When Geoffrey Glassner took a trip to the Alaskan wilderness, he no doubt expected to spot some wildlife. However, having three grizzly bears follow him was probably not something he would have signed up for. So when that did happen, he had to think on his feet and slowly back away.
Geoffrey Glassner hails from California. In July 2017 the then 74-year-old had traveled to Alaska’s Katmai National Park. And little did he know that his vacation would end up making news headlines.
Katmai National Park spans more than four million acres of land in Southern Alaska. It’s probably most famed for the being the home of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. However, it’s not just this volcanic valley that draws in visitors such as Glassner.
The park is home to an abundance of wildlife, but its most famous inhabitant is arguably the brown bear. It’s believed that Katmai contains more than 2,000 of these animals – often known as grizzly bears – which are protected by a hunting ban. This makes them the biggest population of protected brown bears on our planet.
With that in mind, Katmai is one of the best places on Earth for wildlife enthusiasts to get close to these mighty animals. Visitors to the park are able to view bears in their natural environment without disrupting the animals’ lives too much.
In fact, the staff at Katmai work extremely hard to ensure the bears that live onsite can carry on their existences without human interaction. So when Glassner found himself getting up close and personal with three curious grizzlies, it probably came as quite a shock.
Glassner had been hiking along one of the paths in Katmai when he realized that he was being followed. Behind him was a family of grizzly bears, in fact, consisting of two cubs and their momma. And worryingly, they were hot on Glassner’s tail.
Somehow, though, Glassner was able to keep his cool. And rather than running away from the grizzlies, the hiker turned on his heels and started backing away from the bears. That way, he could keep an eye on the animals as he plotted his next move.
Even more amazingly, Glassner also captured these events on his cell phone. And in the resulting footage he can be heard saying, “I am walking backward on the trail back to the camp.” As he does so, Glassner turns his lens to the massive momma bear and her two babies, who seem to be following his every move.
While Glassner continues to reverse, the grizzlies follow in hot pursuit. “I am continuing to walk backward, and mom and the cubs keep following me and are walking at least as fast as I am,” the hiker explains for any future viewers of his remarkable footage.
With the bears powering forwards, Glassner is forced to maintain a punishing pace. As a result, his heavy breathing can be heard in the video. But at this point, a bit of panting was unsurprisingly the last of the hiker’s worries.
In the footage, Glassner reveals, “This is the first walk from camp that I’ve had since getting here on Friday, July 14. And what I don’t want to do, if I’m walking backward, is stumble.” However, Glassner refuses to turn his back on the grizzlies. “So I will keep walking backward,” he adds.
At that point, the two cubs appear to pick up the pace and gain some ground on Glassner. However, he appears to be going as fast as he dares. So, addressing the bears, he protests, “Oh, come on guys! Give me a break.”
However, Grassner’s complaints fall on deaf ears. The baby bears break out into a steady canter and he abandons his filming. When the footage resumes a few moments later, the hiker reveals, “The cubs just keep coming.”
As he’s stretched to his limits, Grassner admits on camera that he has just stumbled. But he pushes through and continues on his way. Speaking of the bears, he says, “I’m hoping they go off the trail at some point, or somebody else comes along from camp.”
With that, Grassner’s film on the trail comes to an end. In the next piece of footage, the three grizzlies have finally stopped following him. And it appears they had just been trying to find themselves some water all along.
As Grassner continues to monitor the bears, the two cubs play happily by the water. Confirming they are the same family that had followed him, the hiker says, “This is mom and the two cubs now. This is by the campsite. They’re at the water’s edge.”
Back at the relative safety of his camp, Grassner finally stopped filming. But his footage was given a new lease of life when he later shared it online. His amazing encounter with the grizzlies went viral, clocking up more than 3.5 million views on one YouTube share alone.
Following the success of his footage, in 2017 Grassner told Inside Edition that, although momma bear was a lot bigger, it was her babies he’d been most wary of. “My biggest fear was that they would get close to me and mama bear thought I was a threat and would attack me,” he explained.
While Grassner escaped his close encounter with the grizzlies unscathed, things could have turned out much differently. Momma bears will not hesitate to attack if they think someone is a threat to their cubs. But thankfully, it appears that Grassner’s calm demeanor might have saved his life.