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Airship | Anan Wildlife Observatory

Yesterday morning we decided to check on a permit for Anan Wildlife Observatory since we’d be passing right by today. July 5 is the very first day of the high season and the first day each year that you need a permit to visit (read: there’s a good chance to see bears). Prior to July 5 and after August 25 you don’t need a permit. As I mentioned yesterday, we were happy to have lucked into permits for today!

We left Berg Bay around 8:00 a.m. for the 11nm cruise down to Anan. Conditions were super calm and we were the only boat in Anan Bay when we arrived. We made sure to get a really good set on our anchor, let out a little more scope than usual for peace of mind  (we usually do 3:1 or so here in SE Alaska) and dinghied over to the trailhead.

Looking back at Airship from the beach
Airship’s dinghy (which we’ve started referring to as “Plein Air”) next to the Forest Service dinghy

After showing our permit to the forest service folks there at the intro station, we were good to go and hiked the trail up the observation point. We stepped over a whole bunch of bear scat, but never saw any bears near the trail. We made sure to talk loudly about bears and boats and stuff the whole way though since the last time we were here we did need to wait a little bit for a female brown bear to wander her way across the path and down to the water. (!!!!)

We were at the observation deck for maybe 10 minutes and then…bears! First up was a female brown bear trying really hard to get a fish and never ever succeeding.

It was entertaining to watch, but I’m guessing not very satisfying for her. She waited on rocks and leapt!

She played frogman and dived for several seconds. She swam slowly looking into the water. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

She moved on downstream and kept on trying.

Then a black bear with two cubs came around.

Apparently this bear showed up with her cubs for the first time a day or so before. The forest service guy told us that (yesterday?) one of the cubs had gotten too close to the water while mom was fishing, fell in, and tumbled down over the waterfall!! Poor guy climbed out below the falls and was screaming and yelling for mom, running all around the observation facility frantically, and then off in to the woods. It was a big relief to see them all back together today!! Whew!

Mama trying for a fish

She was REALLY keeping an eye on them today, but still the little guy got away and was running and climbing all over the rocks and logs across from the viewing deck. She’s got her paws full!! 

Next, another black sow with one cub showed up and was headed for the good fishing spot, but soon spotted a brown bear across the river and mom and cub retreated into the woods. 

That brown bear totally had the fishing thing DOWN. (He needs to give lessons to the one we saw earlier). He would stroll out of the woods into the stream, walk over to what the rangers call “Fishing Hole No. 4”, and about two seconds later emerge with a salmon in his mouth. He’d carry it back across the stream into the woods, eat it (presumably) and then stroll out of the woods a few minutes later and do it all again – lather, rinse, repeat. 

 

All in all I think we saw two black bears with one and two cubs, and maybe four different brown bears. A great day for bear-watching at Anan!! We hiked back to our dinghy at around 1:00 p.m. Back at our dinghy and the bay the wind had kicked up considerably. Well, 15kts, which doesn’t seem like that much, but with the direction of the wind and current the waves were super choppy and we got soaked just on the short ride back to Airship from shore. 

We cruised 9nm more down to Frosty Bay and dropped the hook for the night. Frosty Bay was a decent anchorage — It was pretty, protected from the wind, but not a “wow” spot by any means. But we did get a really nice sunset:

Dinner: steak tacos with grilled zucchini and mushroom skewers.