Thursday, June 29, 2006

My little adventure

Thanks for the kind words all... I promise to have some fiber content soon! But, in the meantime, I have something even better. I made it over to the Katmai coast this weekend, where we stayed the night. Here is a synopsis of the trip:

For those of you who do not know, I had the great privilege to fly over to the Katmai coast to film bears with a friend who is doing a documentary- we had a wonderful experience! I am a different person now- and I changed over the course of less than two days…

We flew out on Sunday, June 25 with Dave Hilty of BearQuest Aviation- easily one of the best pilots on the island.

We flew along the west side of Afognak Island, where Dave showed us some bear dens… before I knew it, we were approaching the Katmai coast. I didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly did not expect to see 35 bears dotted along the coastline of Hallo Bay, where we set up camp.

We landed safely and set up camp in the south part of the bay. The backdrop was jagged peaks, the magnificent Hallo Bay Glacier, and one bonafide volcano. About 300 yards west of camp were a few bears… we snapped many pics of these distant ones, not knowing what was to come.

Setting out Sunday afternoon, with cameras and such in tow, we made our way along the meadows in between the mountains and the ocean. It wasn’t long before we started seeing bears up close. The “mom and cub” picture happened when we set up the video camera at a safe distance from a few bears. This mother and her 2-yr-old cub were in the vicinity and started to head our way. They eventually skirted around us at a distance of about 40 feet. It was evident that mama was teaching her cub about humans… for the most part, these bears just want to steer clear of us. The cub was adorable… we often spotted him scampering about, and in an anthropocentric way, I could just imagine the mother’s thoughts… the cub also looked behind him at Mama frequently.

Before I go further… it’s interesting what I felt when out there. There were a few moments when I was fearful, but for the most part, there was an extraordinary calm that settled over us. We would pass by a bear who would acknowledge us by looking at us, then go back down to grazing on sedges, which is what they are eating right now (no fish yet!). They almost seemed like buffalo with their heads bowed to the ground eating. There was one point when we had about 7 bears all around us, the closet being about 75 feet away. Yet, there was no sense of being threatened- on either side. We were able to read the bear’s body language as they were reading ours. When we “met” a new bear, we asked one another. “Have we met this one yet?” The most stressful part was during that initial encounter. Some bears ran off when they saw us, some stayed put… and well, some wanted to come in for a closer look.

After seeing the mom and cub, a subadult (about 4-5 years of age) started coming steadily closer. When it reached about 25 feet from us, we began to make some noise. Although he was not threatening us, he was not stopping. 20 feet, then 15… finally my friend Amy gave a loud two-fingered whistle, as which point it took a large poo and ran off (I like to think the whistle scared the crap outta him). The two pics that have “sub” in the title are of this guy. Subadults are the bears that are the most likely to “cause trouble”.

We had another scare when two boars were having an interaction on a beach below us… one came up running right toward us! But, we just scooted outta the way and all was well. Mark (the fella doing the filming) put things in perspective, saying that they regard humans as they do ravens or foxes… yeah we’re here, but if we’re not in the way, then they really just couldn’t give a rip.

Saw lotsa bear sex… had the chance to see two sets of bears getting’ busy. Very cool!

Well, we camped out Sunday within the confines of our electric fence. I slept under the stars and woke up to a view of a mom and her VERY small cubs about 300 yards away. AMAZING!

There is so much more to tell- and so much that cannot be conveyed in words. Dave came and got us Monday evening… as we were flying over Hallo Bay, I felt the greatest upwelling of Emotion I have ever experienced. It was too great to describe with words like “love” or “joy”… it is the sense of seeing something, being a part of something so exquisite that it makes you hurt. Likewise, there are no words to describe this place where we shared habitat with these amazing beings for a night- “beautiful”, “magical”, and “sacred” barely scrape the surface. I will be going back.

Here are some of my fave pics out of the 200+ that I took:

mom and her cub (probably about 2 yrs old):


some pics of a subadult (3-5 years old) who got verrrrry close:



love is in the air...


just kickin' it with my homie on the west side (Katmai being west of Kodiak, tee-hee):


a sweet parting shot:


The only sad thing is that I found no bear hair for spinning... but I suppose I still had only the most amazing experience of my life. I have been doing lotsa spinning and stuff and will get the pics posted soon. WTF was I thinking just up and deleting my blog? I am such a dipshit...


At 6/29/2006 1:18 AM, Blogger Cledry said...

WOW!!!! x 10

What a brilliant experience and what ace photos. I'm so jealous. Well done you.

At 6/29/2006 5:39 AM, Blogger Bezzie said...

Awesome photos. If you ever decide to have kids, your whole experience of living up there will automatically make you the cool mom. Trust me--and I don't even have cool bear frolicking photos!

At 6/29/2006 3:42 PM, Blogger Pyewacket said...

Fucking Glorious.

At 6/30/2006 5:21 AM, Blogger Laurie said...

Yeah, don't be a dip and delete! I like your northerly perspective.

At 6/30/2006 2:21 PM, Blogger Ashley said...

ooo.. that's so cool.

At 7/15/2006 11:34 AM, Blogger Gef said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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