Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Walk Along The Wildside

Allen's about three feet ahead of me when I see it.

A bear.

Sitting at the water's edge along the Russian River in Alaska, about five feet away from Allen.

And he's looking at Allen.

But Allen isn't looking back.

So I do what the park rangers in Denali National Park told me to do if I ever encounter a bear out in the wild: Raise my arms and hands over my head and wave them back and forth (to make myself look bigger) and engage in idle chatter (so he knows I don't sound like prey).

It doesn't matter what I say to this bear, I just need to start talking. So, I chat away:  "Yoohoo, Mr. Bear. Oh, Allen, look. There's a bear. Hey, Mr. Bear. We are here. Do you see us?"

So Allen looks to his right and sees the bear looking at him. I freeze. A little panicked. That bear is close enough to leap into Allen's face. So what does Allen do? Raise his hands so he looks imposing? Engage in conversation?

No. He grabs his camera and steps closer to take a picture!!! LOOK OUT!

But, the bear just shrugs.

Well, it sure looks like a shrug to me. He lifts his right shoulder up and down. And then I see what's really happening. He's eating. He's got a salmon in his paw and he's raising it up to his mouth, ripping off a hunk, then lowering his paw while he chews.  And Allen keeps taking pictures.

But I notice Allen is also taking the offensive. He's raised his camera over his head so he looks imposing while he's taking pictures. Touché.

(In the picture I snapped, shown above, you can barely see the bear's ears above the tall grass to the right. Here are Allen's pictures.)

Within seconds, Mr. Bear finishes his  salmon and ambles out into the water for another. With a single, effortless swipe, he snags  a fish, then walks back toward us. Although this time, he anchors himself under a tree, behind some tall grass. Out of our sight. Which means if he gets cranky and wants to vent, we won't see it coming.

So we walk away, still talking, and now grinning. Because we finally met a bear. Out in the wild. But we're no fools. All the while we're smiling, we're looking back over our shoulders to make sure we left that experience behind.

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