Nothing really prepares you for your first day in the Great Bear Rainforest. It’s one of the planet’s last great expanses of coastal temperate rain forest, a place where you can still find salmon, wolves, eagles, grizzlies, and even the rare Kermode — or spirit — bear.
Charles weighed 400 pounds, stood nearly six feet when fully upright, and was 100 percent alpha male. His massive black head was luxuriantly hairy, and our eyes met daringly as he reclined in a bamboo thicket as big as a Barcalounger.
When Seattle’s Debbi and Paul Brainerd went looking for a weekend place on nearby Bainbridge Island, they heard that 1,100 acres of forest were being sold off in 20-acre lots. Instead of scoping out favorite parcels, Debbi decided that they should build a school in the woods for kids who rarely had a chance to leave the city.
A private villa in Umbria, a Roman shopping spree, and the crucial element: friends who make the most of it all. No one checked e-mail. Everyone slept in, steeped in sensuous well-being and dolce far niente.
The wind was the distillation of cold itself. It shrieked down the ice-covered basalt cliffs, ripped across the bay, and shredded the rocky spit where I stood with a dozen other red-parka-clad travelers. Moments before, a Zodiac had dropped us off for a rare landing at Antarctica’s Elephant Island. We’d scrambled ashore, thrilled to set foot upon the aptly named Point Wild, the legendary beach where Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition had survived – on penguins and seals – for an unthinkable 137 days.
We are scared to death of getting sucked under a big tow, but at the same time, it is exhilarating. Fighting our way across the dark river beneath a black sky feels like paddling through the night itself.