Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Rushing Russian

We averaged somewhere in the nature of four to five hours of sleep per night. After climbing snow saturated mountains, fording rivers, all the while subsisting on a steady diet of granola, beef jerky and silt tainted glacier water it was time to relax.

Relaxation came in the form of fishing for salmon in the Russian River.

"The Russian" as the locals call it is one of the most heavily fished sockeye salmon streams in Alaska. Fortunately or unfortunately for us, the salmon that coaxed us into coming to the Russian that day were running a few weeks behind their migratory schedule. Reaping the benefits of this irregular cycle, the four of us owned the pristine waters of the Russian River for a day.

Hip waiters pulled snuggly around our chests, fishing poles in hand, the crew and I struck out to catch our limit of natures bounty. Within ten minutes K-man had landed a decent sized trout.

As envious as I was, I snapped this picture and started walking upstream more than eager to stake out my own ground. I couldn't help but notice how absolutely gorgeous it was out there. The temperature peaked around 65 degrees, the sun was luminously shining and the air smelled of crisp mountain dew.

Besides K-man catching what appeared to be the same trout over again, as time went on fishing became something less than a fruitful effort.

Fruitless or not, it was still a very surreal and peaceful time. As I stood there in the stream listening to the water trickle by, I thought to myself how far I was from home.

As we were wrapping up and walking back to the car, Sal suddenly stopped and anxiously pointed across the stream.

A few seconds later a brown grizzly bear came lumbering through the brush. Indiscreetly trudging through the thicket and rooting around for salmon scraps this bear had no shame. Hell, we were in his backyard. This was our first bear sighting and it happened to be a grizzly.

It took a few seconds for the novelty to wear off and for me to realize that this primal beast was foraging around for it's next meal not more than 50 feet across a shallow stream from us.

While most of the typical Alaskan wildlife eluded us on our hiking excursion, this was definitely a convenient moment for us to get a taste of our first bear sighting. We were standing fairly close to the stairs up to the parking lot.

There was another fisherman standing just out of frame on the same side as the bear. Moments after seeing this grizzly the four of us started screaming... "GRIZZLY, GRIZZLY, GRIZZLY!!!".

I wish I was able to capture the look on this poor souls face. It was absolutely priceless.

Instinctualy, the man darted across that stream with little to no concern for the potential of drowning. Mind you that this was the same part of the stream I managed to get half way across earlier in the day and decided to turn around because it was a little too forceful for my tastes.

Even though I did not even catch a snag it was a great day.

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