The Grizzly Adventure

Grizzly Adventure Page #3
by Shahn Torontow

Glacier fly past
Glacier fly past

As the afternoon became later, I had to start my journey towards the spot on the beach where my pre-arranged pickup was to be at 5:00 o'clock. The pilot and I agreed on a pick-up spot on the beach. I had taken almost 300 pictures so I packed my camera and lens into my backpack. I put my tripod over my shoulder and headed for the ocean.
Half way there in the distance across a field and a small river I saw a lone grizzly headed away from me. The same instant I noticed it, it noticed me. We both stopped, and I stood very still. It turned and started in a new direction. As there was a football field distance between us, I continued on my route. The bear chose a path that would diagonally intersect mine by the time we got to the beach. I sped up a bit and changed my angle towards the ocean hoping to beat the bear past a low berm on the edge of the beach. Once there, I ran as fast as I could with my wet feet, thirty eight pound backpack and large heavy tripod. I needed to start a fire as soon as possible to try and frighten off the big grizzly.
A float plane appeared over the horizon. I thought Ross was coming to pick me up, that I was saved before I had to deal with this potentially fatal scenario. It arched over the wetlands, followed the valley over the glacier and flew off as quickly as it approached. My heart sank.

I struggled to light the fire, but it wasn’t easy, everything was damp, and it was windy. I was distracted by the all important task of looking down the beach for the bear. Struggling with the wind and my worry, I tried my best. I blew and blew on the kindling, get a flame for a moment and then, just smoldering.
All of a sudden there the bear was standing on the beach. It looked away from me, and I thought, "Please go that way". It turned in my direction looking right at me. I was still on my knees blowing at the not so successful fire. I jumped up, threw on my backpack, and hoisted my tripod over my shoulder. The bear started running toward me!
A million things went through my mind. You do not run from a grizzly bear, you want to look "BIG".  I wavered from side to side with my tripod held high, trying to be as large as possible. I grabbed my whistle and started blowing it as hard as I could. I was within feet of the waters edge, nowhere to go. Running towards me the bear went from  being “way down the beach” to right in front of me in a second. I yelled. It skidded to a stop around ten feet from me, and we looked at each other. Sweat ran down my face. I honestly thought I was going to die! 

For just a moment the world around us stopped, maybe even disappeared. I had a seven inch hunting knife, and thought that I wouldn't even wound a grizzly with that. I could smash my tripod with the large Wimberly head mounted on it across the bear’s face and maybe then use the knife. It was only an instant, but many thoughts went by & flew through my mind.
 Then a small wisp of smoke drifted across the sand towards the bear.  Like a Saturday morning cartoon, the smoke slithered its way towards the bear. The grizzly stood on the ground right in front of the smoke, then the black wisp went straight up across the bear’s nose. The bear looked right at me, made a face, turned and ran away. 
 I fell to my knees by my smoldering ashes and blew and blew until I couldn't blow any more, the fire finally lit. I collected wood and stocked the fire until it was four feet tall. I put two six foot long logs into the base as torches, in case the bear came back.
 I sat there for nearly an hour, huddled next to the safety of my fire.  The plane was late, and when it finally came in it circled around before landing. The wind had picked up, the tide was high and the seas where rough. The little plane bobbed around like a cork. I thought, "Please don't flip over." I’d had enough adventure for one day.

Already having wet feet I grabbed my flaming log and walked out into the waves towards the plane. Once standing on the float I tossed the torch, opened the door, and shoved in my gear. As I climbed in, I told my wife and the pilot how happy I was to see them.
I told my stories as we flew out over the glacier and the mountains.  The pilot told me that a couple of miles north of here a fellow and his girlfriend had been killed by bears a couple of years ago. The danger did not make the view any less beautiful. On the way over the flats we tried to count all the bears. There were so many, over sixteen, digging clams, playing, living life. One day.