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Secluded Places

By Eric Lindberg, AAA Encompass

Slowly navigating passages too narrow or shallow for large ships, the captain of a small vessel got this experienced cruise passenger as close to authentic coastal Alaska as any visitor could hope to get—whether observing from ship’s deck, or in a kayak.

It’s midday on Baranof Island and I’m standing within a stone’s throw of Alaska’s apex wild predator. Across the stream, three hungry brown bears hunker at water’s edge and snag migrating salmon with dagger-like claws. Flipping the wriggling fish onto rocks, they tear off a few bites before turning back to the stream for more. Between courses they glance up and stare in my direction. Despite their poor eyesight, bears have an excellent sense of smell and I’m clearly on their radar, but today they’re focused on the easy meals swimming upstream. After an hour of gluttony, the bruins wobble away with swollen bellies, leaving me woozy with adrenaline. It’s been an edgy afternoon.