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Alaska Grizzly Bear Adventure
Unlike a Caribbean cruise which is often focused on sunshine and water activities, an Alaskan cruise brings a greater sense of adventure. You sail into a quiet world of beauty filled with miles and miles of undeveloped wilderness. Your senses are overwhelmed with all the beauty and majesty that Alaska has to offer. To see the steep mountains that rise up to jagged peaks, to hear the calving of the massive glacier as it meets the sea, to taste the fresh baked salmon, to feel the cool fresh and clean air.
But it is the wildlife that really makes the experience unique compared to other cruise destinations. There is nothing that compares to seeing an eagle sour through the air above and dive down with claws outstretched to attack its catch. Or to see the humpback whale break through the surface of the water and spray water high into the air. Or to watch a large moose move gracefully along the shore with huge antlers proclaiming its presence.
Perhaps one of the most incredible animal to see is the grizzly bear in their own natural world. On a recent trip to Alaska our goal was to see grizzly bears also known as the brown bear. In order to insure success we booked an excursion in Juneau. The excursion was a bit of money, but well worth the experience. We booked through the cruise line, but the actual tour operator was Bear Creek Outfitters.
The excursion began with a breathtaking scenic floatplane flight from Juneau to a remote wilderness location filled with brown bears in their natural territory. Our guides were equipped with rifles and pistols with live ammunition, ready just in case these massive animals decided to attack. Even before we landed at the remote area, from the air we could see a brown bear chasing after salmon in a stream below us.
After we landed in the middle of nowhere, our group was loaded into a couple of vans. After a short drive up a mountain road the guides stopped on a hill by a creek. We were guided out of the van and we quietly walked through the woods to the bank of the stream. Gazing over the edge I saw the first bear about 20 feet below me. He seemed to gaze up and look at me as he walked into the water. I was impressed with the beauty of his fur and the noticeable long sharp claws. The bear headed down stream and we hopped back in the vans to follow.
We met the bear down near the coast. We stood on the other side of the creek as the bear enjoyed his freshly caught salmon. The bear finished and then started walking along the creek. We were only about 20 feet away and I was busy snapping pictures. I began to realize that the bear was walking straight towards me and getting bigger and bigger in my camera lens. I stopped taking pictures and looked at our guide who quietly said that we should move toward the larger group of people. I had no problem with that and as soon as we moved the bear stopped heading towards us and instead turned and walked toward the beach.
After watching the bear for a while, we got back in the van for a short trip back up the mountain road. We stopped at a place known for bear sightings and walked single file through the thick woods. It was very quiet and spooky.
At one point we came across the remains of a partially eaten dead salmon in the middle of the trail. Nearby was a tree that was marked with deep groves from a bear’s claws. If the bear could mark up a tree like that, one could only imagine what it could do to a human.
We ran across our next bear eating salmon in the bush near the creek. You could hear him breathing heavily and it was very frightening to think what he could do if we ran into him unexpectedly. At one point my wife and I found ourselves walking along the trail with one of the guides in front of us. We slowly moved along not wanting to spook a bear. The guide began to walk around a tree in front of us and then he froze. He backed up slowly and whispered to us that there was a bear on the other side of the tree. We slowly backed up to put some distance between us and the bear.
The bear eventually got up and went up the stream a little where we watched it take a swim. He seemed to enjoy himself in the cool water of the creek. It is amazing to see these massive animals floating in the water as if they are taking a bath, and how they look so gentle with their teddy bear faces and ears but to know that they are indeed very dangerous animals.
This excursion was worth every penny. It was real, it was terrifying, and it was amazing. We saw a piece of Alaska that few cruise passengers ever experience.
Steve Millay, ACC