Where’s that boat gone?

Alder and grasses, Icy Bay, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

hey Folks,

So, after a little rest and reading and drifting in and out of sleep in my tent, I heard some noises in the woods outside .. branches breaking, cracking, etc. Half asleep, I ignored it. I heard it again. Still half asleep, I ignored it again. It continued. Coming to, I sat up and said to myself (actually I said it out loud, but didn’t want to acknowledge that I talk to myself here – people will think I’m crazy), “I know exactly that noise is – I need to go take a look”.

So I got up, threw on my sandals and walked around the beach.

Rounding the corner, I saw my paddle lying on the beach.

The kayak, which I’d left lying beside it, was nowhere to be seen.

Instinctively, I looked out across the bay. I saw instinctively, because I KNEW the boat hadn’t floated away. I’d been very careful to drag it up well above high tide line, and had the add security of leashing it to an alder branch, so if the tide did rise abnormally, it would be secure. So I knew the boat wasn’t in the ocean. And a quick look over the water verified that.

No boat.

I arrived at the paddle and I saw the scene posted in the picture above. It doesn’t show up real well here, but you can kinda see, starting right at the out of focus lupine (purple flower) in the foreground, a swathe of trampled grass and brush heading into the woods. I could still hear the crashing going on inside the woods. I looked down on the ground again, next to the paddle, and saw this:

Grizzly bear scat, Icy Bay, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

A steaming fresh pile of bear scat.

As I stepped off the beach into the woods, I called out the regulatory ‘Hey Bear’ and made a bit of noise stomping on the brush (normally I move silently, almost cat-like, through the woods – dad will verify, I learned it from him).

The sounds of a hasty escape deeper into the woods indicated the culprit had absconded, so I ventured, bear spray loaded and in hand, in to the alder.

First, I saw my dry top:

Kokatat Dry top, torn by grizzly bear, Icy Bay, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Nice tear in it, but possibly salvagable. Next I saw the spray skirt, in similar condition, a silnylon tarp, torn and destroyed.

Next I saw my PFD (Personal Flotation Device, or Life Vest):

PFD, destroyed by grizzly bear.

No longer a flotation device. Here’s a closer view:
Grizzly bear destroyed PFD, Icy Bay, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Next I find a Bear Resistant Food Cannister. Unpunctured, my food safe and sound inside it, scratch marks on the outside. Plus one for Carl – not sure where the other container is.

Next I turn and see my boat,

Advanced Elements inflatable kayak, destroyed by grizzly bear, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

You can see the bear learned something; that the boat should always be leashed up to a tree, so it doesn’t float away. Look here:

Advanced Elements inflatable kayak, destroyed by grizzly bear, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

And his fingerprints:

Advanced Elements inflatable kayak, destroyed by grizzly bear, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

So my trip just changed markedly.

A kayaking trip just isn’t the same when your boat is in this shape.

Then it changed again.

Movement caught my eye, and I turned my head to see the bear, returning to look over his gear. When say ‘returning’ I mean ‘returned’ – he’s about 30 yards from me.

A full grown adult grizzly bear, cautiously advancing, staring intently at me through the alder, not making a sound.

I again offer the traditional greeting of ‘Hey Bear’ – I figured it worked last time, maybe he’ll run away again. No such luck – he advances, nose twitching as he searches for my scent.

“Hey Bear, go on, get out of here” .. bear continues cautiously forward. 20 yards.

“OK bear, I’m leaving, just gimme a sec.”

I back up, and the bear advances. I reach the edge of the alder and the beach. The bear continues forward, I continue backward. Down to the waterline.

The bear reaches the edge of the woods and sits down – a good sign. I edge away along the waterline, talking to the bear, telling him how pleased I was at the work he’d done on the boat, and that I’d be glad for him to keep it as a gift. I keep going, making my way towards m tent, etc, and the bear retreats back into the woods to his new boat.

I get to the camp, and can still hear him over at the gear, having a grand old time. So what does one do in such a situation? Wait til tomorrow.



6 thoughts on “Where’s that boat gone?

  1. Neil Donohue

    Dear Readers,
    The only cat-like thing about Carl is that he likes to stretch out and laze in the sun, and disappear as soon as there’s any work to be done.

    Dear Carl,
    Contary to your earlier comment, it sounds like I should have been with you on this trip. Now don’t tell me, you crept up behind the bear, tackled him, and tied him up; OR did you do the sensible thing, count your lucky stars and beat the hell out of there? Why am I not confident about your next move???

    Your (never cease to be amazed) Father

  2. Carl Donohue

    Hey Dad,

    I knew I could count on you to back me up. Thanks – it’s true that I like to stretch out and laze in the sun.

    I’d have really liked it if you were on this trip with me – but you were probably stretched out on the beach at home, lazing in the sun, while mum was cleaning, cooking and doing your laundry. 🙂



  3. Pete Zwiers

    Whoa Carl! I was expecting that you just forgot about high tide, and the wonderful somewhat recent invention of the rope!

    So … where’s the picture of the bear?!?!? 🙂

  4. Mark

    OK, haven’t read part 3 yet, but surprised you tried the Timothy Treadwell cuddly talk negotiating. 😉 Pretty rare a thief leaves a calling card, even if a pile of scat. ha! What did you do, stuff a granola bar in your PFD?

  5. Carl Donohue

    Hey Mark,

    Seriously, I think talking with animals is a worthwhile endeavour (and, contrary to what this American spell checker is trying to tell me, the word ‘endeavour’ is spelled correctly here). If you haven’t read ‘A Language Older Than Words’, by Derrick Jensen, check it out sometime. It’s pretty amazing. Or read the interview with him I did, Part 1 of which is on Naturescapes.net – part 2 will be coming soon.

    Obviously I don’t think the bear understand me word for word. But we definitely understood one another. As dad says in the next post, I was on his territory, swimming in his pool, and without his permission – that was very clear.

    Yeah, that was wild about the scat – and it was RIGHT where the boat had been. Right there. i shoulda got them forensics onto it.

    And no, no food in the PFD – bears just love to chew up rubber and plastics .. the foam stuffing in the PFD was plenty for him. Grizzlies often chew up people’s ATV or snow mobile seats. Them pesky grizzlies.



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