The Bear at the Bus Stop

Juneau_and_mountain_in_background - Version 2

Taking the bus in a new city is always an adventure – you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen.

In Juneau, Alaska we’d read that the best way to see the Mendenhall Glacier was to take the public bus to the closest stop and hike up for the view. They were right – it was spectacular.


We were walking back to the bus stop, chatting about our adventure when we heard a commotion nearby. A huge grizzly bear emerged from the brush, swung her head warily, then fixed her gaze on us. Oh great!


Then she motioned for her two cubs to cross the road.

Grizzly Bear w Cubs

With a final defiant glare at us, she disappeared into the woods behind them. Whew!

Unlike our friend Curt over at Wandering Through Time and Place, who is fearless in the presence of bears, we were glad to see the backside of her!

Here’s to Bear-Free Bus Stops,

Alaska Bear Trail - Version 2

Photo Credits:
2. By Cielo de la Paz via Wikimedia Commons
3, 4. By Denali National Park and Preserve via Wikimedia Commons


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

92 thoughts

    1. I must admit Darlene that I don’t think I could ever get used to it. It still spooks me … especially remembering how she locked her eyes on us! 🙂 ~Terri

  1. hey! whats up? i’m loving this recent post of you.
    I have also blogged about some 10 good reasons why traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

    here’s what my recent post is all about…

    What can you say about it? would be so nice to hear from you! 🙂

    All the best! xx

    deanna ( )

    1. Thanks Deanna, So glad that you stopped by. I read your post and really like “#3. It restores your belief in humanity.” We all could use a good dose of that! 🙂 All the best, Terri

  2. Holy crapcakes! That’s the sort of encounter one is jealous of…until it actually happens to you. But since nothing horrible happened, I’m going to go with jealousy. 😉

    1. Great expression – I nearly splurted my coffee! 🙂 Yeah, that’s exactly what we were thinking. Trust me, there is nothing to be jealous of – we were just trying to catch a freakin’ bus, never expecting that kind of adventure. ~Terri

    1. Alison, I must admit that my main goal was to get the flimsy bus shelter between us and her, little good I guess that would have done! 🙂 I was just so glad that we weren’t between her and the cubs. ~Terri

  3. I am always amused by that piece of advice that says that if a bear comes close lay down and play dead! I saw warning signs in Yellowstone but never the real thing thank goodness.

    1. Andrew, I always thought that advice was for saps … but there are those who swear by it. I am so glad that we didn’t have to find out! 🙂 Glad you didn’t have any encounters at Yellowstone. Are there bears there in the UK? Terri

      1. No, nothing dangerous in England. Bears and wolves long gone although I did read that someone wanted to introduce them to his country estate in Scotland but there was a lot of objection from local people and farmers. There are wildcat in Scotland and wild boar in some of the forests in England. They can be dangerous!

    1. Sue, it was truly an unexpected experience. We’ve camped and hiked all over, but to encounter one at a bus stop, of all places. Yikes! How about you two – any bear encounters? ~Terri

      1. We have thankfully never had one up close and personal. Quite a few in the distance or 50 yards at least where one can step back. Hiking out of Mt Assiniboine with girlfriends the grizzly scat was steaming on the trail that’s how close we were. Se sang so loud for those hours. Someone was attacked the next week there and managed to survive. Definitely none at bus stops. 🙂

    1. Hi Le and David, I must admit it was the last thing we expected – especially being in town …. at a bus stop! I guess it’s a really good thing that she had her mind on her cubs and wanted to hurry them along. 🙂 ~Terri

    1. LIsa, it was quite a surprise to say the least. Luckily, she was more concerned about getting her cubs across the street than in us – which was fine with us. It’s a memory that’s stuck with us for sure. ~Terri

    1. This was my first glacier Kaye, and it was beautiful. Not sure of it’s relative size, but it makes sense that global warming has done its work on this glacier as well. ~Terri

  4. Ohhhh c’mon I love them!! I am crazy to see one, its funny but I am fearless when it comes to bears… maybe I shouldnt be hahaha but I hope to see them close one day 🙂 great shots!!

    1. Allane, I agree that bears are gorgeous animals and there’s nothing liking watching a couple of cubs frolic. But I will gladly trade places with you when it comes to getting up close and personal. 🙂 ~Terri

  5. Not many people can say they saw a bear with cubs at the bus stop, very! I’m sure her main concern was the cubs crossing safely. What a neat encounter!

      1. We have black bears, but I don’t see them very often. We had one, several years ago, that lived in the woods behind our house. I’d see him 2 or 3 times a week, but he moved on.

    1. You know Emma, when she gave us that final glare before disappearing into the woods, I could almost hear her muttering, “You don’t know how lucky you are!” 🙂 ~Terri

    1. Tess, Juneau really is a beautiful place. When we were deciding where to visit, it came out way ahead of Anchorage. And did you know, that there are no roads into and out of Juneau. If you get there, you fly or take a ferry – and it’s the capitol of Alaska. Needless to say, the bear encounter was a shocker, but it turned out OK, and makes a good travel tale. ~James

      1. Must have been the look on your face that changed the Mother Bear’s plan to take you out. Just because everyone else has to fly in, the bear thought, doesn’t mean I need to. Ha ha hahahahaha. Sorry. Can’t help it. Great story for sure.

    1. Bailey, it all happened so fast and took us totally off guard, so our photos are all a brown blur. 🙂 Really! The bear photos are from Wikimedia Commons (Photo Credits at the bottom of the post) taken by the brave and talented folks at Denali National Park. I think they were much better prepared than we were (and probably had their bear spray on hand). I was just so glad she was preoccupied with her cubs and decided to move on. ~Terri

    1. Thanks, but we can’t take credit. It all happened so fast and took us totally off guard, so our photos are all a brown blur. 🙂 Really! The bear photos are from Wikimedia Commons (Photo Credits at the bottom of the post) taken by the brave and talented folks at Denali National Park. I think they were much better prepared than we were (and probably had their bear spray on hand). I was just so glad she was preoccupied with her cubs and decided to move on. ~Terri

  6. Thanks for the link James. Encountering huge animals with sharp teeth and big claws is always guaranteed to get the adrenaline flowing. 🙂 And a mom with a pair of cubs is even scarier. Great photos. What magnificent animals. And Juneau, a fun town for being a state capitol. It is very Alaskan in nature. I was there several times when I worked as the Executive Director of the Alaska Lung Association, mainly to lobby on tobacco and air quality issues. –Curt

    1. You’re very welcome, Curt. I’ve always been so amazed by your bear encounters – truly amazing. We loved Juneau and the Glacier – really spectacular. Were you living in Alaska when you were the Executive Director? ~Terri

    1. Steve, I’m not sure who was backing up faster, me or Terri. I’m sure that you’ve heard the old joke: “I don’t really need to run faster than the bear, I just need to run faster than Terri.” ~James

  7. What a great story! When we visit Alaska we always make some noise by dragging our feet or talking when we are in the bush – the opposite of what we usually do. Don’t want to surprise any bears or moose!

    1. The funny thing about this story Pam, is that there were hiking trails all around the glacier that were closed because of bears. The salmon were spawning, and I guess it was picnic time for the bears. We didn’t mind missing the hikes, but to be waiting for a bus and spot 3 bears nearby was a hoot. ~Terri

      1. How neat. I know people pay alot of money to see bears at Katmai – you got a close look without doing that!

    1. Thanks Lucia. Luckily, this is one of those events that happened so quickly that we didn’t have time to be scared. The mother wanted her cubs across the road, and she didn’t tarry, thanks goodness. It was more shock at the time, and fearful head shaking afterward. But, I can say that we were watching our watches for the arrival of the next bus. ~James

  8. Wow! Bear encounters are one of my biggest fear when we are out in the woods…and to meet one at a bus stop!

    On what I remember as my first hike with Gordon, in Yosemite, strolling along making our way back from our hike I spotted a bear down the path. There was nowhere to go as he was foraging along our route. So we back tracked and waited for what seemed like an hour before Gord convinced me we could not spend the night where we were. Eventually we venture past where we had seen him. Making lots of noise (more like me yelling swear words) we returned down the trail. It wasn’t until we got home and looking at the pictures from our trip that we discovered Gordon had captured a photo of the bear in the distance. And I hope to never experience a bear again:) – Ginette

    1. What a story Ginette! I would have been singing at the top of my lungs, too. We’ve hiked and camped all over, and fortunately all our bear sightings have been from a long distance. But the bear at the bus stop changed that! James said jokingly, “Maybe we need to rethink this public transportation thing.” 🙂 ~Terri

  9. Great post and what an encounter! We’re hiking the Bruce Trail in Ontario right now and our biggest fear is crossing paths with a bear…glad yours turned out well.

    1. Yikes Carol! That sounds like bear country to me. I love a sign I saw in one of those hiking shops that sells the bells you tie to your backpack to frighten away the bears. On the sign that read Bear Bells someone had crossed out Bells and written BAIT! 🙂 I hear the Bruce Trail is gorgeous. Have fun and stay safe. ~Terri

  10. What a great story about a beautiful spot. I took a more adventurous route to view the Mendenhall Glacier by taking the gondola up to Mt. Roberts and then hiking the ridge until the glacier came into view. This only works on clear days, of course, but if there were any bears I would have seen them from some distance. No bears on that day, but I did see a few marmots.
    Your story brought back some fine memories. That was the 2005 trip where I met Florence. 🙂

    1. Mike, what a wonderful story. You definitely took the adventurous route – I’m so impressed! I bet the view was spectacular – the perfect vantage point for seeing the glacier … and bears. Glad you had a bear-free visit. 🙂 Are you and Florence home yet? ~Terri

      1. We arrived in LA Sunday afternoon. We will be moving on to Olympia, WA at the end of the month and beginning our domestic adventures! – Mike

  11. Wow, I would have had a heart attack! I am scared of bears and being an avid hiker that has it problems. I would love to go to Alaska someday though. Beautiful pictures!

    1. I’m with you Nicole. I would prefer to view bears from afar. Like you, we’re avid hikers, but we’ve never had a direct bear encounter. Fingers crossed. 🙂 ~Terri

  12. Great photo of the glacier! I’d be happy to see the backside rather than the teeth-side of any bear, let alone a grizzly! Fortunately, even with all the camping and backpacking that we’ve done, we have not had a close bear encounter.

    1. The glacier truly is beautiful. And like you, after all our years of hiking and camping, we’ve never had a bear close encounter until this one … at a bus stop! Go figure. ~Terri

  13. I’m not sure I could have held the camera steady to take those fabulous pictures. We spent two years in Yellowstone and I always felt on high alert whenever we went hiking. If it wasn’t the grizzlies, it was elk, bison, or wolves. Hubby loved the excitement of it all.

    1. Thanks LuAnn, but we can’t take credit for the bear photos. It all happened so fast and caught us totally off guard, so our photos are all a brown blur. 🙂 The bear photos are from Wikimedia Commons (Photo Credits at the bottom of the post) taken by the brave and talented folks at Denali National Park. I think they were much better prepared than we were (and probably had their bear spray on hand). I was just so glad she was preoccupied with her cubs and decided to move on. ~Terri

  14. Encountering a bear at close range, without one of us being safely ensconced in a cage or sturdy vehicle, is a scary thought. I hope to never find out whether or not I would wet my pants!!

    1. Joanne, I was certainly wishing I could snap my fingers “Bewitched-Style” and produce a bear-proof cage. 🙂 Alas, non appeared. I was never so glad to see the back end of an animal in my life! ~Terri

  15. Wow, what an adventure. Nothing nearly so exciting happened to me on my hike to beautiful Mendenhall Glacier. Last night, I did see three deer on my evening stroll in my neighborhood, not quite the same thrill. A couple of years ago, I did lock eyes with a mother bobcat in my neighborhood, so I would have to multiply that scared and enchanted feeling a hundred times if I encountered a grizzly bear.

    1. Wow, a bobcat! That’s pretty amazing! How big was it? We had a strange, but funny bobcat experience a few years ago. We had driven to a remote trailhead and were planning to take a hike. Before we got out of the car I heard soft meowing outside my window. I looked out as a tiny kitten emerged from the brush, quite determined to meet us. I said, “Awww” and started to open my door. Then I saw her complete body … no tail!!! We both said, “Yikes.” We did not want to get between the kitten and her Mama! As we drove away, Mama emerged from the brush. Whew! 🙂 ~Terri

      1. The bobcat was about the size of a large dog. She parked herself in a grassy area along the walking trail we have in our neighborhood for a day. Her three cubs were across the street in a tree overhanging the deck of one of my neighbors. By the time I found out about the cubs, mother bobcat had herded them somewhere else. She really gave me a stare! And a scare!

    1. I agree with you Renata, bears are beautiful, majestic animals. And it’s so fun to watch cubs play together. I just want to do it from farther away. 🙂 So glad that you stopped by. All the best, Terri

    1. Thank you Christine. It certainly wasn’t what we anticipated when we started the day. 🙂 I’m really enjoying your cabinet of curiosities – one of my favorite concepts. Glad you stopped by. ~Terri

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