In the book The Great Bear: Contemporary Writings on the Grizzly which is a collection of essays on the grizzly, there is
a very short story by Aldo Leopold entitled "Escudilla". It's the story of Escudilla
mountain, and the last grizzly bear on that Arizona mountain. As with most present day stories
on the grizzly bear it's a story of loss, of how a mountain lost its bear, to become only
a mountain like so many others. Land without bear.
I was in Yellowstone the fall before I took this photograph, speaking to a retired math
professor from Georgia. He had just flown into Jackson, WY earlier that day to be in
Yellowstone. Wildlife photography was his passion, and he was there to photograph. As usual, one thing led to another, and he
mentioned McNeil River to me. It was the first time I heard of McNeil. I
tucked that mention away, until I received an e-mail about applying for a visitors permit at McNeil,
which is what I did. And to my great suprise, I obtained a permit to visit Alaska brown
bears for 4 days.
I can't stress enough, the dynamic of actually being able to spend time
extremely close to wildlife, in the natural setting like McNeil. And, thanks to the Alaska State Game
staff headed by Larry Aumiller, the quality of the experience is more than can be hoped for.
McNeil is a notable wildlife sanctuary, and especially so when considering the multiple pressures visiting city people
place on what wildlife remains in numerous National Parks in the lower 48 states.
McNeil is a place where one can truly experience the quality of bears being bears, and not
some reaction to hoards of people pressuring them. If one is interested in wildlife at all,
and especially the quality of interspecies interaction with bears - McNeil is an experience not to be
missed in one's life. May you be as lucky as I have been, to spend time in the company of bears. In the land of bears.
Returning home, you may experience the loss Leopold wrote of. Remembering too, that beauty of the wild life.