Today I met the Kodiak. I had been warned by the old timers at the trading post/coffee shop with the giant wooden beams in it, that I was heading into grizzly country. Sure enough I ran across one. I tried to avoid making eye contact, something I practice everyday in the slop of human society. He saw me and stared for what seemed like hours and growled like he had a nasty hangover. He walked off the trail into the forest. I was thinking he was trying to lure me into a trap. I couldn’t wait forever so I slowly crept down the path. I had no desire to come into closer company with that creature. I kept walking but I kept a wary eye out for his possibly ill-tempered return.
Muddy boots slip-sliding down the trail. I decided to go off trail and take what I thought might be a shortcut. I came upon a small clearing in the woods. Upon inspection I determined it to be the remnants of an old Indian burial ground. Very sacred. Big medicine. It was a spooky feeling standing near it. As I stood there, the sun passed behind a cloud and a light snow began falling and a wind came up. It was almost like I was disturbing the spirits that still resided there with my unwelcome presence, like some sort of meteorological warning conjured up from the beyond. I took heed and continued on-- bypassing the sacred area.
It had stopped snowing and the sun was now starting to fall behind the mountains and I was beginning to feel the coldness throughout my body. I trudged on wanting to put as far as I could between me and that bear and get closer to my destination. The temperature had fallen precipitously in the last twenty or thirty minutes and I had to stop to look for a place to build a fire and rest for the night. Well for once luck was on my side as I came upon a small lean-to that some former traveler had made and I could use it to get out of the wind and lay my bedroll. I found some dry downed wood and made a crackling fire that I warmed some bread and coffee over. It was good, mighty good.
I settled in for a long winter’s nap or at least for a few hours anyway. It had cleared up and now I was looking at the proverbial blanket of stars. It was cold though. I could happily say that the wind had died down at least. Although I had wondered if I could fall asleep with visions of bears in my head, I drifted off into sleepy time quickly. I woke up to find the sun splintering through the trees. I gathered up all my personal belongings and began that day's journey not knowing what joy or terror might be awaiting me. But this was life at full throttle.