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Russian River Visitor

This bear sighting in the Kenai Peninsula was the highlight of our Alaska trip. It began late in day as my wife Sandy and I decided to take a short hike on a trail near Cooper Landing. We were looking forward to this easy and level trail to the Russian River overlook. Earlier that day in Seward we unsuccesfully tried to hike up the muddy, and very slippery Mount Marathon.

This trail near Cooper Landing was dry and only a mile or so each way. We hiked about half-way in when we met a young lady returning who saw a black bear as she rounded a corner on the trail ahead. She was afraid to continue on, and we invited her to join us. There's safety in numbers and I figured if needed, I could out-run the women.

We all made it safely to the river a short time later, never seeing that black bear. I was little disappointed, but there was still plenty to experience on this hike as we stood on a viewing platform overlooking the Russian River.

Down in the river we noticed a fish ladder or hatchery with hundreds of red sockeye salmon swimming in the water. I ventured down the riverbank for a closer look, hoping to get a good photo of the salmon.

I was taking pictures for only a minute, when my wife shouting to me: Steve...A BEAR!! It was coming into the river from the opposite side. I hid behind a tree as I watch this brown bear slowly move to the middle of the river and closer to me. He was looking in the river for his meal, so I didn't feel too threatened. Still I needed to act quickly to get these photos.

Sandy retrieved my telephoto lens from the camera bag, and I quickly changed lenses. My adrenaline was pumping as I clicked off a few shots hoping the bear wouldn't noticed me. This bear had obviously been around people before, as there was the viewing platform above with occasional hikers like us. Plus, he was wearing a transmitter device around his collar.

Nevertheless, we didn't hang around long enough to see what he was hungry for. After a few shots, Sandy and I made our way quietly up to the platform, then watched him catch a fish and eat it. As I watched the bear tear the head off his salmon, I was glad he opted for seafood that day.


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