We saw our first bear about a mile and a half up the Harding Icefield trail in Kenai Fjords National Park. The bear was a ways off, casually wondering across the exit glacier. Shortly after this sighting, two folks coming down the trail told us a grizzly was in the next meadow. By the time we reached the top of the trail, four and half miles from the car, we had heard reports of two more bears.
Bears are a fundamentally part of the Alaskan wilderness experience. They remind you that the freedom in those wild places comes with a cost. I really enjoy seeing them, finding tracks, and knowing I am in an ecosystem with large predators – they are also terrifying, sleep depriving, and often have a larger impact on my behavior in the AK backcountry than other hazards.
We put skis on at the edge of the Harding Icefield—an 1100 square mile expanse on the Kenai Peninsula—feeling we had safely made it through bear country. Sure they might hang out on lower glaciers, but bears have no reason to be up on the icefield, right? I have spend a lot of time on big AK glaciers and never seen a bear up in the accumulation zone….until now.
We woke up after setting up our camp to griz tacks right out side our tent.
We found black bear tracks on day two.
We saw a bear climb through an ice fall and up a mountain we had considered skiing earlier that day.
Every time we left camp I was certain we would return to find all out food eaten and tent destroyed.
Luckily that didn’t happen. Instead we had four days of great weather, awesome skiing, beautiful peaks, and a spectacular adventure.
Kenai Mountains, I’ll be back…this time with bear barrels.