A Beary Close Call

When I sold/gave away the majority of my worldly possessions and moved into the back of my Rav4 to drive to Haines, AK, it was simply because it felt right. My first night out in town I met a man who told me about the cabin.

Alaska Float CabinHe described it as:

Rustic. Very rustic, but the water comes up to your front door when the tide comes in. It’s rustic, but pretty much one of the coolest places you could live. LOTS of bears! It was built to float. They call it the float house! Very rustic, but if you’re into it, it’s a GREAT location! Bears. Lots of bears.

I fell in love the first time I saw it.

A stack of wood with a red roof sitting on a Huck Finn style raft, missing 4 of the 12 logs that were originally the raft. The front quarter of the cabin hung precariously over the edge, threatening to plummet into the ocean.

(It has swan dove twice already, though not while I lived there.)

It was “fully furnished” with older, VERY used furniture that had unparalleled character. 

Perfect.

A camp stove, kerosene lanterns, wood stove, and candles.

Who needs anything else?

This past year John and I moved into the cabin together. I opened my healing, safe haven to my soulmate. He made my house a home.

During the Pink Salmon run John and I decided to walk onto the flats to fish as the tide went out. That’s not abnormal. Everything and everybody wants to fish when the tide moves.

Eagles and Brown Bears in Alaska. All Rights Reserved.

Eagles, bears, sea lions, seagulls, fishermen, minks, otters, dolphins…everything.

John Binger fishingSo John and I got a bucket, a fillet knife, fishing rods, an air horn, bear mace, Xtra Tufs, and started trying to catch dinner. We were out on the flats for a while, enjoying the sanctity of providing our own food, being with nature, and being one with the other hunters trying to catch some wild salmon. I watched as sea lions barked, splashed, and huffed their way through dinner.  

John brought me out of my dream state, by saying simply and calmly, “There’s a bear between us and the cabin.”

I looked.

There was a three year old adolescent bear standing between us and our home.

She didn’t seem concerned with us in the moment, so I just checked on her every once in a while as the tide went out further and further. I wasn’t excessively concerned; I thought we’d be able to give her a pretty wide berth as the ocean receded, lending back to us our yard newly peppered with spawned out salmon.

The problem started when it was time for us to throw in the towel. We hadn’t caught anything, and we were both pretty tired. The tide looked as if it had gone out enough to not bother our visitor, so we packed up.

We began walking to circumvent our bear, but instead, our movement drew the animal’s attention.

“Um, Baby, the bear’s looking at us,” I declared warily.

Brown Bear in Alaska by Rita. All Rights Reserved.

“That’s OK,” my lover responded while scouting for a way across the inlet, as the water hadn’t receded quite as far as we’d thought. We continued to walk, but found ourselves on a peninsula, surrounded by the bone chilling Pacific.

The bear began to walk towards us.

“Um, Baby, the bears walking towards us,” I declared…with a little more intensity than before.

“That’s ok,” still fidgeting. Still not giving the animal what I thought was due concern.

We were cornered on our peninsula.

The bear continued to walk slowly towards us.

Then.

She began to trot.

“Baby! She’s trotting towards us!” I’m sure I sounded way more distraught than I tried to portray.

Fidgeting,”OK. Stay calm, lover…”

“BABY! OH SHIT! SHE’S RUNNING TOWARDS US!!!”

“Shit… Stay calm lov…”

I suddenly remembered. I screamed…loudly.

“SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUWWWWWWEEEEEEEE!!!”

I’ve yelled at bears before. I’ve scared them from hanging around my cabin before, but when I did those things, I’m pretty sure I sounded tough. I felt strong. I was by my cabin. I wasn’t standing alone with the love of my life in the middle of the tidal flats, vulnerable. I’m not so sure at this moment I sounded very tough, but I was loud.

The bear stopped. She looked at us quizzically, then after a moment began walking towards us again, albeit a little more slowly than before.

I whipped out the air horn. I pressed the red button with all my might, but a very unmighty noise was produced. It sounded like a slightly louder, higher pitched whoopie cushion. I looked at it frantically for an obvious answer, got nothing, and tried again. Same result, only weaker. No answer from the air horn.

John gave me a tip, “Shake it. It’s cold.”

Wow. Duh.

I shook it. It worked!!!

The bear didn’t care. She continued walking towards us.

By this point, our landlords had noticed the happenings from their home in the neighboring RV Park.  Since folks are always fishing and grilling out there, they have some pretty heavy duty bear scaring tactics.

They lit one of those firecrackers that sounds as loud as a shotgun.

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!

The bear stopped, retreated about 20 feet. Returned 10 feet.

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!

This time the bear stopped, retreated 10 feet. Returned 5 feet.

She stopped, sniffing the air, trying to discern if we were predators or prey.

By now, I realized what John had been doing earlier. He said in what may as well have been the toughest hero voice ever,

Lover, stand upwind of me.”

I moved, as he held the can of bear mace upright, and released a long, hissing spray. The yellow cloud caught the breeze and went towards the bear.

She didn’t move.

He released another spray.

She still didn’t move.

Adjusting slightly, he released yet another.

We stood frozen, watching the yellow cloud float towards her.

She was smelling the air with quite an intense energy when the unassuming saffron cloud reached her.

I saw her inhale once…twice.

Suddenly, she shook her massive head side to side frantically, turned away from us, and ran.

I realized in that moment, I had been holding my breath. I let it out in a giant sigh of relief.

We hadn’t caught dinner, but we hadn’t been dinner either.

That’s a win.

Tomorrow’s not guaranteed.

 

 

 

 

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