Kamchatka Land of 10,000 Bears, Part 16. Back in the saddle

by david on February 26, 2020

Wednesday, May 8th 2019

Woke up too darn early again. 5:30 AM was 8:30 PM yesterday. I guess it could be worse. I tried to doze off again, but that was for naught. It was 1:30 PM yesterday at home. I could send some text messages back to the folks at home, so I spent the next hour doing so. Wi-Fi and cell phones are a modern convenience and really shrink the world. It was not that many years ago that I had to find a pay phone (remember those?) to phone home from Ocracoke Island, NC to my home in central NC as there were no cell towers on the island. I opted for another shower (did I say how nice this camp was, with all the hot water you could ever want) to try and rinse some of the cobwebs off and was mildly successful. Olya had lots of coffee ready for me about 7:30, so morning here I come. I think I will be able to tackle the snowmobile today to look for a 10-foot bear after breakfast. I plan on exercising caution as I don’t want to be laid up for the rest of the week. Olya brought me a big breakfast; porridge, eggs, meat, bread, and pancakes. It was all very good and I could not begin to eat it all.

It was 9:45 or so when the clouds finally lifted enough for us to start our quest for a 10 foot bear. I was anxious about climbing back on the snowmobile, but the guys promised to take it easy on me, so away we went. True to their word, the going was slow and easy, slow enough that my back and legs were doing ok. After 45 minutes to an hour I was working through the soreness and stiffness brought on by my first experience on the snowmobile. The thought of actually living through a week of snowmobiling brought a smile to my face though not as big a one as from all the bears we were seeing. None were approaching 10’ or even 9’ but, there were a lot of bears.

The snow was melting and the creeks and small rivers were clear and flowing rather well. We had to cross the open water on the snowmobiles and that was interesting, to say the least. We got stuck twice and had be pulled out. Igor was having less of an issue riding single, but the weight Vasili and I added to our machine cut down on the hydroplane effect. Thank goodness Igor always went first and was able to lend us a hand and a tow rope when necessary. We had not gone far past the last river crossing when we came across some tracks large enough to warrant following. This was good, except for this bear kept crossing stream after stream. Vasili and Igor had no qualms about crossing open water so we went right along with the bear. Finally, he crossed in a place that my first thoughts about following in that location were “no bleeping way” and was about to express my views in no uncertain terms, when both snow machines came to a halt. Thankfully, both of my companions came to the same conclusion I did and decided to come up with a plan “B”. Turned out plan “B” was not much better as far as the snowmobile ride was concerned. Plan “B” was to go over the mountain and through the forest at breakneck speed for three or four miles. When we finally crossed and made our way back towards the bear, we spotted him back on the other side. Well….. (Insert your favorite four letter word here)!  I began to wonder if he knew I hated crossing and he could deter me from following him. Our next move was to race along the river to find a place to cross once again. We would find a likely looking place, only to have Igor change his mind after a closer inspection. We went back and forth for several miles and Igor found a place he deemed crossable and dropped out of sight into the river. Vasili took off after him and before I could say “hell no”, we were off the side of the bank and into the water. We made it up the other side, but I can honestly say that was one of the most terrifying things I have ever done. At least we were back on the same side as the bear.

Now we were back across, it was catch-up time. It was hard to tell exactly what was going on and Vasili was too tall for me to see over. I think we exceeded 50 mph (the speedometer went to 180kph  or 111 mph) as we streaked to the forest. When we hit the trees, we slowed just a smidgen and looked for the bear. We finally found him, and he was a big bear — not much bigger than the one I already took, but bigger. Fortunately for him and my pocket book, he was not sufficiently large for me to consider taking as a second trophy. It was really cool to see him in the forest though. The trees gave a sense of scale that is just not an option when you are out in the open. We watched him and he watched us for a few moments and with a “woof” he turned and ambled off deeper into the timber.

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