Sundogs over Ninagiak Island

Day 4

I awoke at 3am and peeked outside: STARS! There was hope for a clear morning.  I went to the cook tent at 5am and began to lay out breakfast and coffee. Hopeful for some good light, we ate quickly and prepared our gear. Soon the sky began to turn pink in the east.  Some unusual cloud formations were building and we excitedly moved to the tidal flats. The bears were searching for fish but very little action was taking place.  The cold wind eventually drove us inland to the meadows where we watched Melissa’s sister Hanna and her two dark spring cubs.  She had not been ‘out’ very long with them so she was not ready to let us close.  Soon the storm that had been hanging just south of us began to move in.

Not relishing another soggy day we ran for camp, but by the time we got there the sky was clearing and the day warmed up.  We took the opportunity to hang out all our wet gear and followed the bear’s example of a warm afternoon nap.  I hung the camp’s solar shower bag from my tripod and had an outdoor shower of sorts.  Amongst the group many concerns are being voiced about Kent’s lack of leadership and enthusiasm as well as the still absent perimeter fence.

Day4-2

Finally, after much pressure from the group Kent agrees to cut some branches and hang the electric wire, which he feels is not necessary.  He does it grudgingly and decides this will be in lieu of guiding us on the evening shoot.  Now more confident about my own guiding skills, I take the group out without hesitation.  With good light finally bestowed upon us, we set off on the 45 minute hike out to the meadows.  As we hiked past the French family’s camping area, we saw they had broken camp and were expecting to leave.  This is a welcome sign.

Day4-3

Daisy Gilardini & David McEown

I took my group to the edge of Daisy’s meadow and we all lined up along the driftwood to prepare for our shots.  Daisy and her cubs were on the opposite side of the meadow about 200 meters away and I knew it was just a matter of time before she made her way over to see us.  When she and the cubs were about 50 meters away, behold the French family emerges behind them, the three people spread in a wide arc forcing the bears to choose a path directly into our group.  Before we knew it, the bears were upon us.  George, the one rogue photographer in the group, always pushing the envelope of safety, had positioned himself 5 meters away from us.

Day4-4

It was through this gap that Daisy charged, in an effort to get over the berm and into the forest.  One cub followed her closely.  The other cub stopped to visit us.  My heart was pounding, as I was thinking about the potential consequences.  I drew out my flare and shouted at George stand up and make himself imposing to the cub.  He drew his flare and stood up, but the cub was undaunted.  An aggressive move by George could upset the mother bear, who had now stopped to wait.  George played it cool and allowed the cub to sniff him, then with a ‘huff-huff’ from mother bear, the cub spun around and joined her.  There was a huge collective sigh of relief, followed by a ripple of nervous laughter from our group.

Day4-5

I was so angry with the ignorance of the French family.  It could have been a disaster.  The father approached and wanted to know if we had a sat-phone, so he could call Homer and see where his flight was.  We told him there was no phone, and if the plane was not here by now it was not coming.  He was furious and shouted about missing an important meeting somewhere.  We were not sympathetic!  They were forced to rebuild camp and wait another day.

Day4-6

At low tide we made our way to the beach where there was plenty of fishing activity.  We stayed out until near dark and were rewarded again by a sight few people will ever see.  A young wolf was interacting with a sow and her two cubs.  The behaviour was fascinating to watch as the wolf teased and played with the yearling cubs.  They were probably too big for him to take down and mother watched carefully, but only intervened when the wolf showed any aggression.  We watch for 1/2 hour until darkness fell and the wolf trotted off.

We arrived back at camp at 11:30pm and, behold, the electric fence was up!  We all slept better perhaps from exhaustion but for sure feeling safer with the new boundary in place.

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