My friend Sandi stopped by to tell me about her weekend: she and a friend had gone to a campground in Williwaw, using a pop-up camper and a tent. She was bitten by a black bear through the side of a tent, at that campground several years ago ... but that never happens twice, right?
She was awakened by a "mmm, mmm" sound, repeated every few seconds. The sound seemed to be getting louder, then softer again. Sandy says she rolled over and peeked out the window, to see a grizzly walking down the road between their campsites. Being very quiet, she continued to watch as it passed by both sites, stopped suddenly, and then spun around to stare directly at her.
The bear walked over toward her camper, swiped by it with a brush of its shoulder against the side, and then went on down the road. Once the grizzly was out of sight, she called her friend, who was also awake. "Did you see them?" her friend asked.
"Yeah, there were two grizzlies, but they kept on going."
Sandi jumped in her car to follow at a distance, wanting to know if they kept going. She didn't see anything, and came back to camp. It occurred to her at this point she was still in her nightgown, so she went inside to change.
As she finished dressing, she heard the "mmm, mmm" again. She raised one flap to look out, but didn't see anything. Keeping her eyes on the road, she backed into the counter where her .44 Magnum revolver and cell phone were. Feeling around, never looking away from the window, she found the pistol, but not the cell. She turned to locate the phone, and was face to face with an adult grizzly which was standing up with its front paws on the side of the camper.
About that time, her phone rang. She punched the "speaker" button without picking it up. Her friend said, "Sandi, there's a grizzly at the end of your camper, acting angry."
"Yes, I'm looking at it right now."
"No, there's another one. It's a good thing you don't have the end window open, because that's where the other one is. It's shaking its head and snapping its teeth."
Sandi figured she was dead; she realized she only had the six rounds in her pistol, with no backup or spare ammo, and figured she couldn't kill both bears with only six rounds.
She told me, "At that point, I figured five shots for the bear and the sixth shot is for me, 'cause I'm done." For whatever reason - and she believes it was her friend, who began praying at that point - the bears both went back to all fours, and walked away.
Once the bears were out of sight, the ladies packed up and left. But Alaska wasn't done with Sandi yet.
On the way home, she hit a moose.
Fortunately, it didn't disable her car, and she made it home. But that night, coyotes either killed something, or found something that had been killed, on the land next to her cabin, and set up a howling that kept her up all night.
Sandi's okay this morning, although shaky, and says she only got two hours of sleep last night - and that only after taking tranquilizers.
I told her, "After all that, I'm very happy to see you." She replied, "Not as happy as I am to be here to tell you about it."
Any final thoughts?
"The only thing I did right was, I had all the food in the car. You know, it's never the way you think it's going to be. I've gotten lax, because it's been so many years since the time I got bit. I only had the six rounds, with no backup.
"And in all my imagined scenarios, I never planned for two bears."