So I bailed on Denali National Park. I got there, did the mandatory backcountry briefing about how there are no trails (yes, you heard me.. no trails, which also means no established river crossings, no guideposts and no well trodden path). Then I checked campsite availability. It was limited, and I would have a several hour bus ride just to get to the backcountry spot I had my eye on. Then I did some math... eight hours on a bus? Each way? And I just had three days. So I bailed on Denali National, drove south to Denali State Park, got a wilderness pass and a bear canister, and hit the trail. No busses (I caught a hitch to the trailhead). Less likelyhood of grizzly bears. A trail. I chickened out, and the mountain rewarded me, but it also stole my camera.

I hiked for three days and spent two nights camping above tree line (which is very low here) in early July. The sun was up almost 24 hours, and the sky never got completely dark. A couple of bears came to visit me on my second night. Black bears, and relatively small by bear standards. That didn't stop my heart from racing as they scoped me out. No doubt they were curious to know who had been yodeling all evening. And they were also looking for food in the undergrowth. I stayed still and quiet. I had done everything right. My cook spot and bear canister were 100 yards apart and my camp spot was 100 yards from both of them (and not in between the two points). The bears looked great against the shadowy northern night sky and Mount Denali. I was too scared to take a photo, so you will have to imagine two bears in the foreground of this shot. It's a sight I'll never forget.

This story was written by an Active Times community member.

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