Sunday, February 13, 2011

Skurka Grizzly Bear Encounter in Brooks Range

While crossing Gates of the Arctic National Park w/Andy Skurka on his big Alaskan adventure this past summer, we ran into a curious bear on the upper Nahtuk drainage. This was the same general area where Peggy and I had another bear encounter over 20 years ago.

At first the bear looked more predatory than curious. Andy was startled that it didn't just run away immediately, like all his other bear encounters over the last 4000 miles had ended. This bear really evaluated us.

As Skurka's usual method was to stand his ground and yell, "Go Away Bear", Andy did that, but the bear just reluctantly moved off the gravel bar and into the bushes. The wind was weak and blowing upstream, if I recall. And the bear was walking upstream toward us.

We sort of walked in a small radius half circle, Andy with his bear spray pulled to the ready, me with camera shooting over his shoulder to try and capture the tension of the moment -- and the bear walking in a larger radius half circle.

The bear just took its time, far more interested in our possibility as prey than as threat, it seemed to me. It felt much closer than the wide angle shot suggests.

The bear felt far closer than the telephoto shot shows, too!

One long, last look before slowly, almost disappointedly, the bear continued ambling upstream.

Andy Skurka with a good post-bear encounter adrenaline buzz going.
He's an adrenaline junky, too, I guess, just more of the low-dose, slow drip kind.


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