Our group had stopped to remove our boots before a small stream crossing after a morning of exploring the seaside foothills of Canada’s Torngat Mountains National Park in Newfoundland and Labrador. I looked up and there it was, about 150 yards away, staring at us: a polar bear. Our guides had warned us about the dangers of polar bear country, but I thought I’d be lucky if I saw one in the wild.
I’ve seen plenty of black bears, but never anything this big. This guy was a bruiser. We gathered together and began shouting at the bear, but when that didn’t frighten it, our guide, Rich, shot a flare its way. The bear scampered to a ledge, and we crossed the stream into camp. It stayed put as we cooked and ate our dinner. When bedtime rolled around, I glanced up at the ridge. The bear hadn’t moved. I started cycling through all the worst-case scenarios that could happen, but I tried to remember everything we’d prepared to keep us safe.
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