We woke up early, anticipating an 8 am bush plane flight to Katmai. When we looked out of the camper, we were a bit concerned. The sky was overhung with low lying clouds and fog. Sarah, at the office at Hallo Bay called and told us that the flight would be delayed, but that they were hopeful that it could take off a bit later. Around 9am, we were in the air, heading for Katmai.
The fog and the cloud layer obscured the views from the plane, but the flight was smooth and, an hour later, we were landing on the beach at Hallo Bay.
From the air, we could see several bears around the creek, so, as soon as we landed, we took off walking the 1/4 mile to the creek. We grabbed these shots of a couple of bears along the way…….
Then we walked on up the creek a little ways to where several bears had stopped to fish. We settled in on some driftwood logs and sat back to watch the action. We were, perhaps 50 yards from the bears who were directly in front of us in the creek.
We watched this pair of bears, who seemed to be ‘buddies’. The one on the right, dubbed “Lazy Bear”, seemed content to just sleep, only stirring occasionally to do a bit of fishing.
Her buddy sat beside her…scratching…or watching for fish…..until she got bored, and decided to wake her lazy friend up…..
Which Lazy Bear did not seem to appreciate. With a response that could only be interpreted as “Leave me alone!”…….
Lazy Bear then laid down and went back to sleep.
We ……that is Dave in red, Laura in blue, and Fred in tan….. were watching on one side of the creek with our guide and several other people…….
While DeWayne, our previous guide at Hallo Bay, was bear watching across the creek with a film crew. We watched as this bear crossed over the hill and walked right in front of DeWayne..
Then slashed through the water.
We were wishing that we had been that close to the bears….when we had our own drama.
Lazy Bear’s ‘buddy’ did not like the new bear coming into their fishing spot……
So she chased the new bear away…….Across the creek and right in front of us! Sadly, I did not catch any of this on film…..I watched, unable to move, as the bears ran right by us! We were about 10 feet from the bears as they ran by. Close enough to smell them….and they smelled RANK!
The lead bear ran past without even looking at us, she was too busy worrying about the bear chasing her. The chaser looked over at us, as if to say “What are you looking at?” and kept on chasing. We were not worried about the bears turning on us….only about being run over if they did not see us. We also had the security of knowing that our guide was watching the bear’s behavior and was alert for any signs of interest or aggression. The guides at Hallo /bay do not carry bear spray, but have found that a safety flare woks much better to deter a problem bear.
It was over in seconds….but the powerfulness of those bears is something that I will not soon forget.
I am writing this post after the incident about a bear mauling a hiker in Denali has hit the headlines. No matter how comfortable we might feel sitting at Hallo Bay and watching the bears, we always keep a healthy respect for the unpredictable nature of bears. It is not something that we take for granted. We carry bear spray and/or a safety flare with us when we hike, and we would never take a bear encounter casually.