Wild Alaska This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

December 3, 2010
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Wild Alaska

What place has compact, over-grown foliage, heights taller than life, fish the size of nightmares, and is entirely cloaked in moss? Only a select few have experienced this first hand. I was one of those few.

The Alaskan wilderness is a wild, “out-of-this-world” experience. My time spent there on vacation with my dad is a prized memory. We were invited by my friend Conner and his dad to experience Alaska and its hunting at their cabin for a week. Conner’s cousin, Gunner, also tagged along.

It was surreal. Each day, we would cast out shrimp pots, retrieving almost a hundred jumbo shrimp each time then fish for hours on end, taking slight breaks. Ultimately, in the latter half of the day, we would get to the most exciting activity, bear hunting. But the bears we hunted weren’t your usual, scrawny, five foot black bears. On Prince Edward Island, Alaska, the biggest black bears ever recorded have been shot. They were over 500 pounds and up to eight feet tall.

In the beginning, we unfortunately didn’t have any luck in finding a single bear. On one particular afternoon, we searched for almost five hours by car, and nothing but the smell of pine and moss appeared.

“When are we going to see a bear?” moaned Gunner, not too happily, being wedged between Conner and me. “I’m getting sick of driving around in this stupid truck!”

“Don’t worry, we’re almost to my favorite hunting spot,” said Conner’s Dad, Brad. “You guys are going to love this.”

Finally, we arrived at our destination. The area surrounding our trailhead was all forest except for a small beaver dam off to the right. About twenty different trails cut into the woodland, and we took the “road less traveled” path, as some people might call it, with old, faded hemlocks entangling the trail, making it practically non-existent and impassable. Without Brad’s help, we probably wouldn’t have come across it at all.


Hiking for what seemed like ages, we started to feel uncertain of where we were heading and I asked the question, “Are we going to get there soon?”

“Yah,” said Brad, but his voice was lacking any hint of surety.

Ten minutes after his response, we made it out of those wretched woods and found ourselves in a large meadow full of lurking, yellow grass and petite creeks that seemed to be sneaking their way through the field and then entering a larger stream. Only a couple of lofty, sizeable pines stood in the center looking out at their brethren across the pasture.

Now it was time for the fun. For an hour, we scanned through the meadow, searching for signs of bears. We checked in the grass, under the rocks, the outer rim of the meadow, around the stream and in the middle trees standing by themselves, but nothing. As we walked, twigs snapped beneath our feet, branches smacked our body, and our guns would occasionally hit something with a loud WHACK. The noise we made was equivalent to the sound of a diesel truck driving across a forest, surely scaring off any potential prey.

When we started, it was still light, but now the sky was darkening fast, forcing our pursuit to end more quickly then we had intended. Our disappointment of not sighting a bear was disheartening, so we started heading back to the trailhead, but we couldn’t find it. We looked and looked, but it just wasn’t there, so we took our chances. We would have to follow the river upstream, trail blaze back to the beaver dam, therefore leading us back to the car.

To begin, we checked to see if we had brought our flashlights; not a single light was to be found. To make matters worse, there was no moon, making it the darkest night of the month. Conner’s white beanie hat was the only visible thing to us, so we placed him near the front. Brad was our fearless leader and we followed him, single file, with arms on shoulders relying on his voice and instinct.

Time ticked on, and I was sick and tired of slipping into the frigid water, getting smacked in the face by branches, and jabbed in the side and stomach by what remained of tree stumps and broken limbs. My hands became raw with splinters from moving branches and holding onto trees for balance.

The arctic water in my boots was unbearable. The only sign of our survival was the stars above, glittering lively and freely, having nothing to do with getting lost or any hint of death.

Another hour passed by, and we thought we might have to stay the night, then and there, when out of the blue, we felt the beaver dam in front of us. From this little discovery, we were elated and crawled as fast as we could up the dam. I, being the first one up, spotted the car and ran straight to it, not caring about anything else in the world. We turned the car lights on, looked at each other, and burst out howling in laughter and relief. Mud covered us from head to toe and scratch marks cloaked our skin; we basically looked like Sasquatch recreated.

On the way back to the cabin, the car’s heater felt like heaven. Exhaustion caused us to quickly drift to sleep while leaning on each other, finally feeling safe and secure.

Looking back now, I learned first that you must always be prepared. If you are going into the wilderness, make sure you have a flashlight! Second, have a plan and know where you are going. And last, although you are with adults, when you are in the boondocks of Wild Alaska, where man is outnumbered by beast ten to one, be smart, not reckless in your decisions. I came for a bear and left with a life time of memories.

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