Around 3:30 we began packing away our cameras and equipment to embark on our journey home. The day was waning, and although we had enjoyed intermittent periods of sun and warmth, the clouds were returning and it began to gently rain. The bears seemed to grow tired also as many reclined on the spit to rest for a bit. We walked back slowly- once again in our pod- and boarded the plane for the flight home. Everyone was eerily quiet and only occasionally would one say to another, " That was amazing, - unbelievable- I never expected anything like that-Wow." The return flight quickly passed as we gazed out over the emerald green and blue wilderness of Katmai and Kodiak, and all too soon we were back to civilization.
I thought I could never mirror the experiences I had in Antarctica, but this came close. I am so privileged and fortunate to have spent a day in such close proximity to such magnificent creatures. This, too, was a life changing event. Native Alaskan tribes have always had great respect for the bear, harvesting them only when necessary for survival. Killing a bear is done with great tradition and ritual and rite- and never for sport or trophy. So it was with great sadness that I stood in Ted Stevens International Airport checking in for our return flight surrounded by taxidermied brown and polar bears imprisoned for all time in glass cages. Doomed for ages to mark travelers departing on planes and claiming baggage, they stared out at me, shadows now of their once majestic selves.