Random Exerpt from my Alaska Journal

by Britta on 27 January 2009

in Travel

June 28, 2008 – Bear Encounter (or, Trooper vs. The Bear)

Brown bear. Huge. Walking down the trail toward me, between me and home. I had no retreat without dropping out of sight so I held my ground. Trooper plunged out of the woods between me and the bear, his ears perked in my direction, oblivious for a few eternal seconds of the animal seven times his size standing behind him. Finally he turned, and erupted. He’s a big dog, but his bark sounds much bigger, hiding the fact that he’s gentle and trusting. I clapped and waved my arms as Trooper advanced and the bear retreated, a few feet. The bear seemed to size Trooper up and advanced again, and Trooper turned and ran a few feet in my direction, still barking. They commenced what might have been an amusing dance had so much not been at stake.

The things one can think in a split second. Run! my body screamed at me, but my sense won out. Don’t retreat down the trail, you’ll be out of sight. Don’t follow the creek, that’s where the bear is going. Don’t get stuck on the bridge, you’ll have no escape. Hold your ground. Look big & loud. Play dead if you have to. Where the hell is Trooper?!

“Please, Lord, protect us,” I prayed aloud, as the bear took several steps forward and Trooper ran toward me. “No, Trooper!” I yelled, and he turned quickly around and barked louder. I had forgotten how agile he could be, but even in the excitement of the moment I could appreciate his speed and athleticism, attributes that seemed to disconcert the bear just enough. Trooper stayed between me and the bear after that, running the width of the trail, daring to advance a little, until the bear took a another step forward.

As Trooper barked and dodged, I held my ground and added to his noise. The bear looked from him to me, ears at attention. Perhaps it was curiosity, but most likely he was assessing our threat level. I doubt we even made it to orange, but he turned and left anyway. He made sure we knew he wasn’t in a hurry, made it quite clear who really owned the forest, and ambled off into the brush along the creek.

I was afraid Trooper would give chase, but he stayed near me, and when I was sure the bear was far enough away, I continued down the trail, clapping and yelling, and shaking. Trooper was back to sniffing and marking and chasing squirrels as soon as the bear disappeared, but I made him walk in front, just in case.

I met a runner coming toward me down the trail a couple of minutes later. I’m sure he heard me before he saw me. Still breathless and agitated, I told him what I had seen, and I’m sure he could see how frightened I was. Yet he decided to keep running, in the direction of the bear, without a bell, or a dog, or a gun. I said a prayer for him, too.

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