Bear Beach

Living in Haines, in particular, the Chilkat Peninsula, and being surrounded by salt water and rivers’ galore, the concept of having a boat, in all of it’s magnificent access abilities, seems as important a vehicle as any. The vessel available to us at time’s being is a Lund 12′ craft of the skiff variety, which sports a small 10hp Johnson motor. Other craft’s would be a pleasure to captain as well, such as a canoe or sea kayak, but the Lundy is what we’ve got and a day out to explore the fabulous waterways of our home is in order. Forgoing the “event of the year” in Haines, the annual Southeast Alaska State Fair, we opt to load the boat into the truck (sans trailer) and head out to Chilkoot lake for a looksie.Chilkoot Lake is a spectacle to behold for sure: a milestone of a lake it is situated at the bosom of the Takahshini Mountains, is fed by the world famous Salmon fed Chilkoot River, and is surrounded by peaks, waterfalls, glaciers, and Bears. The lake’s out feed river, the Lower Chilkoot, is only 1 mile long before dumping itself into the mighty sea by means of the Lutak Inlet. This stretch of river sports one of the mightiest Sockeye Salmon runs in the state, and is usually adorned with fisherman from abroad, hoping to land a fish. Above said stream, is Chilkoot Lake and above the pond lie one of Southeast Alaska’s mighty wilderness rivers’: The Upper Chilkoot. Where the Upper Chilkoot enters the lake, a great sandy stretch of freshwater coastline angls off to form what is affectionately known as “Bear Beach”.We drive out past the hoards of Fair goers onto the Lutak Road and sneak up the Chilkoot road to it’s end and set the boat, and ourselves adrift. A cruise up lake reveals a new vantage and we are rewarded by hidden glaciers and more eye dropping waterfalls. About 3 miles out we come to the lake’s end and we find our selves moored upon the beach head known as “Bear Beach”. Immediately upon abandoning ship, Brown Bear prints are seen and we come to realize the nature of it’s given name. Angela scrambles off to follow the prints and soon is fiording the raging Chikoot River in an attempt to continue following the Bear’s path. Soon the water is higher than the Extra Tuffs that adorn her feet, and she then sheds boots and clothing alike for a true Alaskan river crossing. Not being so bold, I decide to stick to the adjecent shore in hopes of joining her further up river. I too come to my own adventure shortly thereafter, and soon find myself deep in Alder thickets and Sedge grass waist deep, with Bear trails criss crossing the landscape. I begin my chanting of bear talk in an attempt to warn the large, furry critter’s of my presence. Bear beds and more prints scatter the shoreline and soon I see Angela attempting to wade back across to a lagoon that might access the previous shoreline. Soon she is wading thigh deep, naked as the day she came with  Extra Tuff’s in hand and the most serious set of Bear trails I have seen swirling around us. A quick stomp through the Alder thickets and Devil’s Club singing bear songs, brings us back to the beach where we ponder the situation. Back in the boat and headed back from where we came, a few more stops at small creeks and inlets rewards us with spawning Salmon, more beautiful forest and waterfalls, and another fine day in Alaska.

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