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Adventure Log: My Encounter With an Alaskan Grizzly Bear

Andrew Wright

Posted on January 19, 2018 01:09

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I spent two summers in Alaska working on a documentary. This is how my staring contest with a grizzly bear changed my perspective on life.

I was only a few feet away from the van when the beast revealed itself. The salmon run was coming to a close, so he was abundantly fed and must have weighed close to a ton. The sun was just peaking through the clouds and glistening off his rain-soaked fur. I had seen plenty of bears on this trip, but none like this one, a truly magnificent sight.

On any other occasion, I would have been excited to see such a thing, but today was different. The bear had stopped in his tracks and was looking directly at me. I had startled him and he had laser focus on me.

You hear all these things you are supposed to do in a bear encounter: play dead, make loud noises, use bear mace. But all I could do was stare back at him. I’ve never felt so vulnerable in my life. I was completely aware of my insides, and how they might not be inside me for much longer. I’m just this walking bag of squishy stuff, and this monster before me is a giant muscle with razor sharp claws and teeth.

I didn’t realize it till later, but something profound happened to me in that moment with the bear. For years, I had this unmovable pain inside my soul; I carried it with me all the time. Depression is a funny thing in that if you have it long enough, the feeling of happiness begins to feel like you are cheating on your depression. It’s this voice in your head saying, “Don’t kid yourself. This good feeling is going to pass and I’ll be here waiting."

But this was different: suddenly, that pain was jolted out of place. When you are that hyper-aware of your mortality, the things you worry about day in and day out suddenly seem silly. Life is simple; we just tend to over complicate it. Society teaches us to attach value to all this stuff but when you really strip it down, all we need is food, water, air and love. Everything else is made up.

That is the lesson you are reminded when you step back into the wild places on our planet. Nature has a healing quality that you cannot find in any book or therapist or magic pill. It is kind of a miracle, actually. And you don’t need to stare down a bear as I did to learn this lesson. Go take a hike, sit by the fire, feel the sand in between your fingers, breathe some fresh air. The simple things will remind you what you have forgotten. Remind yourself who you really are.

Once I snapped out of it, I got the courage to continue forward, towards the van and the bear. I got inside the van and started it up. The bear decided it wasn’t worth the time and vanished back into the forest. I knew I was lucky. The beer never tasted as good as it did that night.

Andrew Wright

Posted on January 19, 2018 01:09

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Source: WDSU

There's a rule at Yellowstone National Park: You see wildlife, you admire wildlife, you stay 25 yards away from wildlife....

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