We were hiking for about fifteen minutes when Chris pointed down toward an island and said that this was where we'd be heading. The woman next to me asked me how we were going to cross over to the island. I looked and said, "I don't think there's a bridge" and laughed. She asked if I thought we would need to wade across the river. I told her, "Now we know why we were given the boots!!!"
As I was speaking to her, I was also looking at the decline in the water. It was a pretty steep hillside with no real path. Chris stopped and pointed down to the river and told us that we would need to get down the hill. I'm thinking that I'm in boots that come up mid thigh and I'm carrying about twenty pounds of camera equipment. If I slipped going down or crossing the river, most of that equipment would be ruined.
From our past hiking experience, Phyllis and I knew that going down steep hills can be more difficult and more dangerous than going uphill. I have also learned that if you feel yourself slipping, the best thing to do is let your legs go out from beneath you and fall on your bottom!! It's not very dignified and a little painful but with both hands holding equipment, this was the safest way. You just hope there is no sharp object or snake under you!!
I was asked if I wanted to go down first so when I got to the bottom, I could help some of the ladies. I looked down and it kept getting steeper. Heck no, I didn't want to go first! So like most guys I looked right at Chris and said, "Sure, no problem." Sometimes we are the stupid sex !!!
I started down and at one point did sit down. I looked back and told the three ladies and one man looking down at me, "I just wanted to show you what we have learned to do if you feel like your losing your balance." Yup, that's why I did it!!! I made it down with no further problems and then helped the ladies finish their trip down. Well, so far it was not bad but now we were standing at the edge of a fast flowing river. It wasn't deep, only about eight inches. The real problem was that we would be walking on a bed of small slick stones in water that were moving at a pretty good pace.
Chris told us to pair up and hold hands to help with our balance. I was paired up with a very nice lady who was a little younger than me and as we started walking across she said, "Please catch me if I start falling". I laughed and said, "Okay, but if I start to fall, you should grab my camera." We made it across with no falls. We took our time but we made it.
After a short walk, we were on the other side of the small island, on a beach that stopped at a wall of thick bushes. In front of us was a rushing river full of salmon and across from us was another group of bears about ninety feet away. Some of the bears were in the water and some were on the shore eating fish they'd caught.
I set up my tripod and camera and started looking through my lens. I was capturing images as quickly as I could. I saw the brush on the other side moving and noticed that I was not the only one seeing this, as a few grizzlies had turned and looked. We soon saw the reason for the noise and the moving brush. A fairly large grizzly came walking down to the river's edge.
At this point, Chris was standing next to me and said, "Here he is. He's the mean one. I was wondering if he was going to be here." I looked at her, laughed and said, "He won't be a problem, right?" Chris answered quickly, maybe a little too quickly, "Nope, he won't be, don't worry, honestly!" But that's exactly when I started worrying. I've heard that word, honestly, said just that way. It was what I would say to Phyllis when I was trying to reassure her about something, even when I was just as worried as she was.
I decided to focus on the mean one, I wanted to keep my eye on him. He didn't give me much time to think as he started walking into the river.
He was large and walking at a pretty slow gait. He was looking around at the other grizzlies, into the river and in our direction. Then, I noticed he was moving faster as the other grizzlies moved away from where he was. One lone cub stood watching from
the river's edge. Then I saw the water splashing and knew he had picked up speed. Remember, I am seeing all this through my camera's lens.
But then I realized he had changed position and was heading straight in our direction. Chris whispered, "Don't worry."
Without taking my eye away from the camera I replied, "Oh, no, I'm not worried!" I followed with what I'm sure was a very nervous laugh!!
I kept shooting and he kept charging. I could hear some of the ladies in our group asking Chris if he was charging us and now they sounded nervous!! I actually don't know if Chris answered them. For the next few seconds, I didn't hear anything except maybe my heart beating loudly!! At this point, I was thinking that instead of that extra lens I brought, maybe a change of underwear would have been a better choice.
If you look at the water in this image below you can see the red from the salmon, the river was loaded with them.
He was still charging now about twenty feet from me and as you can see, heading straight for me. I know there were four others there but at that moment, it was the grizzly, my lens and me. All at once he stopped, reared up and hit the water with his paws and jaw.
He lumbered over to a spot then quickly pealed and ate his catch. No other grizzlies tried to steal or challenge him for his bounty. He had earned their respect, in more than a few fights by looking at his sides.