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Thursday, August 14, 2008
The Night I peed on a Bear...
It was 11:30 p.m., on a clear and chilly August night at the Driftwood Lodge in SE Alaska - when I had to pee. I stepped outside, behind the lodge, where one can stand at the edge of a 3-foot dip giving way to a vast expansion of the tundra surrounding our piece of land - and I went about my "business". During the day, one can see the Chugach Mountain Range, about 20 miles away, and the dense growth of alder and cottonwood stretching across the area. At night, all I could see was the moon and the mountain tops in their yellowish luster.
I had just arrived 2 days ago, for the first time in the last frontier, to work as the chef of the lodge during the upcoming silver salmon season. And I was star-struck, so to speak, by the dramatic beauty of the land and its views, especially on this beautiful summer night near the Gulf of Alaska's thrashing surf.
As I was standing there in the moon light, spraying my arc of relief into the bushes across the night-black dip in front of me, I noticed the outline of a strangely familiar shape rising slowly from the darkness of the ground, about 5-6 feet away. The "shape" became taller than I, and the "outline" became clearer, while I was "holding on" to the last, somewhat hesitant phase of my "business" at hand.
And then everything seemed to happen at the same fraction of a nano second: the "shape" turned into a definite live brown bear hovering 6 feet away in wonder and puzzlement over my "wet approach", me remembering everything they told me about encountering a bear (wave your arms, holler, DON'T run!), dismissing it at the same moment, turning around and racing back into the safety (?) of the lodge, where a couple of our fishing guides finished their last beer of the evening. One of these brave young men grabbed his rifle and went back outside to chase off the "wet one". He was still there, in the shrubs, exploring the origins of those wonderful kitchen scents he had probably picked up from miles away. We could hear him moseying around for a while longer, until our guide's profanity yells must have persuaded him to move on. At least, I have a witness - I was not hallucinating!
I had peed on a bear!