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Rain, Sea Otter, and Near Death

May 11, 2013

Thumbnail for version as of 10:43, 13 July 2009

If you live on the coast of Alaska, you learn to live with rain, but if you venture to an Alaskan island, you need to prepare for unending downpours. On a  bear hunting trip to Hitchenbrook Island in 1968, rain, rain, and more rain was what we lived through for more days than I like to remember.

Finally, the rain reduced to a drizzle, and we ventured outside the tent before we got bedsores. The lack of a downpour was extremely welcome. I wasn’t thinking about bear hunting, and felt sure they also had to be holed up after all this rain. I was just happy to walk along the beach and see the beauty of the island. We got lucky, and the sun came out, so we kept walking.

We found a lovely little cove in which to sit and have our lunch, and we received a fantastic treat from Mother Nature. There, directly in front of us, swam four sea otters. They ate, played, and entertained us. One of the otters had a baby laying on her tummy. She would rub, pat her baby, and coo in a soothing noise just like I would do to my daughter when I wanted her to take a nap. She wrapped her paws around the baby, rolled over and soon reappeared, looking as if she had given it a bath. She then seemed to be grooming its fur or scratching an itchy spot.

One of the other otters spent the afternoon eating. This delightful little guy would dive down, get a clam and a rock in its paws, and then laying on its back, it would crack the clam open on the rock. At times, it would share a clam with another otter. I think even they were enjoying the sunshine, as they spent most of their time resting on their backs, with their little front paws on their chests, looking like they were in church and saying a long prayer. At other times, they would look as if they were holding hands with a loved one. These darling little critters made the rainy days disappear from memory and filled my heart with utter joy.

We had hiked a few miles, and then sat and watched our entertainment for perhaps two or three hours. Not being aware of the ocean and its tides, we discovered it was now impossible to access where we had previously walked along the beach. What had earlier been an enjoyable hike had turned into a life-threatening climb and jump event. We had to climb a small mountain over rocky cliffs. I didn’t object to the rock climbing, but when we got to one spot where the ocean was spraying over the rocks, I became hesitant.

Hub was on the cliff ahead of me. I watched as he jumped across the rock ledge with the ocean waves lapping at his feet with ease. The thought of doing the same made me want to pass out. It looked more than scary to me. It looked like my worst nightmare. Hub was yelling for me to hurry and jump, and all I could do was shake my head. I hate water, plus the added noise of waves crashing against the cliff, spraying water on my face, was too much for me. This cliff placed a deathlike grip of fear on me. I could barely hang on to the cliff, let alone jump across to another ledge. At that moment, I hated this man. I hated stupid bear hunting. Most of all, I hated the frigging ocean and my fear. I yelled, screamed, and cussed, telling him, “I can’t do it. I’m going back. I’ll stay over here and freeze before I jump into the ocean and be slammed against those rocks.”

We had an extreme intense and vulgar discussion about my refusal to jump. Hub, not so nicely told me, “Quit your whining, and just jump, or stay there and be eaten by a bear.” Then he started to walk away, but he had a few departing words left in him. “God damn it, you either jump now, or I’m leaving you because the waves are getting bigger than ever, and soon you won’t be able to get across. I am not coming back tomorrow to see your dead, bear-eaten body. Donna, you have to jump as far and as high as you can. God damn it, jump, now!”

I didn’t think either jumping or being eaten alive sounded particularly good at that moment. My heart was pounding so hard that my brain hurt. The waves were now hitting harder at my feet, and my knees were getting weak. I called him every dirty name I knew, closed my eyes, and jumped. I landed safely at his feet. He grabbed my hand, and we scrambled farther away from the pounding ocean. It is strange how anger and fear can mess with your head, but I believe that day my anger made that jump possible.

THE WILD SIDE OF ALASKA—coming soon

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. David Slaughter permalink
    October 21, 2013 12:18 pm

    This story (and several others from your Alaska book) made me and my wife laugh out loud. We live and hunt in Colorado and I’ve drug my wife up and down some of the nastiest, roughest country imaginable. I could have written what Hub was thinking as this was going on (“Sure its a little dangerous. Yeah, there’s a chance this could end poorly but it’ll probably work out fine and ‘Man! what an adventure…’ ‘… Oh crap. This could get bad. Hurry up lets just get through it and get the heck out of here.’ ‘What? You’ve followed me into this mess and now you’re stuck?’… ‘Is that lightening coming our direction?’…’I don’t remember it being this steep climbing into this place?’…’Baby, there’s no way a bear is going to stalk you on the way back to the truck with that bloody hind quarter on your back. Bears don’t like elk meat…’). And I’m pretty sure she’s thought everything said at one time or another. But man, what an adventure!

    • October 25, 2013 12:36 am

      Hey David and dear wife that follows you to those crazy and dangerous places,thanks for liking my site. I have a full blown book called The Wild Side of ALaska which you might also enjoy.
      Love that lady that goes with you on all your adventures.

      • David Slaughter permalink
        October 25, 2013 12:59 am

        Donna, I LOVED “The Wild Side of Alaska”! I downloaded it last weekend and read it in a day. I adore your writing style and we love Alaska so it was an easy read. Now I’m reading “Big Backpack, Little World” – LOVE IT!

  2. October 25, 2013 1:03 am

    David, thank you so very much and I’m thrilled you love it—Now would you please go to Amazon.com and write a review for it….it is so helpful to get glowing reviews, or even bad ones.Truly thank you for making a great day for me.

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