I wake in the night and hear a sound. It’s like water in a kettle that’s about to boil, or a busy highway from down a canyon. Maybe it’s a jet flying overhead? Even here, we’ve seen a couple — but this doesn’t seem to change direction.

Or maybe it’s getting louder? What does a tidal wave sound like?

But, I reason, if it’s that, we have no chance anyway. For some reason I think this thought should help me go back to sleep.

I’ve been using that reasoning with a number of unidentified nighttime sounds: was that a heavy footfall in the forest near the tent? Well, if it’s a bear or a moose, it will most likely leave me alone, but if it doesn’t, there’s not much I can do from here. I have my bear spray handy, but how much use will it be if I’m tangled in this tiny nylon structure?

Even in daytime, the bear spray can recommends use starting from about forty meters of distance while the grizzly is charging directly at you, because then you’ll get a couple of seconds of capsacin unloaded while in range. We practice with the pistol at nearly point-blank range too. I’m a pretty mediocre shot, but we have ten rounds in the clip, and you’re supposed to aim for the chest, because apparently bullets just glance off the skull if you aim for the head. I got two out of three in the bottom of a Clorox bottle we were using for practice yesterday, so under pressure I might be able to get a few shots in.

This is knowledge I hope to never use. It’s foolish to not fear the bears at all, but unnecessary to summon bravado. This bay is unpeopled and has excellent forage. There’s room for our brief incursion on the territory.

On our first day here, after lunch, a mother and cub came down the beach directly towards us. We had just finished our first campfire feast of shrimp, so we were very concerned about food smell.

The three of us did all the right things: shouting, banging on things, making our bodies look big.

She did the usual bear thing: vaguely notice us, sniff a little, generally not care. So we made our way to the dinghy, deliberately but nervously, while the pair continued to amble toward us.

Bears can swim, but I felt much safer in the boat, launched into the water, engine idling. We had left their direct path, so now we could watch and hope that they’d ignore our tents and totes. I envisioned bear bites through all the waterproof things, playful rummaging with sharp claws, a mess of packaged food made garbage.

Cub and mama just kept going, point A to point B. They probably take this beach walk every day. We were a weird thing they saw, but not that interesting and not disruptive.

Based on their scat, the bears are mostly eating grass right now. Why would they want our unhealthy grains and fats and plastic wrappers?

It’s mostly like this. The animals are here, but not so interested in us. The sound in the forest was made by a bird. The sound on the beach is a rock shifted by the waves.

The distant roaring in the night, I finally determined, was the pounding of surf at the distant mouth of the bay on a particularly stormy night.

Previous: Cenotaph Island Life | Next: Last Evening in Lituya Bay

An adventurer, woodland creature, and engineer. Currently working on data ownership models, environmental accountability, and intentional community.

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