Pond Island, Kelp Bay and Hood Bay

From the National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska, May 11, 2010

Rare and exquisite, the calypso orchid, Calypso bulbosa, is the holy grail of wildflowers. Also known as the fairy slipper orchid, it is an early spring bloomer, and from previous hikes into the bog behind the beaver dam on Pond Island, we had hopes of finding a patch of them. Our intrepid hikers set off through old growth forest, into a meadow with brown bear and Sitka black-tailed deer sign, across a stream, over three logs, back across the stream (cute orange gel fungi on rotting sticks) and past the beaver dam, under and over a few more downed trees, just around the corner past the porcupine tracks, and there they were!! At least a dozen sweet magenta orchid faces near the place where beavers live and drag leafy branches down a slide into their pond.

Meanwhile, kayakers watched curious harbor seals and distant surface-active humpback whales while another group combed the intertidal for interesting small critters. A wonderful morning spent tucked into Kelp Bay on the northeast corner of Baranof Island.

Later, across Chatham Strait and far into Hood Bay on Admiralty Island, we spotted a brown bear in a meadow, behind a flock of Canada geese and several bald eagles. He ambled from view and as we were pulling away- a dog? Or a wolf? No, three dogs/wolves romped across the beach. After much discussion and careful peering through the spotting scope, we decided they were indeed dogs, which was later confirmed by a radio conversation with the couple in a caretaker’s cottage a few miles away. Apparently a pack of wild dogs have been hunting the local deer….sadly, even here in this great wilderness, introduced species can negatively impact local animal populations. In the south arm of Hood Bay we enjoyed some views of two more brown bears on this island so densely populated by Ursus arctos that the Tlingit people call it Kootznahoo – the fortress of the bears. This evening we are northbound, toward Icy Strait and new discoveries.


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