On my first day at my 2019 DenaliNP trip I decided to do a Discovery hike. A Discovery hike is an all day hike led by a ranger, where up to 11 people can join. The hikes are varied since a ranger cannot do the same hike more than twice in a year.
This hike took us to the Highway Pass area and the goal was to reach the top of a creek on top of a hill and see what is on the other side. At a point in the hike a decision needed to be made (as an example from the ranger in examining the landscape for good routes): go up a steep hill following the creek to the top or go up a less inclined area and climb a ridge to our left. It was decided to go up next to the creek since we couldn’t see if the ridge route would take us to the top or just reach a dead end.
It was at that moment when we started to hike again up towards the top of the creek when someone on the group (a family of five, a couple, two guys, the ranger, and me) yelled “bear!”. We all turned to our left and we saw two bears on top of that ridge that we decided not to scale (40 yards from us). Both bears were digging for squirrels, a mama bear and a quite large kid (I assume that this would be the last year the kid would stay with the mom, after the winter ended, since the kid was not small).
The mom was really digging the hell out of the grass, with chunks flying off the ridge towards us. The baby at some moment ran away from the mom when it chased a squirrel into an hole in the ground. We all immediate started yelling at the bears while staying together. I think I was to the right of the group, with the ranger to my left and another guy to his left and then the rest of the group behind us.
About ten seconds into yelling the mom squared herself toward us and charged !!! Within one second the bear took five steps toward us in a sprint at full speed, which looked like she was going to attack us, but then stopped. That was a mock charge, obviously ................ I didn’t know she was bluffing when she started coming down the hill and I reached for the bear spray expecting that she was going to get down to business and reach us. All I could think is "it's on". Her face and the manner she was coming down told me she was beyond pissed.
We all kept yelling at the bear and she decided to stop the charge and go back up the ridge towards her kid. I guess she took an assessment of the situation and decided it was too many of us to bother with. After like a minute of us yelling the ranger instructed us to start coming down the hill slowly as he was keep an eye on the bear.
Yup, that is the bear and you can see all the dirt being removed. It is not in perfect focus since I had settings for landscape (F14) and they (and we) were moving, sorry.
So, we kept moving down the hill and the bears went back to their squirrel eating business. We had to figure out another place to explore since that original route was claimed by the bears.
Now ................. I suspected something and I wanted to ask the ranger about it: what if it wasn't 10 people yelling at the bear but 1 or 2 people; 40 yards close to the kid looked to me too close for comfort for the mama bear. So I asked him "what if there were only two people instead of ten, the bear would had come completely down the hill, right ?". He said that was a good possibility, and that would have been a more serious situation.
Suffice to say that on two other hikes that I did in the area I ran into a lot of bear scat (some very fresh), lots of berry fields and lots of ridges that I had to yell like crazy in case there was a bear on the other side. But, to be honest, I don't care ................ if a bear eats me, a bear eats me, simple as that.