Bears and bares

Sitka spruce growing in dense forests

Sitka spruce growing in dense forests

‘If the bear runs at you,  remember he isn’t really running at you.  He is running at the fish’,  our guide Lance told our group as we sat quietly next to the creek where a grizzly was fishing. One hulking old bear had recently dug himself a snooze home and was busy sleeping off his feed further up the creek.  We had just come from the beach where we had watched two young males sparring and duelling like boxers. Magic magic magic.  It felt both surreal and very real to have a little window into the world of these coastal bears, watching,  listening and learning. I have always loved BBC Natural History Unit films but this was high definition and more, definitely Top 5 moment of the entire journey.

Magic to watch these majestic predators at work and play

Magic to watch these majestic predators at work and play

Hiding bear

Hiding bear

Last week Justine and I were lucky enough to stay two days at the Hallo Bay Bear Camp in Katmai National Park, enjoying the company (our first in two weeks), delicious food,  time and space to relax and recharge and some incredible hours watching brown bears fishing, playing and sleeping. We learned how to behave around this ‘ unspoilt ‘ population of Katmai bears,  unique in their temperament and behaviour around humans as they have never been hunted or associated people with food.  And hence the bears go about their beary business with no more than a casual glance at the small groups of tourists,  photographers or film crews that perch unobtrusively stage right or left to watch. A huge thank you to the staff at Hallo Bay Bear Camp for the warm welcome and support.

Fishing bear

Fishing bear

A few days before Hallo Bay I had an encounter with a brown bear while I was washing in a small river.   I giggled as tiny trout nibbled my toes and was just rinsing soap off when I looked up  to see a shape coming up the river towards me. It wasn’t Justine but a brown bear. Absolutely the most exciting wash of my life.

Bear plus fish equals happy bear

Bear plus fish equals happy bear

The headwinds continue to make flee slow progress,  keeping us on shore more days  than we would like. Right now we are waiting out some bad weather on Hogg Island in Blue Fox Bay with a lovely high – spirited couple who run a rustic,  eccentric lodge out here.  We arrived yesterday and the only ones home were the dogs. Happily,  Colleen and Jerry arrived home thirty minutes later,  just returning from one of their resupply trips in Kodiak 80 miles away. We are less than 100 miles from our finish in Homer though the weather isn’t looking good for the feisty crossings to the Barren Islands and  on to the Cook Inlet.  So for now we are enjoying sleeping,  eating, taking steam baths and sea dips with the odd mojito fuelled story time.  All of it is delicious for mind and body and the surrounds of spruce trees and islands gentle on the eye and soul.  This is a special place with special people and I am savouring the space to reflect on the journey almost over. Mad and brilliant all at once.

Mojitos with host Colleen at Blue Fox Bay

Mojitos with host Colleen at Blue Fox Bay

Our boats pulled up onto the beach

Our boats pulled up onto the beach

Sauna - good for mind and body

Sauna – good for mind and body

At the moment we are hoping to get a turn in the weather to allow us our final few days paddling up to our finish with enough time to get Justine sorted and for her flight home. Weather,  if you are listening,  sort yourself out.  Please.

Until next time


P.s Krissy is holding up well after  we replaced one of the damaged clips at Hallo Bay

The wind and waves picked up for a challengin​g phase across the Shelikof Strait

The wind and waves picked up for a challengin​g phase across the Shelikof Strait

Fixing kit with Vicki,  one of the staff's children and Pilot Trent

Fixing kit with Vicki, one of the staff’s children and Pilot Trent

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11 Responses to Bears and bares

  1. What a magical place!
    Very jealous!

  2. Gigi W. says:

    What fun!! You’re both looking well!

  3. Godfolks says:

    Amazing encounters – fantastic reading and listening – you have us on the edge of our seats!! All love xx

  4. Margarita says:

    “beary business”! You don’t know what ones you inspire… Love to read your adventures. I live vicariously through you. Be well!


    I had not anticipated Ushagat, and thought Ugamak to be your last major trial.
    But you have an excellent mate there with you to complement the Gemini in your stars.
    “You have chosen … wisely”, as was said in a well-loved film..
    What a very sad shame the last bear in England is said to have been killed on Bardon Hill = ‘Bear Den’.
    But a kestrel perched calmly a few feet from me on top the other day.
    My mate has got hold of a Mirror Dinghy. We are both well past it but will at last have a go once again.
    Thanks for the inspiration.
    Best regards Bardon Mac

  6. Candice says:

    Sara and Justine
    It was such an honor to have met you both and have the chance to share the bears during some of your “down time” at Hallo Bay. Glad to hear that your crossing was successful and expect that you are now haunting Homer. Remember that if a Homerite runs at you he is probably just trying to catch a fish!
    Travel Well.

  7. Einar Tveit says:

    I lived in Alaska for 8 years. It’s an amazing place. The tidal difference in Cook Inlet can be 20plus feet, so it’s important to hit slack tide if you’re heading for Homer. Good luck girls !

  8. Susie Hewson says:

    Bears…bears…bears….brilliant photos Sarah and what an amazing encounter in the wild that brings their natural habitat and ways of feeding close to us without the fear factor. You look to be having a wonderful time in the wilds of Alaska and it is fitting that you get to see such wonderful events given the massive efforts you have given of yourself to be there. Good luck for the 100 to the next phase…Lots of Natracare Sisterly hugs and stay safe!

  9. Christine & Kathleen says:

    Hello to you both. I am sure everyone who redas your blogs will be with me in sayiung they are just wonderful. It feels as though we are there with you and the kindness of the folks all along your journey.

    Take care happy paddling and all good salty wishes, keep up the wonderful reports.

    K & C

  10. Tim-Bob says:

    Like reading your blogs. You keep mentioning your finish? Are you going to be finished for the year or just the finish with your mate?
    Looking forward to reading more of your adventures and who you meet.

  11. Elizabeth Bryner says:


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