Wednesday, May 17, 2006


So...about 6-o-clock this evening I was standing in the middle of a trail off of the North Fork Road watching as brown bear wandered across the track about a quarter mile ahead of me.

Geez...what is it with me and bears all of a sudden? I have gone *years* without seeing any and in the last week I have seen two.


About a week ago, Denny and I were driving down a rural road outside of Ninilchik, looking at property. Or looking for property, since most of the areas we have been poking around in are seriously lacking in signage and what are described as roads in the real estate listings often exist only in the imagination of the borough planners.

So, Denny and I were trying to find anything that resembled a cross-street out in some Hooverville neighborhood off of Oilwell Road when I squinted down the road ahead where what appeared to be a large brown dog was waving his head up and down.

"What the hell is that?" I asked Denny, not trusting my eyes.

"Damn--looks like a bear--a big one." The beast in question shambled off to the side of the road.

"I was sort of hoping it was just a big, brown dog..."

"Dogs don't act like that..."

We approached, then passed, the area in question. There was no big brown dog guarding the closest house. Whatever had been there had vanished. So we had no real proof as to what we had seen, but when we went out the next day to meet the real estate agent at the property, Denny brought a gun along--and the agent thanked him for the forethought. Of course we saw nothing in the way of threatening wildlife then--but that's the way we like it.

So, fast-forward to this week, where we have been looking for property near Anchor Point. There was a large-ish parcel of land on the market for a smallish price, so Denny and I went out yesterday and trooped around some phantom subdivision looking for surveyors' markings. Denny wore a revolver in a shoulder holster just in case but the largest wildlife we saw was a spruce grouse who drifted casually off into the underbrush as we walked past. We were interested in the land we saw but the directions from the realtor were vague and since our truck doesn't have a functioning odometer, going a mile down any particular road was all guesswork. Since Denny had to head out to Bethel this morning, I called the realtor and asked if someone could show me *exactly* where the property was located.

So that is why six pm found me and the property owner walking down a rough, sandy road/trail in the lowlands off of the North Fork Road, accompanied by his old, deaf dog. We were about half-way to his parcel when a large brown bear wandered out from the woods ahead of us and started walking down the road in the opposite direction. At that point, I realized that although I had--in fact--brought a gun along to this party, it was about a mile and a half away in my truck, securely stowed under the seat and safe from any possible bear attack. (I thought it might weird-out the seller if I hopped out of my truck and strapped a six-shooter on--and heaven knows it is so much better to be eaten by a bear than to weird-out a total stranger...)

Now, being an Alaskan means you don't shriek, "Omigod a bear!" when you happen upon one in your travels. Nope--not cool. No, you just go, "Hmmm...a bear..." and stop to see which way said bear is heading. We were a respectable enough distance away that our response was one of focused interest rather than fear, though I would have felt a bit more secure if we didn't have the half-deaf dog with us. Because it is widely accepted that the mostly likely outcome when you are out in bear country with your dog is that he or she will find a bear, get them all pissed off, then high-tail it back to you with an angry bear right behind them.

(I have to point out at this juncture that a cat would never do that to you...)

Now, it might seem strange to some of you city-folks, but we actually kept on walking up the road toward the property, keeping the bear in sight. Only when it finally quit the road and disappeared into the brush did my companion stop. "Actually, the property line we are looking for is just about where the bear disappeared." It was obvious he had no appetite to go any closer.


A bear you can see is easier to work around than a bear you can't see. Losing sight of it helped us make up our minds. We decided to retreat back to his truck--casting casual but wary glances behind us from time to time--where he showed me satellite images of the land that he has stored on his laptop--delineating the area well enough that so I can go back with Denny and look at it. Preferably during a time of day when bears have better things to do than forage along the roadway.

Frost on the deck (again) this morning.

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