The second night came and went in a blink of exhaustion. Crawling out of my tent, I found some of our crew were already down on the beach. They’d spotted a bear out clamming in the receding morning tide.
This was my first real opportunity for shooting the bears we had come out here to find, and I was stoked, my aching muscles quickly forgotten.
I laid down my gardening mat and framed my shots atop a compact GorillaPod. I was thankful to not have the extra weight as those with full-sized tripods, but it was a bit more challenging to shoot from the ground.
Our morning visitor was well aware of our presence, and he pattered from one spot to the next, digging in the sand in search of his morning snack and paying us no mind. As he slowly moved away from us, we inched forward, never coming closer than a hundred yards or so.
When we had wandered far enough from camp, we turned back for some breakfast. Bill buzzed us, flying overhead and checking our progress. We waved, and I was absolutely delighted when he rocked his plane back and forth to “wave” in return.
Next, we were drawn into the valley behind our camp, and this turned out to be our favorite spot of the entire trip.
The beach stretched into a curve of the river we crossed the previous night. On the other side lay a swath of sedge grass – a favorite hangout for bears.
Sure enough, within a few minutes, a large grizzly emerged to come down to the water.
From a distance, the bear looked as cuddly as a teddy bear. However, I knew how fierce this amazing creature could be. It was a remarkable experience just watching him go about his business, unhindered and wild. All the while, I kept in the back of my mind the thought that should he choose, this massive animal could charge and be on us in mere moments; only a shallow river separated us.
We noticed a couple more bears join the party, poking their heads out above the sedge grass downriver from where we were parked. The wind shifted, and as soon as our first bear caught a whiff, he stood up to assess his surroundings, then made a quick exit. It was interesting that we didn’t pose a threat to him, but as soon as other bears arrived on the scene, he felt the need to depart.
Our primary subject gone and some decent photos secured, we packed up and returned to camp – to find it in shambles.
The wind had picked up, and in our absence, stakes in loose sand didn’t stand a chance. Now past noon, it was time for us to break camp and get on our way anyway.
Our path was much gentler on this third day, though windy. The rocks were behind us, and for that, we were grateful. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get upriver far enough to find fresh water (the extreme tides made the river horribly brackish). We were stuck with salty water that tasted simply awful. Needless to say, I sadly didn’t drink much that day.
As we walked, we had little to do but talk. I discovered I missed an amazing photographic opportunity the night prior. While I thought everyone was turning in for the night, a few stayed up and caught some magical light on the mountain behind camp. I’m kicking myself for missing it, but I did catch the mist near Crater Lake while everyone else slept, so I suppose it all balances out.
I also learned more about my companions. We overall grew closer as a group, and I found that rewarding. When you’re stuck out in the wilderness with a handful of people, you have to build a certain level of trust. I had the added interesting factor of being the only female on the trip, but I can handle a week with the boys 🙂
I discovered there’s little to no modesty in the wilderness. When one of us needed to go to the bathroom, we had to take a buddy for safety purposes, and it was announced to the group so everyone remained accounted for. There were no excuses of not wanting to burden anyone, and no one disappeared into the forest for privacy. I got over the discomfort pretty quickly. A simple communication to get the boys to turn their backs and a patch of tall grass was all I needed.
3.5 miles later, we reached our nemesis: the Red River. But considering this post has already grown quite long, I’ll save that portion for next time.
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