I put aside a whole list of chores that must get done and took the new camera for a Sunday drive instead. There must be a moral law against doing chores on a beautiful autumn day in Alaska.
I passed through Cooper Landing and turned left at the Skilak Lake Road loop, some 19 miles of narrow two-lane gravel. I was now in the vast Kenai National Wildlife Reserve.
Last summer the Swan Lake wildfire jumped the Sterling highway and devastated much of the Skilak area. The burn is evident, but so is the rejuvenation of the area. Hordes of people descended on the area this spring in search of the delicious morel mushrooms.
(Many of the lakeside areas, as well as the campgrounds, escaped the fire.)
I spotted a mound of gravel in a "somewhat wide" spot in the road as I came around a curve. It reminded me of the run-out lanes you see on steep hills outside of Alaska, where the run-out is deep sand that slows a runaway truck before it wrecks.
This thirty inch high mound wouldn't stop anything. Instead, it would launch any vehicle into space, a la Thelma and Louise.
I pulled over, thinking it might be a scenic overlook. I also realized that it would make a good spot to pee, so I maneuvered the truck at an angle that would shield me from any traffic.
As I reached for the key to shut off the truck, my gaze came front and center--right at a black bear sow about twenty-five feet in front of my truck. Across the road and a bit farther away was her young cub.
Instead, I realigned the truck by parking diagonally across the left lane so that I could take photos out the driver's side window.
These bears were difficult to shoot because they were between me and the sun. Nevertheless, there I was in the middle of the road when another vehicle approached. I am sure the occupants wondered what that crazy old woman was doing. Or maybe, not. My new hair cut stops just short of a buzz cut, so maybe they were wondering what that crazy old fool was doing.
When they got close enough to see hand signals, I started pointing at the bears. They continued to stare at me. I signaled some more.
What were they thinking? Is this a hold up? Are we getting car-jacked?
I pointed some more--and more emphatically! By this time, their vehicle was directly opposite the bears.
The woman looked in the direction I was pointing. Her mouth fell open, and I heard "We drove RIGHT PAST A BEAR!"
Then, they were happy and no longer wondering about the crazy old woman in the road.
We shot photos until another vehicle arrived and I left to give them a chance to see the bears.
PS: I didn't tell the lady in the first vehicle what I was about to do before I saw the bears.