At 8:00 AM we met for our briefing and review of information as to what protocols we should follow on our trip. From our first instruction, I began learning much about the nature and habits of bears. Bears are actually very solitary creatures and will confront humans, in most cases, only when they are taken by surprise. In fact, bears don't even seek out other bears' company. The brown bears of Katmai have been protected from human contact to the degree that they do not associate humans with food, and so will most likely choose to ignore us. At this time of year, they would be fishing for salmon, and since they need to gain 50% of their body weight during the summer months, in preparation to begin denning in October, they would most likely be concentrating on the river and its resources rather than us. We were instructed we would walk towards the river in a very small and tight pod, talking in "human voices" and proceed to where we would take our seat on the banks of the river for about  four hours. The less strung out our group- the less likely the bears would be to notice us. In some sense, we were just a moving rock that made some strange sounds. But remember, animals are not always predictable, so we were schooled on what we should do in case of a chance encounter. Should we confront a bear too closely, we were to stand our ground, waving our hands above our head ( this would help increase our size- and to bears- size matters). We should talk in a normal voice and basically say, " Hello bear, how is your day going?" as we slowly back away. No, I am not kidding. The best thing to do when you meet a bear is to be as human as possible. Most of the time, the bear will sense you are some foreign species of little value or importance to him or her and lose interest. If the bear stands up on its hind legs- worry not- this is not an attack. It is a sign of curiosity and interest. Should the bear approach in a menacing manner and confront you, drop to the ground, curl up in a fetal position and play dead. Play dead for a long time, so that if the bear walks away- but then glances back, you will still be motionless. Never ever run from a bear as they can top speeds of 35 miles per hour and running away will only trigger their prey instincts. Never scream or use a high pitched voice as this will make you seem more animal like- again setting off their prey instinct. And should this all fail and a bear actually begin to attack- then and only then- fight with all your might.

 With all that said, we donned our hip waders, as part of our landing would be wet, and boarded the two awaiting deHavilland Otters and began our one and a half hour flight to Katmai National Park and Reserve. After landing in Geographic Harbor, we transferred to a skiff and then waded to shore. We immediately began seeing bears who were down on the beach using their huge paws to dig clams.  We began our slow- pod like- walk, talking and marveling all along the way. Twenty relative strangers walking in unison and already amazed at the wonders around us. After 1/4 mile we reached the river banks and were told to quickly spread out and find a spot.We had been given, as we left the skiff, small canvas backed ground seats that would support our backs for the many hours we photographed the bears. We were instructed to keep our backpacks, etc behind us. Here we would sit for the next hours and marvel as these great creatures went about the business of preparing for the winter months. These photographs were taken with my 100- 300mm zoom lens, but there were a  number of occasions when the bears walked too close for the lens to focus. On one occurrence, a sow and her cub passed no more than four feet in front of me.