Day 4: First Day Out Monday, June 19, 2006

I slept in till around 7:00 a.m. and although I probably could have slept a little longer, I wanted to get a few things done before it was time to go see bears this morning. Today is our first full day to see the bears and it is still raining, causing me to wonder if we were going to have the opportunity to photograph bears on this trip. Throughout the night, the rain and wind sounded like a hurricane and tore at my soul. My tarped tent held up and there was a little water on the tent floor. If that is all that happens, everything will be ok!

As we prepared breakfast, there were not a lot of happy faces in the cook shack. They all had one thing on their minds......When will the rain stop? After we ate, it continued to rain while we anticipated good news from the rangers. Their arrival brought the announcement that we would depart at 10:00 a.m., so we needed to pack our things and be ready to go. A kind and thoughtful ranger brought some real rain gear for Lucas and me to use for the day. If it rains like it did yesterday, we will need it!

We began our trek to Mikfik creek with a light rain and occasionally scattered sun beams breaking through the clouds. We all looked to the sky with crossed fingers. “It's going to be a good day” I said to myself.

First Encounter

About twenty minutes into our walk, we encountered our first bear. We all got our gear out and started photographing like crazy. Very tolerant of our presence, the bear allowed us to keep photographing her for a while. From there, we eased our way down the creek and located a few more bears to photograph. By noon, we arrived at an area to rest where we spotted three bears which we had seen earlier today. We decided to make a very slow walk in a tight group towards the bears. As we approached they noticed us and their body language suggested they were comfortable with our presence. We set up our cameras and the bears start walking toward us while still grazing on grass. Two female bears got very close to each other and there was almost a fight. However, they solved their issue and continue to graze. By this time, the bears were about twenty feet away from us and our cameras were practically smoking! These bears put on a good show for us. A male joined one of the females and they smelled and licked each other until they stretched out together in the grass. We photographed them for about thirty more minutes before we decided to head back to camp.

Tomorrow, I will lighten my load, minimizing what I need to carry. My very heavy bag hurts my back and I don't think I need to carry what I am not going to use. I think the 300mm 2.8 and two camera bodies are all I will bring. I will probably take the 28-135mm IS lens for some snap shots with the10D. With the 300mm lens, my new Wimberley ® tripod head was working out great, so I am now hooked on the Wimberley ® !

My clothes were damp from the rain and all the sweating from wearing the hip boots and rain gear. Sometimes, even with the best gear, one still gets a little damp. Lucas fired up the sauna and we used its’ heat to efficiently dry our clothes and gear. The sauna's stove is hot for such a small space and Lucas and I stayed in there a few minutes just to warm up. After about an hour, the gear was dry and it was time to settle down for the night.

At the cook shack, we talked about the days’ experience with the bears. Some great shots were taken and some are awaiting that one, special shot. Indeed, we all got to photograph bears today and that’s why we are here. Tomorrow there will be more opportunities to photograph bears….at least I hope so!