Katmai National Park
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Awed by the Claws: a day in bear country
Ever smelled a bear? I have. I even have evidence! As our seaplane landed on the evergreen shoreline of Katmai NP in Alaska, we spotted the bears! A lone male plodded the beach. A mama rested on her haunches, small cubs rolling nearby. A juvenile dug for breakfast. 7 bears I counted! It was crawling with grizzlies! They'd come to glut on salmon. First:“Bear Certification”! No food (even toothpaste) near the bears. Never run, make eye contact, or feel fear. And if we see bear? Hold up arms and say:“Whoa Bear. Hi Bear”. Afterwards, in the drizzle, I said, “Let’s go read in the lodge.” So we single-filed up the trail with our books, my 13-year-old Rob in the lead. 30 paces along, he stopped short. We train-wrecked into him, as he thrust his hands up and quivered, in his man-cub voice, “Whoa Bear” A bodylength from the trail, 9‘ of lush black fur towered up. In absolute silence, the bear crunched a branch. Shiny black lips curled around leaves. 5” black claws curved limply against his chest. We got our first whiff of “bear”. At that moment, Rob’s Goblet of Fire dropped to the path. “Do NOT pick that up”, I whispered. We back-pedaled, so slowly. Then, we TURNED AND RAN. Laughter. Adrenaline. Full sweat. Through the Sitkas we spied as our mighty grizzly ambled off. Then we gingerly retraced our steps. On the trail were the spoils of Rob’s book, pages strewn across the dirt. And the blue cover? Pierced by 2 giant canines- a true Alaskan souvenir!
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