It was time to go watch some bears.
While not as early as planned, we got an early start and set out shortly before low tide. Pack Creek is a designated protected area, and we are not allowed within a fan-shaped low-tide area up to the mouth of the creek itself. During high tide, this would mean that we wouldn’t be allowed to paddle anywhere close to the shore line (I’m not sure how a kayaker would know, but when we passed through the day prior we simply gave the area a very wide berth). But during low tide, as long as we keep a reasonable distance from shore, we were allowed to peruse. So we did.
We passed the area where we would later go ashore, from quite a distance but close enough to see a mom and two cubs hanging out on the shoreline right in the spot where we would later be getting out of our kayaks. But we had another destination.
From our kayaks, we watched 8 bears! Two sets of a mom with two cubs, and then some older, single bears. Mostly they were out at the tidal line digging up clams! They did a lot of stomping and it seemed that they were trying to break them before eating. Not a lot of meat, especially compared to the abundantly available salmon, but something drew them in and we enjoyed a long drifting paddle as we quietly watched them going about their business.
We then paddled back to the ranger area and got out of our kayaks. We stored our food an unneeded gear in the bear bins, and then set out to the lower viewing area (see yesterday’s post for more information about the set-up).
It was cloudy, but not rainy and would remain that way the entire day! A huge relief and bonus for our continued comfort as we spent most of the day sitting and standing with little movement.
We spent nearly the entire low tide cycle out at the viewing area! It was delightful to simply sit and wait and watch. At first, for quite awhile, there was little to no movement. We saw a mom and cubs pop out, but they were barely visible and then quickly walked out of view.
But over the hours, oh my!!! We felt so, so lucky. I lost count at some point out there, but we saw so, so many bears. We saw them fishing – some of them, a mom and cubs, right close to us. We saw them walking around. We saw some eating grass behind the field where we were. We saw some napping. Our favorite was one younger male, but not young enough to still be with his mother. He seemed to be quite playful, rolling around with his feet up in the air. Eventually he settled down for a nap, however he did so way, way out in the low tidal area. As the tide came up, he would get wet and get up to move…about 3 feet! Minutes later he would have to get up again but continued only to move a few feet at a time for quite awhile before finally moving away from the tide zone. What a special, delightful experience!
While we need permits to be there, when you have a permit you can stay for as long as you like – during open hours which are 9am to dark. If you take a float plane then you probably are bound by the hours that you hired the plane for, but otherwise it’s up to you. This day, the clouds were so low that the people who planned to fly out couldn’t make it. This left only two sets of visitors – us and 8 people off of a fancy yacht from Washington. They were very friendly and we spent most of our time at the lower viewing area with them, including lots of fun conversations with the staff who were able to enjoy themselves as well as the owners.
Shortly before we would be stuck at this viewing area due to high tide, we made our way back to the central area. After a snack, we walked about a mile back to the higher viewing platform. It was a delightful walk in a magnificent forest, and it felt great to walk so much after mostly paddling or sitting. The entrance to the trail is also blocked by high tide, so once we went out we had to stay for a specific period of time. Which wasn’t too long, we stayed on the platform about 40 minutes, after which time we could leave and we all decided that we were ready to. It was approaching 5pm at this point and while the day was perfect, we were ready to head back.
There wasn’t much action while on the platform, but we did see one bear fishing and eating a couple of fish. It appeared to be a younger male bear, and he was on high alert and seemed to be fearful of something. It didn’t seem like he was hearing our sounds and going on alert. The ranger later said that he was probably worried about an older bear in the area. He took his last fish back into the woods, and she thought he was probably done being so exposed.
The ranger had been doing some trail work, and then met us at the platform. This isn’t a requirement, guests walk the trail on their own, but we had been enjoying her company and when she said she would be on the trail anyway we made sure she knew she was welcome to come join us at the platform (Covid is the reason the invitation wasn’t an automatic given). Thus, the four of us all walked back together.
As we exited the trail and moved onto the last stretch of beach to our kayaks, I turned to the right. And right there, close by, a mom and her two cubs were making their way along the beach and we were going to be in their way. The ranger directed us to move up into the grass and off the beach. We knelt down, a sign of submissiveness, and we watched and waited to see what she would do.
Mom considered leading her cubs into the woods, but paused for a moment, and then made the decision to walk by us. Nervously and with a close eye on us as she did, but there they were, maybe 10 feet from us!
The ranger later made clear that had she not known the bears she wouldn’t have been comfortable doing that. But after years of being around specific bears, and ones that are habituated to humans, she felt that it was a safe option to sit back.
And for us, it was the perfect ending to a perfect day.