Friday, July 4, 2014

Two Grizzlies, One Beach

Where are the bear cubs hiding this year? We haven’t seen one yet in any of the usual spots, neither black bear nor grizzly bear cubs. Bear sightings in general were scarce during our trip north, but that could mean we weren’t alert enough, or in the right place at the right time. Ah, location, location… etc. Finally we've anchored in a bay with at least three grizzlies that wander the shoreline almost daily to graze on the lush grasses. 

The same grassy meadows are frequented by five black-tailed deer, but never when the bear are dining. Deer are herd animals, often appearing in a group, but the several wandering grizzlies are definite loners. Each bear cautiously sniffs the air, looks over his/her shoulder frequently and displays an overall alertness while feeding. Interesting that they don’t seem to mind passing skiffs, though they are obviously aware of human presence.  

One afternoon two grizzlies appeared on the same side of the bay, grazing in adjacent coves, separated by a rocky promontory, and each out of sight of the other bear. Neither bear was aware of the other’s presence for the longest time, and then things changed. The larger bear, one we call The Boss, raised his nose and hurried uphill to shelter under overhanging tree branches, all the while sniffing and turning his head side to side.

The other bear, called Buffalo Bear because of his distinctive shape, looked nervous, but not nervous enough to quit feeding. Perhaps alerted by some noise, this bear slowly moved farther along the shore, repeatedly looking over his shoulder after each mouthful of grass.

Then The Boss rounded the point, increasing speed and racing up the rocks as he spotted the other bear. Buffalo Bear sprinted for cover, crashing through low brush and heading into the dense forest beyond. Both grizzlies disappeared from sight, but considerable growling and roaring came from the woods. And then all was quiet. No more bear, no more noise, and no idea how it all ended. We haven’t seen either bear in the two days since that encounter.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Evening Grizzly Show

Polite conversation typically involves steady eye contact between participants… except when you’re at anchor in an active wildlife area. Then it is (or should be) accepted practice to frequently scan the water and shore for signs of activity. Last night, gazing only into each other’s eyes, we might have missed this gorgeous grizzly work his way along the shore. He moved quickly from one grassy patch to the next, pausing occasionally along the way to poke around rocks uncovered by the falling tide. Looking for crab perhaps? A beaten-down path above the high tide line gave evidence of frequent travel over the same route. Grizzlies are omnivores, gaining most of their nutrients from grasses at this time of year, and this bear appeared to be an efficient mowing machine. His lush coat and overall plumpness indicated a healthy appetite and a plentiful supply of greens. 

Photo safety note: my long lens makes the bear and the skiff look a lot closer than they actually were.  

It was late in the evening and low light levels plus the motion of the boat and the distance to shore presented some photography challenges. There was no time to waste with this photo op; RL threw on his rain jacket, grabbed a camera and fired up the dinghy to motor closer to the bear. I remained on board Rhapsody, comfortable in my robe and slippers, and enjoyed an hour of bug-free viewing through binoculars, darting outside of the pilothouse occasionally to grab a long-distance shot of the Capt. and the bear. RL’s closeups are much more impressive!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The First Salmon of the 2014 Trip

Nothing, absolutely nothing, can rival the taste of the year’s first, just-caught-the-same-day, grilled salmon, cooked to perfection and basted with the “secret sauce”. It might have tasted all the more delicious for us having been skunked on a couple of fishing outings earlier in the month. I had grown cranky about fishing and not catching, so late one rainy morning the Capt. set out solo, armed with a positive attitude and hot cup of coffee. The bite was on. He hooked a fish in the first hour and returned with a big, beautiful bright king salmon. We don’t have a scale onboard, so stating a weight would only be a guestimate, but that beauty was 31.5 inches long, almost 8 inches from back to belly and 4 inches thick. Oh my, that’s a lot of good eats!

RL was super busy that day; catching the fish, cleaning the fish, cleaning up the skiff, cleaning the fish-cleaning station, grilling a small, thick chunk from one fillet, and finally cleaning up the grill. The man grinned through it all. Me? I prepared a small tail section for lox, and then later that day was an appreciative audience/dinner companion. (I won – he grilled another chunk of salmon the next day.)

(Sorry Mike, you missed a couple of great dinners.)