Day 4 of our backpacking bear adventure was a bit damp.  We woke to moisture on the tents, and we really couldn’t avoid packing up wet gear. The tides once more amazed me.  While I had been brushing my teeth fairly close to camp the night before, the morning routine required a decent stroll.  We were in no hurry, so we took our time eating breakfast after sleeping in; we didn’t hit the trail until almost 2pm.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Most of us walked with a camera out for quick shots.  I struggled choosing between my wide 10-22mm and my bazooka 70-200mm, as it was quite the hassle to switch lenses.  I liked the former for the beach shots, but the latter was better for depth of field and spying on wildlife.  I also had my Sony commuter at the ready, mostly to snatch some video clips for Aaron (who insisted I bring back some footage for him to play with).

One of our party also carried a massive 400mm lens that wouldn’t even fit in his pack.  So he carried it… all 28 miles.  My arms would have been killing me!  As it was, when I had the bazooka on my camera, I could make use of the tripod attachment ring that conveniently hooked onto a strap on my pack.  Most of the weight was supported by the strap, with minimal effort to just keep it in place.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

By this point, we were all kind of tired.  But it was also a bit exhilarating.  We fell into a routine, and the freedom from society was liberating.  No one cared that we stank or that I didn’t wear makeup.  No one judged us for wearing the same outfit for the 4th day in a row.

And six people – some of which barely knew each other – became a close-knit tribe.  I learned so many things about my fellow campers, and I loved seeing how we all came together to help each other out – be it in looking out for bears, assisting in river crossings, or serving as bathroom buddies.  It was fascinating to witness those dynamics developing.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Regarding distance, it was a short day.  We only had about four miles left to the trek, which was good, as we were also finally beginning to see some light precipitation – nothing more than a gentle mist in the air.  We saw ATV tracks in the wet sand (which was quite soft and a bit difficult to walk in), and we even passed a cabin or two.  So much for the “backwoods.”

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

As we reached our fourth and final camp, we encountered our first real swarm of bugs.  We had expected to be battling mosquitos nonstop, but bugs were pretty nonexistent for most of the trip.  Perhaps it was the moisture we had also fortunately avoided until this point, but they certainly made their presence known, and we had to finally whip out the fly nets.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

We set up camp about a mile short of the lodge – our pickup spot – near another river where we hoped to get fresher water.  This still proved somewhat brackish, but we made do.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Behind our camp was a stunning backdrop of pristine mountains and a field of sedge grass.  We grabbed our cameras and went searching for bears.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

…and found them.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

This was one of my favorite spots.  We saw several bears come down to the water’s edge – to lounge, to drink, to swim… it was amazing just watching them.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Our trip leader and bear guru was delighted to capture one actively drinking – a sight he hadn’t seen before.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Shortly thereafter, another bear wandered down to the water, turned around, and took a fat dump.  We weren’t too keen on drinking from that river anymore, especially considering we were downstream.  I just laugh at this picture now, as the bear was sporting a hilarious expression.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

My favorite bear, though, was the one who went for a swim.  He plopped into the water and paddled a bit before stopping and perking his ears up.  Then he brought his paw up and gave them a little scratch.  He swam to the other side (our side of the river), crawled out, walked up to a large log on the shore, and stretched across it to give his belly a scratch.  So fun to watch!

We got back to camp to discover a visitor: a beautiful red fox.  He was hunting a mouse – and caught it.  A couple of my fellow photographers got some better pictures of him pouncing, but I’m pleased with the photos I got as well.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

This campsite was far from boring, as we then went down to the beach to photograph another bear for a while.  We followed him as he clammed and scared the seagulls until our SD cards were sated.

All in all, I’d consider the day a success – so much wildlife!  And we still had one more day to enjoy.  Our trip was quickly drawing to a close, and I’d be sad to see our last bears, but I was also ready to sleep in a real bed again.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Stay tuned for the final installment after the new year!

route

Image created by Adam Cornwell


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