I cast into the Chilkoot River. My lure tumbles downstream. I reel it in. Cast again. On and on, until I happen to look behind. Eight feet away, mama grizzly walks with her two cubs trailing along the shore…towards me. I almost do in my pants that thing that bears do in the woods. Instead, I back away, up a hill of boulders, trying not to turn my back to the bears. I watch them from on top of the bridge.

A cub picks up my tackle box (actually, Brother John’s box) and tosses it into the river. The other cub retrieves it, sniffs it, and sends it back on shore. I cannot believe that it did not open up and spill tackle. Usually, all I have to do is look at it and hooks spill out. The bears leave. I fish again. Reality strikes…I get skunked this day.

The next day, Mare and Jack come along. Mare gets photos of the bears, and I don’t get squat. Three days of fishing without a bite…so, let’s go to the Southeast Alaska State Fair. The Ferris wheel operator had eaten lunch on our cabin deck yesterday. He said that the wheel had no brakes. “It’s hydraulic, so we just shut it off to stop,” he says. “We get close enough for folks to jump down.” Mare and I decide to skip the Ferris wheel this year.

We enjoy a craft brew from the Haines Brewery before heading to the animal barn. There, we witness a few bunny rabbits, two miniature horses, (One named Marley who bites) and two Alpacas. I love Alpacas…make mine medium rare. We wondered what sort of livestock hangs in Southeast Alaska?

Bizarre and entertaining, “Flamebouyant,” from Portland, Oregon perform yearly at the “Burning Man” festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Tickets this year sold out for the first time in the event’s 25 year history. Today, “Flamebouyant” wows the fair crowd with circus gymnastics on stilts. They abuse a man/monkey/clown that runs below on a leash, avoiding twirling torches.

Fiddle music, sitar concerts, and squeezebox folk tunes serenade us on the porch of the Klondike Restaurant, where we once again devour the best pizza of our lives. On the main stage the tunes from “.357 String Band” from Milwaukee include “punk rockabilly,” “unforgiving gospel,” and fatalistic murder ballads. Perhaps they forge a new version of mad-young-white-boy-music.

Watch out for the ax throwing competition. The last contestant destroyed the entire target. Log climbing and fish-netting repair competitions hold attention in different venues. Alas, we’re all faired-out. Time to go home and rest up before another day on the Chilkoot River.

This day at the fishing hole, some tourists from up on the bridge warn me of grizzly bears coming. I move up to the bridge and wait for them to pass, this time holding the tackle box.

I have learned to fish with my head on a barrel swivel, which pays off an hour later. Another bear family, this time a mamma grizzly with 3 cubs, chase me away and delays my fishing. I am irritated, but this is their fishing hole, not mine. Soon, I’m casting into the river. Wham! I hook the largest steelhead trout I’ve ever seen…24 inches long. We finally have fresh fish for dinner. 

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