Surprises along the Russian river

I find a small pub that is open as long as one is socially distant. Sitting outside in the Alaskan sun, I enjoy a beer and some grub while pondering where to go hiking this afternoon. The internet is spotty out here in Kenai, and so I decide to just follow the road signs I saw earlier that lead toward the Russian river and Falls area, a nice little State Park.

I’m hopeful for a more leisurely stroll this afternoon to just enjoy the outdoors without the stress of having to worry about bears. The trail to the Russian river is level and smooth, without any real climb in elevation. It is only a three mile round trip to the Falls themselves, and so off I go….

The bubbling river beside me calms my nerves as I go, giving me time to reflect upon my morning hiking to Carter Lake. I smile to myself thinking about the bear spray incident, marveling at the slight tingling sensation I still have on my left hand.

I come to the Russian Falls, enjoying the quiet beauty around me. A couple of gents are on the viewing platform, and incredulously turn to me and ask “did you see the bear?”

I think that they must be pulling my leg, looking down the mountain to the river below and I see nothing. I shrug them off. Looking closer at the Falls and one can see that salmon are actually running upstream, jumping out of the water trying to get over the rock obstacles in their path so that they can continue the long journey upstream.

Wanting to get closer to the river to see the salmon up close, I follow an old sport fishing path through the forest that takes me down to the rivers edge. The water is calm and flat though, and so if there are fish I can’t see them. No fisherman are here either, so I hike my way back up to the viewing platform once again.

The boys are gone, but a Father and son ask me the same thing about the bear. Curiosity takes hold, and the three of us climb over the viewing platform and slowly and quietly climb down the mountainside….

No more than fifty feet ahead of us, the mighty grizzly is in the middle of the Russian river looking for salmon. I realize I was just around the corner from the bear when I hiked down earlier, and can’t believe how lucky I was that I didn’t surprise the bear.

We all watch in quiet as the bear finds and gorges on the mighty salmon in the river here.

Wench, bring my ale, what say you?

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