Weds. July 11th
Chased out of camp by a grizzly bear.
This was a day of firsts.
Started out with a forecast of Gale force winds on the Johnstone strait. Not sure how far we would make it. Our ultimate goal was the Broken islands 16 miles down the mainland side of the straight. Figured we had until noon to make slow progress against the building NW winds and tide. So we packed up avoiding the trip wire, and paddled across the straight to the East side, slowly working our way up along the rugged shore. Slow going against constant current and headwinds. Conditions remained reasonable and we plodded along finally making it to the Broken island group. Just 16 miles , a shorter day – we arrived around 2:00pm to the little bay our guide book said had a camp site just inside the forest on a small island which is the largest island of the group. I wanted to finally get in some fishing and I was not too tired, so I set up to do so after unloading. Caught 2 quillback rockfish for dinner in about 10 minutes with my Point Wilson dart, netted them and paddled back to camp. Nice fish 2-3 pounds each . Then I set out to filet them. Rolled the filet’s in flour, salt and pepper and Traci c pan fried them in butter on the beach. It tasted awesome. We did all of this well below the tide line away from the campsite. After we ate, I set up my net with the fish carcasses to try to catch some crab. This was not a crabby looking place, no eel grass or sand, but a good place to practice with my gear, just the same. Meanwhile, before I set out to catch dinner, I carried my toiletries up to the camping area. Traci C set up the tent. After dinner, as I returned with drift wood to start a fire, I came face to face with a big grizzly bear slowly, walking head down into our camp. Traci C was in the tent working on her air mattress. I called out to Traci; “Traci- get out of the tent.” “Traci come down here now”. I could not believe my eyes. I had been looking for bears along the shoreline for the past several days and here is one right in front of us! Yikes!! So we quickly walk down to the beach and back away. We head down the beach to watch this curious bear stop and smell every place we had been for the last several hours. He/she did not miss a step. Slowly it tracked us. We climbed over some rocks in the bay we were in as the brown bear slowly followed along at its own pace. So we came to the end of the rocks and decided while we were still down wind and reasonably far away of it to strip, swim across the small bay to the kayaks, pull them off the logs and get the hell out of there. And that is what we did. Lucky for us it was now high tide and we had repacked most of our gear into our kayaks. We dragged the loaded kayaks off the logs into the water, jumped into them sitting on top of our gear, half naked and paddled off shore across the narrow channel to the next small islet. Unloaded most of our gear, paddled back to the rock to get our clothes. Then a bit later returned to camp calling out to the bear – No bear in sight, so we quickly grabbed all our gear, tent, sleeping bags, pads, etc. Jumped back into our boats and returned to the nearby island to unload and figure out how we were going to spend the night. I cut back some salal, and huckleberry bush and we rolled up together in our blue tarps atop a rock ledge. It was not level and it was really small – but it was a water way removed from that beautiful, curious and not at all afraid of us grizzly bear. About 3:00 am, I think, I awoke to loud grunting noises – from a bear. So my heart starts pounding, and I figure it swam across the channel and will be into our gear and possibly looking me in the face soon. Eventually the sounds die down and I fall asleep again. In the morning nothing was touched. I never said a word to Traci C until today as we were paddling. She heard it too, she was awake thinking the same thoughts. We think the bear was in the camp across the way and the sound just carried over the water. So glad we left that camp site.
OK to recap, we brave gale force winds in the Johnstone straight;(Not that big of a deal alongside the shore, 1-2 foot waves.) We get to this nice cove, and I catch our first fish dinner. (Now that we are getting North to where the fishing is good and I am not totally exhausted from 20 plus miles of paddling and gear hauling.) It was a great day! Then – A Brown Bear in camp tracking us, naked swim and kayak escape to sleep rolled up in plastic on a granite ledge big enough for 1 person.
Lessons learned by this excitement. We will always try to find small, I mean small islands with no water to camp on. Or a dock or a rock ledge. We will not cook or clean Anything! on the island or camp we are sleeping at. We will move after we eat. I will not bring any toiletries, food etc. to our sleeping site. That’s about all you can do.
Total miles: 323, Broken Islands
Conditions: NW wind, mid 60s, barometer steady at 1018-1019
We started from Yorke Is. expecting strong headwinds like yesterday. Headwinds yes, but maxing out at 10-15mph, not 20-25mph. Thank goodness. Made the Broken Islands, and T2 is out catching fish for dinner. Two rockfish = yum. Day started overcast, but now sunny and nice. Barometer holding steady, which is good news.
Later Wednesday: “Traci, get out of the tent. Get out of the tent now”. I had just started inflating my mattress, but I followed T2 out of the woods. On this island the campsite, complete with fire pit, was in the woods just behind the beach. I followed T2 asking “what’s up?” thinking bees? Snakes? Nope. Bear. Brown bear. We went out a safe (?) distance down the beach, and watched the bear at our tent. Slowly the bear sniffed and tracked everywhere we had walked. A big, sleek, shiny and healthy brown bear. We went around a small lagoon onto a rock ledge that would be cut off at high tide. We watched the bear swim out into the water where we had eaten our dinner, come ashore and amble along our path. Thoroughly checking *every* *single* *place* we had been. T2 said “I’m off this island! I’m stripping down and swimming back to the boats!” That’s exactly what she did. I took 2.5 seconds – looked at T2 swimming away, back to where the bear was, and scrambled down to the rock ledge, stripped down (T2 to her trou, me to my Ski-to-Sea shirt) and swam to the boats. We quickly untied them, dragged them as laden to the beach, and paddled off the island. I was sitting on all the crap I had stuffed into my cockpit for the evening – clothes, PFD, sprayskirt, bags… high seat. I went over to the rock ledge and picked up our abandoned clothes. We beelined to the neighboring island, found a spot to pull up the boats, and a very sketchy sleeping ledge. Bearfree = good enough! We unloaded the boats, then cautiously paddled back, checking for our friendly bear. No sign. We went singing into the woods with an impromptu bear song and retrieved our sleeping bags, mats, tent, and gear. T2 had brought her toiletries bag up, and it had been slightly mauled and punctured. Bear. We swiftly broke down the tent and stuffed the gear into the boats and made it quickly back to our new island. Than you bear for showing us the error of our ways without harming us. Gracious, gentle bear. We set up our tarps on the miniscule rock ledge, rolled up in our bags, and slept fitfully and hard. Sometime in the early morning I heard grunting/snorting. G-Damn, is that bear coming over to our new island? Or is sound just traveling clearly across the water? Heart pounding I listened, not knowing what I could possibly do, but it faded and so did I.
We woke to hummingbirds divebombing our faces.