6am came early. As I lay in bed, I thought about a lecture I had heard from a female mountain climber talking about her summit attempt of Mount Everest. I remembered how she said she became quite adept at peeing in a bottle from the horizontal position in her sleeping bag, so that she did not have to go out in the cold. I was envying this skill. It had gotten quite cold and damp in the night and I had slept in long underwear and a down sweater. But now, the sun was just coming up over the water casting a pink glow on the mountains and glaciers behind me. We had been told by John that if the forecasted wind kicked up that they would have to drop off the film crew and head for more sheltered water. Since I was ‘borrowing’ their camp I was hoping that the wind would hold off. I was really enjoying the solitude of have my own camping area. I made a breakfast of instant oatmeal, grabbed my coffee and headed down to the beach to have breakfast and enjoy the sunrise. All was quiet and calm for now.
Our main goal for the morning was to find the sow and cubs. Knowing that they would not be far from the ‘Nursery Hill’ a small ridge about 45 minutes from camp, we heading directly there and found them grazing. Again the cubs were performing, one minute wrestling each other, the next stuffing their faces with the protein rich sedge grass. The most wonderful moment occurred when mother called her two babies over and proceeded to play with them, cuffing them aside gently with her huge paws and wrapping her enormous jaws around them. I felt as though I was looking into someone’s living room, and indeed I was.
From time to time Kent and I would catch sight of Suzie, content on her walkabout, journal in hand. She made no effort to meet up with us and we respected her space. I located the big wolf track I had discovered the day before and was thrilled with the way my plaster cast came out. I hoped I could make copies to display at my art show in August.
Later in the morning, a Cessna aircraft with tundra tires landed on the beach just to our southeast. Kent recognized the plane as belonging to Bill Simms, owner of a prestigious wilderness lodge 96 miles north of Hallo Bay. We decided to wander over and say Hi, with hopes of being invited for lunch. Bill was there entertaining a couple of fishing buddies and they were just preparing a lunch on the beach. As Kent predicted, we were invited to join in. We were treated to a delicious meal of seafood jambalaya, fresh cherries and Dr. Pepper. Bill graciously gave us a doggy bag, and I wondered about the wisdom of carrying around a bag of seafood in what might as well be grand central for bears. I decided that Kent knew what he was doing and jambalaya for dinner instead of freeze dried lasagna sounded pretty good. Since we did not need to return to camp for lunch we opted to stay at the south end of the bay and take a break for the afternoon, since having good light again would be a few hours away. Kent went directly asleep in the shade while I combed the beach for some big boar tracks to make casts of. That accomplished, I took the spare time to do some macro photography, as the knoll we were paused at was literally covered in lupines and irises. It was also a fabulous viewpoint to observe the bears traveling all around, from the tidal flats to the streams, through the meadows and into the forest. I also observed a large tan coloured wolf in the meadow where the sow and cubs were grazing. I managed a quick nap, but with so much going on it was difficult to stay down for long. Both because of the abundant activity to be seen and captured, but also I was not as comfortable as Kent about sleeping in the bear’s bed.
By early evening we decided to visit with the sow and cubs again. The evening light and the yellow-green grass provided the perfect setting. One of the cubs was in quite an antagonistic mood and managed to draw her sibling into a little fight. One of them let out a yelp of panic, and mother, who had been grazing with her back to them about 30 feet away, spun a 180 and within a blink she was on top of them breaking it up. Her sheer power and speed was breathtaking. Kent remarked that he had never seen such an alert, protective mother. All I could think about was the seafood jambalaya laying next to me in the grass, and hope she wasn’t hungry too! This was a bit of a turning point for me. For the first time I really felt uncomfortable (afraid?) and was praying that they would wander off away from us. It was at that point that the more outgoing of the two cubs started sniffing the air and heading our direction. This was a real test for me. Knowing that to move at this moment might cause alarm to the sow, but fearing that should the cub stray any closer, we might be in trouble anyway. We both took the safeties off our flares and kept shooting. It really didn’t help that at this moment Kent decided to relay to me some of his stories of closest calls with sows charging at him. At the end of the day it was all fine, but inwardly I was really hoping that tomorrow we could just go for a stroll on the beach or maybe photograph the ravens and eagles for a change….
Back in my tent I reviewed the day’s images on my netbook, and decided it had all been worthwhile!