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Alaska 2009
  • Territory: Washington State, British Columbia, Alaska
  • Time: April - August, 5000 miles traveled
  • Vessel: "Teacup", Nordic Tug 37
  • Primary Activity: Deal with equipment breakdowns.

Copyright © 2009, 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 | Alaska 2008

Onion Bay Hike

Figure 1: Onion Bay, Raspberry Island
anchor site / hike route

Figure 2: Hike route as seen from peak 1603

Figure 3: Big bear on the trail

Onion Bay is one of my favorite sites on the west side of Kodiak Island (technically, Onion Bay is on Raspberry Island). It's a reasonably secure anchorage and there are some interesting hikes. As usual in this part of the world, there are no nearby human settlements and if anything goes wrong, you're on your own. There is also lots of wildlife — foxes and bears in particular. I think foxes are interesting, most are nice-looking, curious about people, clever, and often fearless. As to bears, well, I take the position that the human and bear worlds should be separate. People and bears inevitably cross paths, but hopefully with mutual respect and at a respectful distance (more on this below).

When I first visited Onion Bay years ago, I tried hiking to the northeast of the anchorage (see Figure 1), but the terrain there is very brushy and I kept encountering bears while moving through shoulder-high brush, a risky activity. Since then I've been developing a trail to the Southwest of the best anchorage that leads to a peak with a nice view (Figure 1, the peak marked "1603"). While visiting this peak, I've noticed a likely route for a hike across reasonably level terrain from Onion Bay to Shelikof Strait to the Northwest.

This season was my second try along the route to Shelikof Strait (marked in blue in Figure 1), and I've figured out how to walk it without having to wade through hip-high streams and thorny brush. During this season's hike I met a very big bear, who showed no interest in me — that's usually a good thing, unless it means the bear has lost all fear of humans.

A digression. There is a lot of public interest in stories about people who befriend bears, who get very close to them, who touch and feed them. I think this is a very bad idea, and I am hardly alone in this view. For one thing, most such stories end up badly, with the bears killing and sometimes eating the human (example Timothy Treadwell). For another, I believe the bear world and the human world should remain separate. When this natural separation breaks down, it destroys the bear's world — they become clowns, performers for food, and lose all natural dignity. It also sullies the human world — we show our contempt for other species, prove we can make them perform for snacks. For some reason, people never consider how this behavior reflects on us.

Anyway. Once I spotted the bear, I spoke a few words to make him aware of me, then turned and walked a half-circle with a radius of more than 100 meters to maintain my separation. The bear continued to show no interest, which was all right with me, since he was very big, 800 pounds or more (Figure 3).

I made my way out to Driver Bay on Shelikof Strait (Figure 1, upper left), which has a rather nice beach, and marveled that virtually no one visits such a pretty place. Then I saw some red foxes on the beach taking advantage of the low tide to dig up clams and crustaceans. I think foxes are rather cute, so I decided to take some pictures — I prepared my camera and tried to approach unobtrusively. But one of the foxes spotted me and fearlessly came over to investigate. It turns out that foxes are rather curious and unafraid. This fox came up close, sat down and stared at me with the most interesting expression of puzzlement (Figure 4). He in essence posed for my camera.

This is just a personal thing, but if I see a fox, that day becomes a good day, a day when nothing can go wrong. On the day of the Onion Bay hike, I saw four foxes, and one of them came up to me and sat down. It was a very good day.


Figure 4: Cute red fox (Vulpes vulpes).

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