As we get ready to turn in, Corey says of Pack Creek, "You'll be going alone." My eyes pop. In my scramble to travel to Alaska, I let Corey and his fellow guides handle all the prep and secure the permits. Evidently, I didn't read the fine print. My outfitter isn't permitted to accompany clients. Surely a Forest Service ranger will give me the low-down on bear etiquette and safety, then escort me into the bears' world, right? That's a no. Apparently, the Forest Service operates Pack Creek as a do-it-yourself program. I consider what might happen to me when I'm surrounded by 1,700 bears and my pepper spray runs out. But Corey throws out a factoid that's music to my ears: "Just so you know, no one's ever been attacked at Pack Creek." In the morning, I glide my kayak to the creek, where a ranger named Kristen Stelck meets me. She's carrying a rifl e. I sign a logbook -- and a disclaimer -- as she spells out that I'll be doing a one-mile hike through the forest to an elevated platform. Along the route and from that perch, I'll have a high probability of seeing bears. She asks, "You're comfortable with this, aren't you?"