August 4 – Happy birthday Dave! Dave didn’t want to do anything special for his birthday and we decided to have a big birthday dinner in a few days since we had gorged ourselves on pizza yesterday. We started the day with a kayak in the lake by the campground. We reached a point where beaver had built a dam in the stream that fed the lake, raising the level of the upper lake by a few feet. We pulled the kayaks out and took them over the dam to explore the upper lake (our kind of portage). Stacie saw a beaver while we paddled and there were several ducks out with ducklings that couldn’t have been over a week old (they were tiny, but still swam quickly). We spotted a deer on the shore (the first time we’ve seen an animal on shore while paddling). The deer didn’t know what to make of us and after staring for a while it wandered back into the woods. After the kayak we went back to the campsite and broke everything down as we were moving to a campground in the southern half of the island. We went into Craig and dropped the tire off to be looked at. While we were waiting for the tire we checked out a nearby gift shop (Stacie needed more pins for her backpack). The tire guy didn’t have any good news for Dave about the tire (but he did have free popcorn!), it couldn’t be repaired (the hole was too big to safely patch). Since they didn’t have an exact replacement tire for the truck, they took the spare tire off the ugly rim it came on and put it on the pretty chrome rim so it would match. They put a new non matching tire on the ugly rim as the spare. With the tire work done, we headed out to our new campground. Upon arriving we found that our reservation wasn’t posted and that someone was in the site we had reserved. The campground host was very apologetic and told us that the Forest Service had not advised him of our reservation. Since there were plenty of other sites available we picked one and set up.
August 5 – It was shaping up to be a beautiful day, the sun was shining and it was warm. Once again equipped with a spare tire, we were ready to tackle gravel roads. There was another pair of fish passes nearby (in Prince of Wales Island terms) and we headed for them. The first fish pass was at Cable Creek. It was built by blasting out the rock near an impassable waterfall and pouring in concrete to form a traditional ladder. There were no fish using the pass (and no bears waiting to eat them). We turned off the paved road and started down a gravel road to the other fish pass. As we went over a bridge Stacie yelled, “fish!” We pulled over and walked out onto the bridge. The stream below was absolutely loaded with salmon, all just hanging around, ten feet from us. We took some pictures, marveled at them for a while, and then headed off for the fish pass. The Dog Salmon Fish Pass used an aluminum tunnel to raise the salmon to a man made channel which got them around some falls. As we arrived Stacie started taking pictures of the pass and falls, but Dave started tapping her on the shoulder saying, “BEAR!” On the other side of the stream was a black bear who had come to fish. He didn’t notice us at first (we were up on a viewing platform) and walked up to one of the pools to see if there were any salmon. Finding no salmon (or maybe he noticed us) he plodded back up the little bear trail into the woods. As we looked down upon the main pool of waiting salmon we saw that they were swimming in a giant circle, like there was some kind of vortex. We couldn’t understand why all of these fish were just sitting there. They weren’t using the tunnel and they weren’t trying to jump up the falls (maybe they were resting). We went up to the picnic table behind the viewing deck and had lunch. After lunch we noticed that the salmon were jumping at the falls. With no bears in sight we ventured off the viewing platform and onto the rocks below to watch the salmon. They didn’t notice us, they were too busy trying to jump up the falls which were too high and too fast for them. We spent at least an hour watching them. Dave was using his camera to record video clips of the jumping salmon and after a while the camera’s memory was full and he had to go to the truck to get the computer to unload the camera. When Dave returned he found Stacie sitting on the concrete wall above the falls. She looked up at Dave and said, “I was ten feet from the bear”. Stacie had been taking video with her camera and she had stopped to review the clips on the camera’s screen. She heard something like a splashing fish and looked up to see that the bear had just grabbed a salmon from a pool on the other side of the falls (fifteen to twenty feet away). Stacie had remembered her bear training and immediately stood up with her arms above her head. The bear ran away, dropping its fish on the path. We agreed that we wouldn’t leave each other alone again. The salmon had stopped jumping so we packed things up and headed towards camp. It was still early and we had several pages ready to transmit so we decided to go to Craig to find internet service. The library offered free services, but it was closed when we got there. We didn’t want the trip to have been a waste so we stopped by Zat’s and got that ice cream we missed out on (Dave called it his birthday cake). After ice cream we headed back to camp. As we were starting to cook dinner the campground host stopped by and we talked for a while. We talked about fishing a little and he mentioned a favorite spot and told us how to get there. He also mentioned that the other group in the campground was here on a fishing trip and that they had had a great day. After dinner a truck pulled up to our site and the driver, carrying a wrapped plate, asked us if we liked salmon. Stacie said yes and he presented us with the plate which was loaded with fresh off the grill salmon. Stacie abandoned her bratwurst and feasted on salmon. Dave feasted on a double portion of bratwurst. Our palettes satisfied, we called it a night.
August 6 – It was bright and sunny again! We loved the Dog Salmon Fish Pass and we decided to go back there for morning viewing. We hoped to catch the bear fishing. When we arrived there was no bear waiting to greet us and the Salmon weren’t doing the vortex anymore. We patiently waited, and waited and waited. After a few hours of viewing and lunch, we still hadn’t seen the bear. The salmon must have been pretty tired too because they weren’t trying the falls much. We did notice that more of them were trying the tunnel, but since it hasn’t really rained in a week, the water level in the channel at the top of the tunnel was only 2 inches deep and the salmon had to swim with most of their bodies out of the water. Almost all of those that tried to swim the channel turned back, although we did watch one make it. Disappointed, we left the fish pass and headed to Klawock.
It had been a few days since we last kayaked so we decided we would put the kayaks in at Klawock Bay and then paddle up the river that led to the hatchery we had seen on our first day. As we neared the river, the water was alive with those crazy jumping salmon. As we entered the river we could see the water under the kayaks was just churning with salmon, waiting for the tide to push them in. Stacie hoped that these were the Coho Salmon that the hatchery was waiting for (she wanted fresh fish for dinner). At one point Stacie was paddling quickly towards Dave and she spooked the salmon and they all ran, breaking water and creating a churning wave in front of her boat (video coming soon!) Off in the distance on our left we saw a black mass on the shore. It was hard to tell if it was moving, but it was possibly a bear. We slowly paddled towards it and as we got closer we could tell it was definitely a bear. Dave happened to glance to his right and directly opposite us on the right side shore, and 40 feet away, was another bear perched on a rock! Further up on the shore was another bear. We rounded a corner in the river and 25 feet away from us was yet another bear, sitting in the marsh grass, eating it. We couldn’t believe it, four bears in ten minutes! The bears would stare at us for a while and then if we approached they sauntered off into the brush. There was a small waterfall that we couldn’t get the kayaks around so we turned back and on the way out spotted another bear. While Dave spent some time in the river opening trying to get video of jumping salmon, Stacie paddled in the river some more. All told she had ten bear sightings, including one that was waist deep in the water, although several sightings were probably the same bears returning because they thought we were gone. The tide was rising and the water had gotten deeper so the salmon weren’t jumping and there was nowhere for the bears to fish so we headed back to the boat ramp. The library was open form 7 to 9 in the evening so we stopped by to see if we could send some pages. The evening librarian was a volunteer who didn’t know if we were allowed to unhook one of their computers from the network and hook ours in. Stacie was, however, able to check her E-mail from their computers. We headed back to camp and had a late dinner.