Bears played a big role in this year's camping vacation. We were staying at the Cooper Creek South Campground in Cooper Landing. A notice at the checkin kiosk said that a bear had damaged tents in the campground just 3 days before so we were on high alert for bear safety, keeping most everything we weren't using in our vehicles all the time and strictly enforcing no-odor stuff in the tents.
A day or so later Aurora was just past our car heading to the bathrooms when she noticed a brown bear not 25 feet away. It was walking from the creek to her right towards the campsite across the road from us, leaving a wet path. It sniffed around that site a bit (it was unoccupied), then headed on through it and disappeared into the brush, away from our site. We were just starting to make dinner (it was about 6:15) so we were a bit apprehensive. We drove to the bathrooms, then circled around and reported the bear to the campground host. They thanked us and said the bear had walked right by their site and on through into the woods. We were a bit edgy the rest of the evening, but it sounded like it was passing through. We'd gone walking on a trail behind the campsite the evening before and come across brown bear tracks (claw marks obvious as they down retract like black bear claws) so it was no surprise they were around, it was just a surprise to see one mosey on by our site without even a glance at us in broad daylight! It was a smallish brown bear--like the size of a big black bear.
|Not a great picture, but brown bear is running across road, almost in woods in Russian River Campground|
While Aurora and I were biking/running Johnson Pass, Denver and Douglas ran down to Girdwood and they saw a black bear while out hiking to the hand tram and watched it for awhile. Funny how black bear holds so little fear for us compared to brown bear! Besides seeing 3 bear (our first brown bears seen on the Kenai Peninsula in 6 years of being here), we just saw lots of bear scat everywhere we went--some of it quite fresh. The bears are eating plants right now as the scat was green and uniform colored. It will change as they eat more berries, and salmon.
Regarding that Russian River Falls hike. It is a nice, easy 2.3 mile hike out to the falls on a wide, gravel trail. Families hike it, bike it, run baby strollers along it. We've seen the price to get in and park at the trailhead parking lot nearly double in the 6 years we have lived here, so $11 per car per entry, for 12 hours, no re-entry allowed, seems like a rip-off and irritates me. This has got to be a big, fat cash cow. There were no bears at the falls and the fish weren't jumping, but there was a slew of salmon at the bottom of the falls, milling in a writhing mass of red-tinted bodies (the sign they are dying), which was fascinating watching. For us this was a very mellow evening hike though seeing the brown bear afterwards was exciting.
Besides that we discovered the joy of taking showers while camping: Wildman's has 10 minute hot showers for $4.25, which we appreciated beyond words after spending a day of intimacy with pushki, bugs and sweat biking the Russian Lakes trail.
And a trip to Cooper Landing didn't seem complete without a visit to Sunrise Cafe, though we opted for a heavenly piece of peanut butter cheesecake pie and cole slaw instead of dinner!
It still makes me shake my head that I like Cooper Landing, of all places, to vacation. But I recognize that others like it too, which is why this time we got reservations at our campground instead of leaving it to chance that a spot would be open (there would have been since we were there mid-week). And I still detest driving through Cooper Landing because the roads are horribly rutted and curvy and traffic is slow. That will improve a bit when the paving project through there resumes soon (suspended for the month of July due to high traffic volume). But if I want a good take-off point for lots of hikes and bike rides, this is a great place to be!