What a surprise to awake to a partly cloudy sky after all the bright sunshine throughout the week! Still, it was a lovely morning aboard National Geographic Sea Bird as we cruised past the forested shoreline of Chichagof Island towards our landing at Pavlov Harbor.  

Hikers strode inland beside a margin of dense alders that led to a stunning waterfall not far from the landing. Beyond the cascade lies Pavlov Lake. The connecting streams are important for spawning salmon, and the water beneath the falls rippled and splashed with fish. They milled in the shallows in preparation for a steep ascent up a sloping ladder that was first built in the 1930s. The abundance of fish has attracted humans here for centuries, starting with the native Tlingits who first visited this site. Other residents have also noticed the salmon, and we discovered signs of their presence along our path. Footprints, droppings, and rubbing trees complete with hair provided evidence that we walked in the realm of brown bears. Skunk cabbages lay trampled where the animals had dug them up to munch their roots. We gingerly stepped over partially eaten pink salmon along the trail near the falls. Many of these remnants looked very fresh!   

Two groups of hikers returned early to take kayaks out after their time ashore, and as a number of the boats approached the falls, a hungry bear emerged, caught a salmon, and retreated into the forest where some of the remaining hikers could see it. One has a heightened awareness of the surroundings knowing that one of these majestic creatures could be just around the bend. Brown bears are a true symbol of wild country and particularly of Alaska, and it was a special privilege to be guests in their world.  

Once back on the ship, a bunch of brave adventurers took part in a polar plunge. They boarded a couple of our landing craft, rode a short distance from Sea Bird, and leapt into the chilly water. Most of the participants rapidly scrambled back into the boats, and it was quite an experience for swimmers and observers as well.  

During the afternoon we motored south and then entered Peril Strait, so named for about 150 Aleut Indians who died there from eating tainted mussels in 1799. This quiet and scenic route between Chichagof and Baranof Islands leads to Sitka, where we would leave our ship and fellow travelers in the morning after a marvelous week together in Southeast Alaska.