We rise early and leave Wrangell behind us at 6AM eager to get to bear country before the tour boat crowds. We go north around the top of Wrangell Island, then down Eastern Passage through the Narrows to Blake Channel then out the bottom crossing Bradfield Canal to Anan Creek anchorage.
It's flat water, sunny with little wind down Eastern Passage to Blake Channel. The Channel itself is calm and picturesque. There's no boat traffic and we see a couple deer walking along the shore below the low tide line.
We arrive at the Anan Creek anchorage. This is a temporary anchorage at best due to it's 100-foot high-sloping bottom contour. The Douglass Guide recommends leaving an anchor watch aboard, but everybody wants to see the bears. We'll take a hand held VHF ashore with us in hopes that if Wild Blue pulls anchor and floats away, someone will try to call us on the VHF.
Wild Blue anchored with other boats in 100+ feet of depth. This photo was taken for insurance purposes, just in case the anchor comes dislodged.
We launch the dinghy and motor ashore to the ranger hut at the entrance to a lagoon near the base of Anan Creek. It's already busy with shore parties arriving from tour boats and other yachts. We pay our $10 per person fee and receive a ranger briefing about how to avoid bears that cross the path on our 30-minute walk to the observatory. Just as the four of us begin hike, we notice a tour guide carrying a large shotgun, and preparing to escort a party up the path. Gosh, maybe that $210 tour fee would have been a worthy investment!
It's eerily quiet except for our clapping, singing and loud talking. We quickly realize that Alex forgot to bring the bear pepper spray repellent. We go on our way reviewing what to do when we see a bear. I think the ranger said place the girls in front facing the bear, and then the boys should run like heck; or was it bunch up together and be large-like? At last we come to Anan Creek and the steep incline up to the bear observatory.
Anan Creek has a choke point where the river narrows and falls twenty feet or so. The salmon have to run up this gauntlet to reach their spawning ground. The bears congregate here to fish for salmon. Some bears fish from the side, while others wade into the river. Either approach get good results. The observatory is a platform overlooking this choke point on the creek. The bears are quite close but don't seem to mind us watching them.
The creek is filled with salmon and they are jumping up over rocks and falls, and sometimes into the mouths of bears.
Most of the bears we saw today were black bears. The black bears are less aggressive than the brown bears. When a brown bear arrived later in the morning, he immediately chased away two black bears that were fishing his spot.
This brown bear has his own private fishing spot. If black bears give him any trouble, he chases them up a tree.
Bears get tired of eating salmon day after day. Every so often they want a change in their diet. Something special, something more. Maybe like what awaits behind this door's peephole? It's OK to come out now Peter!
After a fine time “dancing with bears”, we backtrack down the path to the ranger hut and our dinghy. We find Wild Blue right where we left her, solidly anchored, so we stow dinghy, crew and anchor and push onward to Santa Anna Inlet.
The Inlet is almost serene: there's flat waters, calm winds, a setting sun, and mild climate. It's perfectly still except...... those damn, noisy jumping salmon! Everywhere you look salmon are in the air flipping, twisting, rolling, then diving with a big splash. Some individual fish do multiple jumps and splashes. How are ever going to sleep with all this racket!