After a night of cruising south from the Inian Islands, through the Icy and Chatham Straits, we dropped anchor in Hanus Bay. Ashore lay some of the most beautiful forested trails in the southeast region, and although we didn’t yet know what we would see, the anticipation was palpable.
We staged a platform on the fantail to run kayak operations, and some guests were ferried ashore after breakfast for a series of hikes. Staff and guests alike were excited for the high probability of seeing salmon in a forested stream for the first time this season — and we were not disappointed! After we crested the rise on our first round of hikes, we descended to a pool that is often full of salmon waiting for rain to make the next set of riffles passable. After our eyes adjusted to the low light of the forest, and to the slight glare on the water’s surface, we were able to see that there were indeed salmon in the stream! Closer inspection revealed chum, sockeye, and pink varieties waiting for the rain. Some fish were already showing the ravages of their one-way trip to spawn; several were covered with “Ick,” or Ichthyophonus, a fungal infection that often afflicts returning salmonids.
On our return to the beach, we heard a faint chuffing sound on the side of the trail; about fifty yards away we spotted a large brown bear sow with her cub. She chuffed at us a few more times. As we spoke softly to reassure her, she turned uphill, away from the trail, and observed our progress out of the forest from a higher vantage point! The lucky guests on that hike felt like they had been given a gift, and it was the subject of many a conversation over cocktail hour.
As we cruised Chatham Strait to pick up our guest speakers from the Alaska Whale Foundation, we chanced upon several humpbacks and a duo of transient orcas — causing us to reflect on what an amazing day it had been!