August 9, 2022 Tuesday Day 74: Berg Bay to Meyer’s Chuck 51 miles- 3274 total miles
Today was one of the coolest days and definitely in my top 5, maybe even my number one favorite thing we’ve done on this trip!
We woke up and pulled our anchor and made breakfast on the go. We got to Anan and we were the first ones at the public guest float. While we were unloading our dinghy a float plane came and dropped off a group of people on the float. A boat came and picked up those people and shuttled them on land for the bear viewing. They had guides walking them through the woods to the viewing platform/blind. (It’s a mile walk roundtrip from where the forest service rangers greet guests and give them a quick rundown.) Since Chris is the only power we have on the dinghy we chose to do the shorter row and rowed to the cabin that is closer to the float instead of going where the guides take their groups. Because we chose the shorter row we had an extra mile round trip to walk. (½ mile to the forest rangers, ½ mile to the viewing platform.)
The kids and I were all a little on edge, we were going to a place that is famous for bear viewing and we were watching closely for bears. Anan Creek has one of the largest pink salmon runs in Southeast Alaska and a lot of bears come here for it. As we were walking we saw more and more signs of bears. I even stepped in some of it (bear poop). We didn’t see any bears before getting to the forest rangers. Our forest ranger let us know that so far no one had seen any bears on the trails yet. (It was only 9 AM) but we should be on the lookout. She gave us a quick refresher on what to do if we saw a bear. She gave us instructions on what to do when we got close to the viewing platform. We were told to stop at a stump and wait for the forest ranger to give us the all clear signal, then that ranger would let us into the viewing platform. No bears for us on the trail and we made it to the viewing platform without incident.
The viewing platform is set up really well and there were great views of the river. (They even have a bathroom up there.) Once we were at the viewing platform we could sign up for spots in the viewing blind. The blind was right on the river and got people very close to the bears while still being safe. They only allowed people to stay in the blind for 15 minutes and they only let 5 people in at a time. When we first got to the platform Chris and I were both apprehensive that we wouldn’t see any bears, but as soon as we looked out we saw bears fishing for salmon. The bears would hang out in the rocks and in the shadows and they would go grab a fish, bring it back and eat it, and go back for rounds 2, 3, 4…etc. Once we knew there were bears we signed up for a time slot to go in the blind. We had to wait an hour for our time.
While we were waiting to go in the blind, bears would come out of the forest to the river on the very path we used to get the viewing platform. It was incredible how close these bears came! (The viewing platform had a latched gate to keep bears and people safe.) There was one bear that would hang out in some rocks, it was totally hidden from us, but would pop out, grab a fish, and pop back in. That one was fun to watch. There was one bear walking down a fallen tree to the river bed. We think this one got a splinter on its way down. It worked on getting the splinter out of its paw for a while. (It looked just like a dog getting something out of its paw.) There was another bear that just hung out right in front of the blind eating fish.
The highlight of all the bears was a mom brown bear and her two cubs. The cubs were so clumsy and each had very different personalities. One liked to hang back and one liked to try to fish and liked swimming around. They were terrible at catching fish. The mom would grab some fish and share with the cubs, and eat some herself. These bears were great swimmers and spent a lot of time with their faces in the water. After a bit the mom and cubs went out into the bay where the ocean met the stream. (It was a lot further from where we were, but we could still watch them, especially through the binoculars.) It was a lot more calm there and shallow too. The cubs would eat and play around.
Finally it was our turn to go down into the blind. Half the previous group left, but more people were lingering and taking up a lot of the space in the blind. I’m normally not assertive, but I really wanted to see things on our turn, so I told them that their time was up and the rangers were clear that only 5 people were allowed in there at a time. They were good sports and left. People who know me know this was a big move for me, but we got the blind to ourselves! The bear that was fishing right by the blind was still there. Another bear came down on the same side of the stream as this one. On the other side of the stream the bear that was hiding in the rocks was still popping in and out the rocks, catching fish, and hiding. Another bear came down on that side as well. As our time was finishing up the mom bear and her two cubs came back. The mom was on alert from some of the bears on the other side of the stream. One bear left and the mom and babies came down into the river.
The swimming cub was splashing around in the water and caught a fish. I swear it was an accident as it looked surprised. (can bears look surprised? Because this one did, and pleased with itself as well!) These three bears were still the highlight of the show.
Our time was up in the blind, but since the mom and cubs were back we stayed at the viewing platform to watch them for a bit. When the path was clear of bears we started the hike back to the boat. Just down the path we saw the mom and her cubs heading out as well. We were on opposite sides of the stream from each other, but all of us were on alert. Mom Bear watched us making sure we wouldn’t mess with her or her cubs. Mom Human watching them making sure they wouldn’t mess with me or my kids. We understood each other. Luckily everyone felt satisfied that we would give each other lots of space and we all moved on our way.
We ran into no more bears on our way out and we made it back to our dinghy. Luckily we pulled the dinghy up pretty high because the tide rose quite a bit while we were gone. We made it back to the boat and we all marveled at our experience. I know we saw at least 14 unique bears, we could have seen a lot more because it was hard to tell for sure if some of the bears were duplicates or not. While we were there I asked one of the rangers if they have had to use bear spray there before. He told me that he’s worked there 4 years and has never had to use bear spray.
If you can get permits to Anan I highly recommend it. I feel so lucky that on the day we would be nearby there were exactly the amount of permits our family needed.
We knew some windy weather was coming our way so we did start on our way quickly. As we were getting closer to Meyers Chuck the water was getting lumpy. Luckily nothing too bad until we were getting ready to turn into Meyer’s Chuck. It wasn’t terrible then, but the worst seas of the day for sure. We were very happy to get into the protected bay of Meyers Chuck, and even happier when there was room on the dock!
Bear count: Today: 14+ Total: 48
Ryan’s Thoughts: We went to Anan to see a ton of bears catching salmon!
Lillian’s Thoughts: Today we went to go see bears eating salmon! I have a nasty cold.