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Alaska 2008
  • Territory: Washington State, British Columbia, Alaska
  • Time: April - August, 5200 miles traveled
  • Vessel: "Teacup", Nordic Tug 37
  • Primary Activity: Wait for the sun to come out.

Copyright © 2008, P. Lutus. All rights reserved.   Message Page

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This article set is part of a larger work:
Alaska 2002 | Alaska 2003 | Alaska 2004 | Alaska 2005 | Alaska 2006 | Alaska 2007

Hallo Bay/Ninagiak Island

When I visit the region west of Kodiak Island, I am in a place with more bears than people, no hunting is allowed, and people are sometimes eaten. Consequently, rather than go ashore I try to stay on the boat and take bear pictures using a long lens. But this poses a problem — I might visit for a week or more, with few prospects for exercise.

I have worked out some ways to stay in shape while visiting serious bear country, a country where you can't walk very far without meeting large bears of varying and unknown disposition. One way I get exercise is to paddle my kayak around. Another way is to find an island sufficiently far from the mainland that the bears might not care about it, and walk around there.

For years I would visit an island with no name outside Geographic Harbor, which was a pleasant diversion. Unfortunately, one day as I approached the island I saw two bears having a fight just where I intended to walk. So I've decided that island isn't safe. By the way, this sort of misjudgment arises from my having underestimated how far bears are willing to swim in water whose temperature hovers around 40°f (surprisingly far).

There is another island called Ninagiak, in the middle of Hallo Bay at about 58° 27' N, 154° 0' W, quite a distance from shore. I've walked this island maybe four times to date and I haven't met any bears ... yet. It's a very pretty island, grassy but with no tall brush, relatively easy to walk. Typically I will drop anchor, launch my dinghy, paddle ashore, and make my way to the highest point on the island, where I sit, take pictures, and appreciate my surroundings.

To me, on a sunny day, visiting Ninagiak Island is indistinguishable from dying and going to heaven. All you can hear are calling birds, and all you can see is nature. One clue that the island isn't a bear or fox hangout is that the birds build their nests right on the ground. Another clue is you see certain plants that bears like, but they're untouched.

The irony about Hallo Bay is it's a well-known bear viewing area, so one might expect that I could take some bear pictures there as well as visit the island. But the water depths become shallow over a very long distance, meaning the only way to get decent bear pictures is to walk around on the land, something I won't do, but that Timothy Treadwell would do. Treadwell was eaten by bears in 2003.

Over the years of visiting this particular bear country, I've established an itinerary that mixes locations with good photographic opportunities (relatively small bays, suitable for anchoring, where the bears come out of the brush to hunt clams), and locations like Ninagiak Island where I can get off the boat and hike around.

Ninagiak Island looking SE
Ninagiak Island looking NW
(my boat is just visible at right center)
Gull on the wing
Bird nest on open ground

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