The main reason people cruise to Alaska is to see the sheer beauty of the land and its abundant wildlife. No other port-of-call can even come close to the primitive Alaska as it has been for decades than Icy Strait Point.
Icy Strait Point is pure natural Alaska. It is located on Chichagof Island, very close to the entrance to Glacier Bay National Park. An island of 75 miles in length by 50 miles wide with approximately 1100 residents, 740 of which live in the little village of Hoonah, a mile or so from Icy Strait Point.
What once was a fish canning operation, long since abandoned, has been converted to a museum and several shops selling local native handcrafted items. Behind the former cannery buildings is a short but scenic walking trail.
Our excursion of choice for Icy Strait was the Wildlife in Spasski Valley and Bear Search. There are about 2 ½ bears per inhabitant on the island and we were told that there would be a 50/50 chance of seeing bears. The bear viewing area is on a trail through an alpine meadow and forest to a river, part gravel and part wooden walkway about ½ mile long.
The bus drive to the Spasski Valley, in a school bus, was on a old, dusty, bumpy, gravel lumber road. On the way we saw two small Sitka Black Tail Deer. When we arrived at the start of the trail we picked up two additional guides. One to follow behind to make sure no one got separated from the group and a second one carrying a riffle for safety.
The meadow had a wooden walkway and on either side there were small ponds everywhere. Very innocent looking. Our guide said that you would want to stay on the walkway, reinforcing his point by taking a long branch and poking it into what appeared to be a shallow pond of water but in actuality, the branch went into a depth of about 6 feet of water.
We walked through the forest until we came to one of several viewing platforms overlooking the river, taking in as well as photographing the awesome scenery before our eyes. As we arrived at the next viewing platform we were greeted by a bald eagle perched in a tree adjacent to the platform, not more than 15 feet away. The bird just sat on the branch, at times almost acting like it was posing for us.
It was only a few minutes later that what we came for became reality. A large bear was spotted down river searching for salmon. At one point it rushed to the shore and disappeared. Our guide said that bear was one of the mean ones and probably was chasing another bear away. Sure enough, a minute later another smaller bear was spotted in the middle of the river. It slowly worked its way down river toward us searching the river for food, occasionally standing on its hind legs as if looking around the surrounding water for fish. When the bear was directly in front of our viewing platform it moved in a circle with frantic speed, splashing at the water, and got hold of a salmon and immediately chewed the salmons head off and then ate the remainder of the fish. All of this happening less than a hundred feet in front of us. The bear totally ignored us and just kept moving downstream.
We got what we came for. This was one of those moments in life that won’t be forgotten and I have the pictures to forever remind me of it.
Until next time,
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