Bears-YukonThe bears were back, snuffling and grunting outside my tent while I tried to sleep. I had a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with OO and a foot-long bush knife from the Philippines. I like bears; I just don’t like ’em in bed with me.

I should have become accustomed to them by now. A week ago I set out from White Horse, Yukon Territory, far northern Canada, to solo-canoe across the Yukon to Alaska. Out of Quiet Lake, down sheer white water to the Big Salmon River, and then on to the mighty Yukon River. This time of year, it never really gets dark nights, the air merely turns a type of greenish haze.

A pack of timber wolves yodeled to me from the top of a cliff; a cow moose stood in water knee deep and watched my canoe shoot past underneath her nose; I startled a porcupine on a trail; rock sheep watched me from the heights. . . But when it came time to sleep was when things got interesting.

Of course, I tied my provisions up in some skinny tree to keep them safe from most critters. Nonetheless, I think the bears came around out of curiosity; they didn’t see many people this far from civilization.

They made me a bit nervous at first. Finally, I got fed up with their interruptions.

I unzipped the fly of my tent to where I had cached a pile of rocks. There the bruin was, about 40 feet away, sniffing around. He looked at me, I looked back at him. Then I chunked the holy heck out of him with rocks. Bears are really fast. Last I saw of him was his fat butt scooting through the conifers.

It was okay to rock black bears, but…

Rain fell all one day on the Yukon. A rainbow appeared in an arch across the river from one side to the other. More clouds scuttled in, accompanied by wind. I made for the shelter of a nearby island rimmed in buck brush. Pulled the canoe up out of the water—and there discovered a grizzly print about the size of a steak platter in the mud. It was so fresh, water was still seeping into it.

I couldn’t get off the tiny island because of wind. Which meant I had to occupy it with a griz for a neighbor—and grizzlies can be nasty-tempered. I huddled in my canoe, watchful and waiting, until the wind died some and I could escape.

One thing you don’t do is chunk rocks at grizzlies.

As times get stranger leading up to the Presidential elections, A Thousand Years of Darkness (novel) by Charles W. Sasser takes a thriller look at a possible outcome.