Saturday, July 21, 2012

Grizzly Bears and a Whale: Red Bluff Bay

Excerpts from my cruising journal...

Awoke to rain, then fog. Miles of closely-packed swells on the 30-mile run down South Chatham Sound made for an uncomfortable ride. WOW! A humpback whale led us into the final 1/3 of the Red Bluff entry passage, continuously blowing, finning and feeding close to the surface. His course was a bit erratic - always exciting when you share space with a whale in a narrow channel! 

The bay was empty, so we tucked into our favorite spot in a snug little cove with a view up the river and across the wide estuary. 

1 grizzly wandered the meadow as we arrived, next came a sow with 2 cubs, followed by a second sow with 3 cubs. What an amazing wildlife day – and its still afternoon. By late evening we had tallied up 5 to 7 adult bear and 5 cubs. Most of the grizzlies wandered in the estuary meadow, grazing on the lush grasses. One lone bear ambled along the shore at high tide, passing about 100+ feet off our stern as he searched for ripe berries. 

The next morning at breakfast that same lone bear headed back in our direction, long before he could smell the sizzling bacon and sourdough waffles cooking in our galley. Blue sky, snow-capped mountains, more waterfalls than we could count, bear and birds all over the place – can it get much better than this?!

Two other cruising boats had joined us in Red Bluff late in the evening, and two large charter boats brought their guests in late in the morning. Only 2 grizzlies roamed the meadow at low tide, but the bay itself was dotted with colorful kayaks, rubber inflatables and several dinghies. Everyone loves Red Bluff, especially when the sun is out and there are grizzlies to watch. We have visited 8 times in our 13 years of cruising SE Alaska, typically staying 3 or 4 days. I’m certain we’ll be back again and again.

Photo: Merganser family paddles past a strolling grizzly
Dee kayaked along the shore, following the lone male as he strolled by on Day 2. Ron photographed Dee and the bear. On Day 3 we ran the skiff up to the estuary at high tide to photograph the sow with 3 cubs and our now-familiar scruffy, lone bear. Later in the evening two young males entertained us for 10-20 minutes, sparring in mock battles and chasing each other across the meadow, then settled back to hang out quietly in the same area. Teenage boys of any species like to roughhouse…. 

On Day 4 (early evening, high tide) we both kayaked along the shoreline up to the mouth of a secondary stream, arriving just as two grizzlies raced in our direction, running away from something at the far end of the estuary. Grizzlies swim slowly and run very, very fast! Exciting? Yes, but what an amazing photo op as this pair stopped directly ahead of us and settled down to graze along the shoreline. We floated, barely drifting and sitting absolutely still, about 200 feet offshore and shot over 600 hundred images. Here are a few shots from that special "Kodak moment". 

Note to self: One of these days I should organize a gallery of Baranof Bears, a collection of our shots from the past twelve years. One of these days...

Update in 2013: we now have a slide show to share on the computer!

1 comment:

  1. Gorgeous photos. Thank you for taking the time to share. I love the whale shots as well as the bear. Great spot!


I enjoy reading your comments, so please leave a friendly message. Comments are moderated so it may take a while for your note to appear.