The rising sun casts a warm peach glow across the calm, flat waters of Kukak Bay. We arrived here after dark last night dropping anchor next to Eagle Rock where a pair of oystercatchers is now starting their day. A sea otter is floating, bobbing, rolling, diving and eating in the distance. Snow-capped glacial peaks line the horizon to the north whereas tan, volcano-ashed mountains are to the south. Low clouds accentuate the high ridges. Yesterday, I could see my breath on the outer deck. This morning I’m barefoot in flip-flops (standard Alaskan boat shoes). The smooth water is turquoise, the lower mountains are verdant green, the barnacles and bladder rack kelp, exposed by the receding tide, are luminous gold. The beauty, peace and silence in every direction make my heart ache.
As we skiff toward shore, Bill spots an amber wolf working the shoreline. Wolves are skittish here and leery of groups – more than one or two people and they’re off. This wolf followed the braided river’s edge upstream past a pair of perched bald eagles and disappeared into the cottonwoods. We quietly disembarked at the mouth of the river. If we sit here quietly, grouped together (no wandering this morning), she may decide to come back out and fish. “If we’re really lucky. Dumb luck. She’ll come out”, our guide and wolf cinematographer, Buck Wilde, said. I’m feeling lucky! I mean look at where I am. If all it takes is luck, I’m confident we’ll see her again.
On this gravel beach, a single young bear is fishing. She sits at the tideline looking into the bay. Once she locks her eyes onto a fish, she chases it up a dead-end channel. When it has nowhere else to go, she pounces. She caught a few fish this way but seemed to be fishing halfheartedly. She wandered around a bit. A sow and single spring cub came out of the cottonwoods, walking swiftly and purposefully along the rocky shore of the bay. A few eagles exploring the sand on foot looking for some easy morsels revealed by the low tide.
This scene has everything: a braided river leading to the cottonwood stand that leads to the mountain that is topped by a glacier. The low clouds add a sense of drama to the scene. It’s captivating in every direction even if the wildlife is scarce today.
After lunch, we left Kukak for Hallo Bay. We passed flotillas of otters, some with pups resting on their bellies! As we turned into the Shelikof Strait, a colony of sea lions watched us go by. The Strait, famous for wind and waves, was as calm as its ever been. We sat on the deck comfortably in the warm sunshine watching the glaciers go by and wondering why this old tugboat doesn’t have deck chairs.