“We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day. We’re not scared.” – We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury

I have read that story so often to my children that it was a bit of a mantra in my head as we donned chest waders with hiking boots to track brown bears in Katmai National Park in Alaska. I certainly wasn’t scared, and the beauty of our days was beyond compare for me.

A mother and playful cubs in Katmai National Park. © Brad Josephs/NHA

A mother and playful cubs in Katmai National Park. © Brad Josephs/NHA

The time away from my family was the only downside to the wonderful opportunity to travel with WWF members and experience a slice of life of the wild I spent my working days to protect. In my travel to visit with supporters of WWF across the Midwest, Rockies and South, I often was gone two nights at most, and on this trip I was spending seven nights away from my husband, five-year-old and three-year-old.  For the majority of that time, we were without Internet or phone connection, so I couldn’t even check in and hear the peaks and pits, highs and lows as we call them in our family, of my kids’ days.

While I certainly was awed by the pod of fin whales we saw by diving towards their dark shapes in our seaplane and dazzled by the intensity of the brown bears in their end-of-season salmon hunting, I was pleasantly surprised and comforted by the camaraderie of my fellow travelers, guides and boat crew.

© WWF-US/Kate Greenburg

© WWF-US/Kate Greenberg

Beyond the expertise and attention to safety that one would expect from a NatHab trip, our guides, Annie and Drew, plus the boat crew, Bill and Warren, shared stories of their lives, from the mundane to intimate, that forged a meaningful sense of connection among the entire group. This allowed my fellow travelers and me to dig into the amazing experience we were sharing and marvel with each other through photography, inside jokes and beers over dinner about the incredible opportunity we had to experience a pristine and seemingly untouched park of Alaska.

So even though I missed my own family very much, our group became a funny little family forged at the edge of the earth as we witnessed incredible wildlife and landscapes.

A fond farewell with our group. © WWF-US/Kate Greenburg

A fond farewell with our group. © WWF-US/Kate Greenberg

Kate Greenberg currently serves as a Development Officer for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and is based in Chicago.  Kate has more than 10 years of experience in development, predominantly working with individuals and family foundations. She also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras.