Before the bear came it was a grab bag of small miseries—the standard discomforts of a coastal person who basically spends his time inside. I wasn’t sure if I had gotten any sleep. My pack’s straps had abraded symmetric blisters on my collarbone. I had tweaked my back by lying on my side, and my legs by curling them up. I needed to go to the bathroom but kept deciding that it wasn’t worth the trouble. My body temperature had been oscillating wildly: I’d been getting cold, then putting on a layer or two, then sweating, then dropping into chills. And my stomach was churning—I hoped not from “beaver fever.”
But then, panic. A pounding, spiraling, helpless panic, the kind you might feel—that I once did feel—when bracing for impact on an airplane about to make an emergency landing.
Just outside our three-man tent I had heard the signatures of ursine curiosity: heavy footsteps, panting, and every so often a terrible silence in which the two of us, the thing and I, would freeze, and tighten...