My wife & I were exploring through Alaska's Denali National Park & Preserve with a professional photographer's permit, one of my most treasured benefits of being a full-time photographer. The September day was cool and drizzly but the landscape was emanating the warmth of autumn gold. We parked our rig at Reflection Pond (out by Wonder Lake) and I grabbed my camera gear. As I reached for the door handle I looked out my driver's side window and was taken aback. Not more than 10 feet away a brown bear was walking RIGHT by my door!
The grizzly stared at me at point blank range as he/she sauntered on by. In a flash I went through a roller coaster of emotions: shocked-scared-relieved-excited! After calming down a bit we photographed Ursus arctos using its teeth to rake hundreds of blueberries into its mouth. This was the last chance for it to stock up on reserves before holing up for the big freeze.
The foraging bruin ambled into the Wonder Lake Ranger Station and, perhaps sensing something was different, paused at the flagpole. It stood up on its hind legs and for a regal moment it appeared to be paying his or her respects to the American flag, which was flying at half-mast. It was Patriot Day, 9-11.