My dad sent me a picture I didn’t even remember existed – a picture of me, when I was 13, posing with a black bear at Tustamena Lake. It brought back memories. I had just had surgery the month before, so spent that month recovering and getting stronger as we hiked, and hiked.

Until they went in and carved out a problem with my meniscus, I was never able to straighten my left leg all the way. Up to that point, I walked with a limp and couldn’t run to save my life.

But that all changed that summer.

I think we ended up eating the entire bear while we were there. To change things up, we ate countless squirrels and spruce hen. I can’t remember exactly, but we must have been the woods the better part of a month. We didn’t know it at the time this picture was taken, but we were stuck there.

It was a day to drive down to catch a boat, a half a day in a boat to ride across the 25 miles of lake, and two days hike up into the mountains. We saw between 17-25 bears per day traversing peaks in the area of a remote camp we set up, more than I had seen in my entire life. They sniffed around our tent and rummaged our belongings while we slept on a regular basis.

The friend that dropped my dad and I off thought we had made other arrangements to get out, so it was up to us to find our own way back. We didn’t see another person for about a month. That was the day we got out.

And the day we got out was an adventure all its own.

I’ve only been back a handful of times since then, but returned with a friend in 2017 and 2018. Here, we’re looking up at Tustamena Glacier.