Birch Creek, Part 2

June 13th, 2008

Alaskan moon over Birch Creek

Foam + Whiskey = Christmas in JuneWe were half way through the trip now and had not seen a single bear. During our night floats we snuck up on many moose in the river, but no bears. Remember than we could legally take NINE off the river, and we hadn’t seen one. The river was getting easier to navigate, we were tired of catching fish, and the lack of bears had the hunters feeling a down. So we hit the whiskey hard. I only vaguely remember paddling for our final hour. We finished the whiskey and hit the vodka Tang. Yeah buddy. We all survived just fine, except Drew, who was probably the least drunk (well, Wesley didn’t really drink either). Drew went for another swim, on pretty flat water. The rescue raft pulled up and it was fine, but he was soaked now and it was rainy and cold and probably 2AM. So we pulled over, made a fire and camped. I had patchy memories of delicious hash browns and grayling for dinner.

More river flowers at sunsetIn the morning I woke up super hung over. I was a dried out husk of a man. I got up early (9AM) to get water, squinting the in the sun, and retreated back to sleep some more. Two sonic booms from the military training missions woke me up in the hot tent, but I kept sleeping fitfully. Finally Drew got up around noon to make breakfast, but the rest of us continued to sleep. Shortly after I fell asleep I awoke to a lot of tent noise and movement. I saw Drew was still gone so I figured everyone was Grayling and weeniesup and it was time for breakfast and they were trying to get me out of the tent. I rolled over, my head throbbing, and then the tent was jarred violently again. I thought to myself “That’s an awful rough way to wake someone up, I think I heard the tent rip!” and said something along the lines of “What was that?”. I looked over and saw a hole in the rain fly. The bear got both tentsI got up and peered around in the noonday sun. I could see Drew down by the river, far away, and no one else around or even up. I took a closer look at the torn rainfly, trying to figure out what had happened. I yelled at Drew to come take a look while the boy scouts climbed out of their tent, guns raised with just their socks still on. Then while Drew was looking at the tent with me and my cobwebbed brain was still processing what was going on I head a rifle go off. Aaaaa. Of course! A bear scratched the tent.

God damn bears, wtf

Taught him a lesson... I guessWe all scampered off into the bushes to check out the kill. Apparently, as the bear was heading back into the woods to get away from us as we all woke up, it had stood up on it’s hind legs one last time to get another look at us. It was a bad move and about the last he ever made. Luke shot him right in the heart and he only got about 20 steps farther away before he collapsed. It was so surreal to touch the still-warm corpse of the bear who had just clawed a hole in my tent, all while Regrouping over breakfast sausageI was almost too hung over to see. We had breakfast while I tried to process it, shake it off, and drink a lot of water. Then they skinned the bear, took all the meat off the bones and took the skull. This gruesome process was incredibly interesting, even as I tried to hold down breakfast. I’d seen deer get skinned before, but this was something else entirely to me for some reason. Perhaps it’s because of how human a bear starts to look when you take off it’s skin. Another day at the office for the Alaskans; mind altering for me. After butchering it we packed up camp and floated on down the river again.

Luke, the great white hunter

He shot it right in the heart, exploding itWhere bear skin rugs really come fromDecent sized black bear

The whole groupThe rest of the trip was pleasant and uneventful. We saw no more bears, the river grew big and calm, the weather improved and we met up with Rick and Laurel on the jet boat for re-supply. We saw more moose, some eagles and more beavers than you can shake a stick at. It was a nice calm end to our Alaskan river adventure.

Somewhat intimidating wolf trackThe Predator, or "Ship"A pretty big one

A mama moose and calfThe Tyrrells dog, NikkiDwarf fireweedThe Birch Creek pulloutMore river flowers at sunset

Sunset over Birch Creek

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