A Sportsman's Tale / By Gary Rinaldi
I recently took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Alaska and spent five nights camping at Hallo Bay on the Katmai Peninsula. Located approximately 120 air miles southwest of Homer, Hallo Bay stretches for some seven largely sandy miles at the base of the Aleutian Volcanoes, across from Kodiak Island. Myself and three others spent our days observing and photographing Coastal Brown bears and Gray wolves. Our guide carried no firearms or bear spray, just a flare in the event of an incident.
While watching two teenage bears from about 100 yards away mock fighting in a stream bed, an older female rounded a bend in the river and immediately attacked the two younger bears. One shot off into the woods and the other made a beeline directly for our group. It all happened so quickly I had time to only focus on one of the bears, the attacker. Because I knew the bears were more focused on each other, I never felt I was under attack. However, I do remember for an instant wondering, “How badly does one get hurt getting run over by two huge Brown bears.”
Realizing I had no other option, I just knelt behind my tripod and kept clicking away. My guide was standing waving his walking stick and screaming at the top of his lungs to make sure we were seen. The other photographer in our group froze and never got off one shot. The two bears ran past us at full speed over the gravel bar and judging by the tracks in the mud, passed us at less than 12 feet away. Our guide estimated the female at about 700 pounds.
The adrenaline rush I felt coursing through my shoulders and spine lasted a good 10 minutes and is a feeling I will never forget. Our guide surmised that the reason the bear decided to head for us was he may have mistaken our group for a sow with cubs and he would instinctively know that the imagined mother would go after the aggressive bear, thus using us to ward off his attacker.
To spend just six days with these marvelous, misunderstood animals in a location as magical as the Katmai Peninsula, one of the few remaining untouched locations on earth, was an honor and a privilege. And my Trophy is a framed print hanging proudly in my office.
Gary Rinaldi operates Rinaldi Creatives of North Collins.