Mikhail Belikov Photography (nature, adventures, travel)

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Princess Royal Island: 

My First Adventure in the Wonderland of Bears, Wolves and Salmon


Woke up at 7:00am. No rain overnight, and the bay was covered with fog. After finishing my breakfast of two granola bars with coffee, I had left to explore the creek, walking upstream along the right-hand shore, the side where my camp was.

Creek in Fog

Walking was really an overstatement: no animal trails, so it was a mix of climbing rocks and boulders on the shore, and wading through shallow parts whenever possible: these rocks were quite slippery.

View Down the Creek, Bay of Plenty

About an hour into my hike, I had discovered bear footprints and then a carcass of a recently eaten salmon, no more than a few days-old.

Partially Consumed Pink Salmon Carcass, Bay of Plenty

Noting the place, I had continued up the stream, reaching a picturesque lake with low-lying shores and knee-deep sediment covering the bottom.

In two hours I had covered probably no more than one km. The bear presence in the area was obvious, with fish leftovers and scat here and there, and numerous trails along the lake. Checked for animal hair: all black, no signs of spirit bears. After a bit of rest, I had returned to the area with the salmon carcass on the shore and positioned myself in the bushes, in a place overlooking the lake upstream and the fish carcass downstream, so I could spot a bear if it decided to come down for fishing.

Once I stopped, I came under attack from small flies, bigger than no-see-ums but smaller than mosquitoes. I had covered my face with a bandanna and put paddling gloves on to minimize exposed skin.

Waiting for Bears, Bay of Plenty

While preparing for this trip, I had read in the guidebook that the author, also traveling by kayak, saw no bugs from late August on. Taking this at the face value, I had left my bug spray behind and, of course, all kinds of flying insects had been pestering me throughout the trip.

I had waited in the bushes for a while: no bears. Finally, called it a day and started moving down the creek, this time along the opposite shore. To my surprise, I had soon found a very decent trail with clear signs of human usage: it was cleared of logs and branches, with an ax or possibly a saw. Wondering who might have done this, and grateful for having an easy route back to my camp, in no time I had reached the estuary. Along the creek, I had noted again a bush with red berries, quite possibly red currant. Since I was not sure, I left it alone.

Red Currant?

Back to the camp by 2:00pm. It was a sunny day, giving my washed clothes a chance to dry. What a pleasure it was to take off my waterproof kayaking outfit and get into cotton clothes! After lunch and a bit of rest, I had decided to try my chances again, put on rubber boots and headed back up the creek. The tide was quite low and I had no issues crossing the creek, ankle-deep in the estuary, to the trail side. Soon, I was back up the creek to my bear waiting place, and stayed there for a while. No bear activity. It was getting late and I headed back to the bay. By this time the tide had risen, and I had to remove my boots and cotton pants, and cross the creek to my camp barefooted, with water in some places up to my hips deep.

My washed and hung clothes were nearly dry. Despite not finding bears, it had been an agreeable day. I had finished my lunch leftovers for dinner and enjoyed a pleasant and cloudless evening.

Full Moon in Bay of Plenty

My next destination was Mellis Inlet, about 15km away, where I was told the salmon run was quite impressive, and so hopefully my chances to see at least some animal activity.

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