One of my top reasons for visiting Alaska as stated in my last post was to experience all the wildlife that the great state has to offer but bears should really have their own category. Before this summer, I, like many others, was both mystified and terrified when it came to bears. In fact, when we were staying at the marina in Vancouver, I spent a good two hours researching a trail I had planned to hike to find out how frequent bear sightings were, what to do when encountering a bear, and if it was really something I should consider doing in terms of general safety. I went a little overboard considering it’s a trail that thousands climb each summer, but for those interested, the last bear sighting on the Grouse Grind in Vancouver was in 2007 (according to my google skills).
After now having spent all summer in Alaska, bears have become a pretty common occurrence. Because essentially we live in a “mobile home” (that’s my downplay for “private yacht”) we get to stay wherever we can drop an anchor and one of our main criteria for a good anchorage entails prime bear viewing. After a couple months, I’m now comfortable enough around them to get on the kayak and ride alongside while they walk along the shore. We’re good mates, the bears and I.
However, today we had the chance to visit Anan Wildlife Observatory in the Tongass National Park and in order to get to the small viewing area, you have to walk through the woods for about a half mile. While watching them from the water and even walking along the beach with them at the Pack Creek Bear Viewing area is one thing, walking INTO their environment in the woods sounded as good an idea as jumping into a shark tank while on your period (too far?). I couldn’t let myself miss out though, and so I went. Turns out the 5-10 brown and black bears we saw were too busy gorging themselves on salmon (as you will usually find) to even care about our presence. Once again, I got myself all worked up for nothing.
The viewing area itself is camouflaged right long the water where the bears come to feast on salmon, so you are literally within feet of them. As Anan boasts one of the largest pink salmon runs in Southeast Alaska, a number of bears frequent the area for feeding, providing ample opportunities for observing and photographing. Even though the area is safe and the bears have been “habituated” to human presence, you still want to leave the snacks and juiceboxes at home.
Once you’ve spent enough time observing bears, you will come to find that they generally keep to themselves and will leave you be. They are such interesting creatures and I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to learn more about them and witness them in their natural habitat. Plus, bear cubs. Need I say more?
Some of my favorite photos from the afternoon: