I’ll leave you in suspense about the sunrise until the end of this post.
In the intervening weeks since hiking in the clouds, a lot has happened (as one might expect). I took another hike, this time to Russian River Falls and not in the rain, where I came the closest I have ever seen to seeing a bear. I suppose now is the time to regale you in my tale of the bad bear mojo. In my 27 years of existence, I have never seen a bear, and this is despite going to Colorado (nearly) every summer since I was born and living in Montana for four years. In 2015, I was awarded a summer internship at the U.S. Embassy in the Republic of Georgia (you can read up on those adventures here), so I went there instead of Colorado. Guess what my parents saw in a tree at the Crested Butte Arts Festival? A black bear. Three months in Alaska and a month to go, I still have yet to see a bear. Who wants to take bets?
So, on the Russian River Falls hike, as we were hiking to the falls, hikers on the way back told us there were bears in the falls – both brown and black bears. My heart leapt at the chance…would today be my day? Would the 27 year spell be over? By the time we got to the falls, the bears were nowhere to be seen. Disheartened, we continued on the hike and came upon fresh brown bear tracks on the trail. The guide and I both whipped out our bear spray, but fortunately and unfortunately, there was no bear. It’s probably best, all things considered, that we didn’t run into a bear blindly on the trail. Those encounters don’t always end well.
Despite not seeing any bears, it was a beautiful hike. I was able to see salmon jumping up the falls, see the Russian Lakes, and catch a glimpse of Skilak Glacier in the distance. Not to mention, I saw ducks, gulls, and a juvenile bald eagle.
Salmon are some pretty amazing fish. They are anadromous, meaning they’re born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean, then return to fresh water to reproduce. What makes them amazing is that their homing instinct is so strong, they will find their near exact place of birth to spawn a new generation before dying. Further still, these fish will travel hundreds – even thousands – of miles upstream and up waterfalls just to get to those spawning grounds! Many don’t make it. I’m no fish head, but I think that is really cool.
The hike only lasted the morning, so afterwards, we hit up the Soldotna Heritage Museum and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center. We also did a pub crawl to the two local bars that brew their own beer. It was a very enjoyable day.
My next few days off were spent casually – I wrote, I colored, I watched movies.
Now here comes the not so great part: I have an invisible illness in which I deal with chronic pain every single day. These last few weeks have been extremely difficult as my job doing early morning wake-ups starts to take its toll. After a really rough pain day last week, I was not too eager to awake the following morning at 3:30am to carry out my duties. As I was watering the flowers, I saw a sight that was a wonder to behold: one of the most spectacular sunrises I have ever seen. The whole sky was aglow and the Moose River mirrored a perfect reflection. It brought tears to my eyes and definitely helped to raise my spirits. It was a reminder of why I came to Alaska in the first place.