Running Bear (Part 3) aka Close encounters of the ursine kind!
For those of you who missed Part 1 and/or Part 2, you can catch up by clicking on Recent Posts - "Running Bear (Part 1 or 2)" seen at the bottom left hand side of this post.
Actually, it's been so long between posts that you may want to read them over again anyway.
So, here we are again! Part 3 - finally comes to pass. Very sorry that the "a few weeks" turned into a few months. The reasons why could be a future blog!!
We got up at 4:45, yes! in the morning! We gobbled our breakfast and then walked to the village to catch our boat. On the journey, we saw lots of wales sounding, diving (fluke-ing), twisting tin the water and generally frolicking. Very, very difficult to get a good shot. The boat was rolling in a 90' arc. Just as you lined up a shot the boat would slide down another wave and all you got was a shot of the water as we rolled into it! It was a complete 'fluke' that I got this shot :-)
Anyway, we eventually got onto dry land that wasn't heaving, and set off to find bears.
Here's one of the many we saw.... looks like he's saying "Who the hay are you?"
Next up was a waterfall - this one in fact!
We saw a lot of bears coming down both sides of the waterfall. We were on the right hand side and all the bears went to the left hand side of the river (body odor???? - OURS????!)
After taking lots of photos, we saw an alpha male bear come down the right hand side of the falls. As he was crossing to the left of the river, a smaller, (teenage?) bear waded across and they met in the middle. We could hear the young bear say, in a very derogatory voice, "Out the way granddad, I'm coming through!" Of course granddad started to show the young whippersnapper who exactly was boss of that there river!. They got into a tussle, debating the "who is the boss" question. They swatted each other, bit and did a few other nasties. Here's what it looked like:
We were enthralled. Finally the whippersnapper snapped, gave up and meandered off. Meanwhile, granddad, all adrenalized up, came across to our side of the river (well, the whole river was his and we were not willing to dispute that fact :-). He came down the path towards us and then sat down a few feet away, sideways on. Meanwhile, our bear guide suggested that we back away, very slowly!
The bear kept turning his head to look at us. Yawning (no he wasn't tired - yawning is a sign of stress for grizzlies) - hackles still raised and adrenaline coursing through his body. Of course, I wasn't scared! Oh no! We had a bear guide and we were paying him to "take a bear" for us. (Hey, POTUS (or potash depending on which country you're from) has secret service agents trained to take a bullet for HIM!), why couldn't our bear guide take a bear for us?
The denouement (de final moment) of the affair was that, wait for it!!!!, our bear guide looked at the bear and said in a cool, calm and collected voice, "Go home Mr. Bear, there's nothing here for you." Look, I'm not kidding here. The bear slowly got up, turned around and walked away! NO, I'm not making it up! The guide said to us that he had been guiding for 30 years and had never before had his bear spray out AND THE SAFETY OFF!!!!! See? I wasn't the only one who was scared!
Here's another shot of a similar incident - you can see how close this encounter of the ursine kind was......
Back to the cabin for a change of clothes :-)
The next day we went back to the falls, hoping to see round 2. The only "round" was us as we sat "around" for most of the morning with NO bears in sight at all!
When we got back to the village, we decided to have espresso and a cinnamon bun at the local caf (only open Thursday to Sunday from 8 to 2pm.). THWARTED! THWARTED! - out of cinnamon buns and the espresso machine was broken. All in all a very disheartening day! After a late lunch, we walked back down to the bridge to sit and shoot tremendously fabulous photos of bears frolicking in the water. NO bears there either!
The next day we saw hundreds of bears - well - maybe a dozen or so. This day is the day I got the photograph from whom this blog is named: Running Bear
Listen: once more, I apologize for the poor quality of the photos - I'm doing minimal processing on the fly, otherwise it would take years to get this blog on the road!
We spent a few more days in Alaska and saw a lot of grizzlies and a few other wildlife. It's a trip that I will always treasure.
My next blog will appeal to photographers.... the photo "running Bear" was on my reject list every time I looked at it until one day, years later, I decided to see if my painfully acquired, self taught skills in Photoshop were up to the task of making it a good photo. I will do a short blog on how I processed this photo, a before and after if you will - plus of course, all the steps in between. I think it turned out pretty good - what do you think?
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It really happened, honest. We weren't laughing then although it didn't seem too bad :-)
The actual really funny thing is that I, for one, didn't feel threatened or scared during that whole trip. We did get very close to the bears, sometimes only a few feet away. It was only when I got home that I realized that the scariest thing about the whole trip is that I wasn't scared.... if you get my drift!
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