Grizzlies on the Fox
Council Travel Blog› entry 27 of 38 › view all entries
After exploring the roadhouse, I climbed into the Dodge Nitro and turned the heater up full blast. The biting wind felt more like winter than the middle of summer and I wondered whatever became of global warming. I drove a slow, respectful loop around Solomon. Only a few small abandoned cabins remained and just one larger modern house looked occupied. Near the edge of the bluff white crosses at the cemetery commanded a fine eternal view of the blue Solomon River winding through peaceful tundra to the Bering Sea. I continued toward Council.
The drive into the hills was more relaxed than last week's when slippery mud held my attention and didn't allow time for enjoying the scenery. I noticed another dilapidated dredge that I missed on that last trip and many more pieces of rusting mining equipment strewn along the river valley.
As I descended along the Fox River valley, two circling seagulls caught my attention. Thirty miles inland, I sensed that they were orbiting the scraps of a potential meal by a larger predator. I was right. As I slowly topped a shallow hill in their direction I spotted the blonde colored grizzly - across the river about two hundred feet below me and two hundred yards away. It was heaving itself upright to stand tall on hind legs - already watching me - when I noticed its movement. At that distance it could have been one of the similar-colored quartz boulders that scattered along the gravel riverbed. Most wildlife tends to blend in with its surroundings and usually spotted by movement.
I had my camera within easy reach and flipped the thumb switch to turn it on as I exited the Nitro. By the time I zoomed in, another had appeared - a cub. I began clicking away at full zoom. A second cub appeared from the willows along the water's edge. The cubs looked to be about two-year-olds since they were slightly smaller than the sow. At three years, grizzly cubs are about the same size as an adult.
Once the three mustered, they scurried uphill and into the cover of thick willows. Had it been just me, they would have probably never left the river. It was the Dodge Nitro - much larger than them - that must have frightened them off. The bears progressed up the hill with ease. Every so often, each in turn, would stop to turn and stand up to see if I was following. The mother taught the cubs well. The distance that they traveled in such short time was amazing. They soon vanished from view but when I yelled "Hey!", a head would pop up from the green willows.
Alaska is home to more than 98 per cent of the U.S. population of grizzles, also known as brown bears - or about 30,000 according to biologists. Seeing these rugged creatures in the wild is always an unforgettable experience.