A good criminal knows better than to return to the scene, but like a moth to the flame the lucidity to resist is often overpowered and morbid fascination takes ahold. Some years ago I saw my life, and the lives of my companions, flash before my eyes near Tustumena Glacier as a fully developed brown bear sow barreled down on us with the strength and force of the most potent childhood nightmare. Last week Kim and I decided to return.
In preparation for our upcoming expedition from Juneau to Homer Kim and I craved a five-day wilderness fat-bike and packraft ‘shakedown’ trip. We wanted to test out new gear and try new systems but mostly we wanted to be outside.
Springtime on the Kenai Peninsula is heart achingly beautiful. Migratory birds arrive each day and bring with them their distinct song. The air is alive with music, the forest sprouts fresh buds and water is released from its icy bondage and is allowed to flow again. Even the freshly scorched earth, from last year’s forest fire, speaks of renewal and life.
Our path along the shore was fleeting and only exists when the water level is low. We, however, are not the only ones to have observed this temporary causeway. Tracks of moose, coyote, wolf, river otter, crane and most obvious of all, bear – big bear with cubs had been coming and going before us and left their mark in the sand.
Each day we’d shot put our excrement into the depths of the lake upon heavy stones. The animals there are wild and are as of yet unaware of the tasty morsels we humans carry. Mostly they are hunted animals and they prefer to keep their distance, but we do our part as best we can.
From sand to cobble, to shingle to pebbles no two miles were ever the same. No mundane rhythm ever set in as the shoreline rolled passed. Both out and back on the same course is something I try to avoid but in this case it was the most logical course of action and the variety of conditions stole my attention and focused it on the micro path two pedal strokes ahead.
Tustumena Lake is big but the sky is even bigger. Each day we’d look to the other end and see gloomy thunderclouds but above our heads would be sky and sun. Not until our last hour did we experience rain and by then it was time to go.