As we arrived at the pier at Hoonah a Tlingit Village on Chichagof Island on Icy Strait Point a bald eagle flew beside the boat to welcome us and then glided onto a tree branch. He was looking very regal as he surveyed his kingdom.
Before our excursion we decided to check out the old Salmon Cannery and walk into the actual town of Hoonah.
One of the hardest things we had to do was decide on what excursions to go on. At Icy Strait we signed up for a brown bear and whale excursion. The brown bear search was a bonus, We thought we would be sitting on a boat all day looking for animals and whales, instead the brown bear search was a bus ride and hike out to the river where the salmon were jumping and the bears were eating. These are Coastal Brown Bears, cousins to the Grizzly Bear. The first stream we went over in our bus had 1 bear in the water and 3 crossing the road. Bonus. When we arrive at our hiking area there are 2 Tlingit (pronounced “Klingit”) waiting to be our guards, Martin has bear spray and George has a rifle, they aren’t losing any tourists on their watch. Kim our guide was originally from Maine, she came up one summer to work, loved it, fell in love and now is an islander. She said she hasn’t actually been able to kill anything (more aim than lack of trying) but she is pretty good at skinning and butchering the deer they catch.
Our trail has viewing platforms which were amazing and sure enough there were 3 or 4 bears chasing the salmon around the river. George was saying the water is really low this year, 12 inches of rain vs the normal of 120, so the salmon started late. This is part of the temperate rain forest, temperatures rarely get below freezing or above 20, with lots of mist and rain. Normally the river would be overflowing with salmon. You could see them jumping out of the river trying to get over rocks and dry areas as they were being chased by bear. This trip totally exceeded our expectations. So thrilling.
On the way back as we crossed the river there were 3 fishermen. Fishing rod in one hand, rifle over their shoulder. There are approximately 3 bears per sq mile on this island, no one likes to kill the bears, but you have to keep everyone safe.
Next up was a 2.5 hour whale excursion around Chichagof Island, there was one part where 3 currents met up, quite rocky on the boat. The clouds and weather was moving back in, I don’t know how these boats find their way around. We found otters and about 5 humpbacks, such an amazing animal. The whales were hungry and not in the mood to play. No breaching, but still amazing to see such gentle giants of the water. The first picture below is another cruise ship which looked like it was floating on the clouds.
A wonderful busy day, I am ready for my dinner.