In the wilderness lies the preservation of the world.
Henry David Thoreau
Tracking Grizzlies in the Forest – Grizzlytour Day 6
The mood that the light creates on this morning is so amazing that our drone constantly flies to map our nature protection areas, and it takes the most phenomenal panorama images. Afterwards, we watch bald eagles eat salmon. Fabian, our biologist and photographer, takes phenomenal pictures of a young eagle, taking apart a dead salmon. It rained overnight, and there is significantly more water in the river. Now we can see many salmon swimming upriver. It occurs to us that the salmon migration is only just beginning. We came a bit too early. During all of August there was zero rain and the fish waited in the ocean until the water level in the rivers and the oxygen levels in the water began to rise. But it’s very difficult to estimate ahead of time when exactly the salmon will begin their journey up the rivers.
No matter what, we are still totally awed with the nature and the experiences here, and always need a bit of time to realize that all of this is really real. Because sometimes, when the eagles circle over the huge trees and one sits at the river, far away from everything that is man-made, then one asks oneself if it is truly possible that such a wild and beautiful place exists? Are there still places like this on this earth? There are probably just a handful of people in the world who have experienced this wild nature, and we feel honored and unbelievably lucky to be among them.
We put on our hiking clothes and walk into the rainforest, accompanied by the weather that has given this forest its name. Our goal: Another sand bank, which lies further up the valley in the Land of the Grizzlies. On the way, we stop at a magical tree, a maple which is about 700 years old, and which is covered in moss. No one says anything, we just stand there and look. “That is tremendous, I didn’t think I would ever see anything this impressive,” Erik says, as he cranes his neck to try to find the crown of the tree – which is impossible to see. Under the huge maple tree, we see two entrances to a wolf’s den. Then we continue to walk to the sand bank, on a path that is usually only used by animals. We make our way through the thicket of the rainforest, pass scratch marks and resting areas of bears. Once more it becomes clear to us that we are walking through the bears’ home, their living room. We are only guests here. And we try to act that way.
Once we arrive on the sand bank, we hope to finally see a bear, but alas, there is none. We really are too early. We don’t want to completely give up hope, but the chances are becoming slimmer with every passing minute. Still, everyone is enthralled by this unique nature. After a break, some of us walk back through the forest while Kai and Fabian ride down the Little Toba in a rubber dinghy. Everywhere along the way there are dark shadows moving in the water. These are hundreds of salmon who are traveling up the Little Toba to spawn. We are witnesses to the unique lifecycle of the salmon.
Our last evening in the Toba Valley has begun and we sit together at the campfire. We speak about what we have experienced and everyone expresses a similar sentiment: We are not just anywhere. We are far away from any civilization, in a wilderness area which we must protect for future generations. What we see here does not exist everywhere. And when we watch the lichen hanging off the huge trees, lightly swaying in the breeze and bathed in the light of the setting sun, it becomes clear to us that this here is truly wild nature, true wilderness, that has become so rare on this earth.