned about us being
there. They often walked right through camp only 5 to 8 feet away. Occasionally
they would chatter with each other as they playfully wrestled and tumbled
near the edge of camp. A couple of days we saw a humpback whale in Windfall
Harbor, once quite close. Our guides were surprised because they had never
seen a humpback in those waters before.
Pieter the Dutchman.
from viewing tower.
Admiralty Island, where
we camped, has the heaviest population of bear of any place in the
world. This one island has 2,400 bears. More than all of the lower
48 states combined!
The second day we paddled
over to Pack Creek Bear Sanctuary. Each day only 24 people are issued
permits to enter this restricted area. The day we were there only
19 people arrived and most were only there 3-4 hours. We unloaded
our day supplies and placed them in bear proof, underground, steel
lockers. We then attached the kayaks to a pulley system and tied
them offshore to a buoy.
Within 5 minutes we saw our first Alaskan
Brown Bear. He was fishing for salmon in the mouth of the creek but was
still a long way away (probably 50 to 80 yards). We hiked a short distance
to a gravel viewing area that over looked the mouth of the creek, kind of
a delta area. It was exciting, there was nothing between the bears and us
and within the next couple of hours we saw 7 bears. Including a sow with
a spring cub, another sow with 2 second year cubs. The ranger said the largest
bear we were watching was probably about 850 pounds. A young adult bear
(about 550 pounds) got chased away by the bigger bear and ran straight towards
us. At one point he was probably only 10 or 15 feet away from us. Exciting!
After a few hours on the delta we hiked back to the anti-bear lockers and
we hiked about a mile over a small ridge to a 20 foot tall viewing
tower located up stream near a wide spot in the creek in the middle
of a densely wooded forest. We didn't see anything for at least an
hour until our first bear arrived and fished for a while. Eventually
we saw 5 adult bears from the tower. Most came within 5 feet and we
watched them interact with each other (chase some away) and catch
and eat salmon. The stream was almost solid pink and chum salmon in
spots. The salmon were packed in like cordwood. When it came time
for us to leave we were detained for about 45 minutes. The tower was
surrounded by bears, including the trail out. Since we were over due
at the ranger checkpoint we finally decided to just make a lot of
noise and make an organized departure. It was very exhilarating.
All total we were at
Pack Creek 9 hours. On
our mile and a half kayak back to camp we saw another sow with a
cub on the beach. That brought our total to 14 bears in one day.
That night we saw the Northern Lights. We had an exceptional day!
The next couple of days
we kayaked in and around Windfall Harbor and up past Swan Island
to Swan Point on the other side of Pack Creek. Our last day was
drizzly and low overcast clouds but the floatplanes arrive right
on schedule to pick us up. We found out later, that because of the
weather, our planes were the only planes to get in and out of the
Pack Creek area all day. We were lucky.
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