A Scary RV Camping Moment Off-Grid in Alaska
Read this tense campfire tale of an unexpected late-night guest.

By: Peter & Kathy Holcombe

I often find that there is a lot of trepidation about RVs from those who have never owned or driven one. Worries tend to be focused on the complexities of commandeering a land yacht, particularly one of the larger varieties. And for the most part, those fears are completely unwarranted. Anyone with a basic driving skillset, and a little practice, can quickly master the art of handling an RV. 

Honestly, the last ten years of full-time RVing have been the absolute best years of our lives. But there have been a few moments along our journey where everything goes sideways, leaving us facing impossible odds and wondering how in the world we are going to get ourselves out of a seemingly imminent disaster.

In the spirit of Halloween, here is one of our more terrifying adventures from over a decade of shenanigans on the road ...

Kodiak is a picturesque island that has some of the most spectacular boondocking sites we have ever seen!
There are wild horses that roam freely on the island and greatly enhance the scenic beauty.

The Intruder

It was our first night on Kodiak Island, after a nine-hour ferry ride from the picturesque town of Homer, Alaska. We pulled into a campsite at the Buskin River State Park, just as dusk succumbed to darkness. We closed the blinds and nestled into the bed of our Revel, weary after a long day of travel. The temperature was perfect for a great night sleep, until…

I was the first to awaken as the van started rocking about violently. Peter was still sleeping peacefully…before I jabbed him in the ribs and hissed in his ear: “There’s someone outside!” 

Then, the movement outside stopped. We held our breath and waited to see if it had all been some kind of crazy, lucid dream. Peter looked out the small window near the bed. Nothing.

But soon we heard it again, this time near my pillow at the back of the van. A loud metal clanking sound at first, and then the van lurched violently again and again. We were under attack! 

Kodiak Island is most renowned for its giant brown bears, otherwise known as Kodiak Bears.

We started banging loudly on the walls at the back of the van and yelling out into the darkness, trying to scare off the intruder at the back of our van. It didn’t help. The raucous noise and movement intensified. 

I fumbled with the blackout blinds at the back window trying to get a glimpse of what was happening on the other side of the wall. Peter scrambled to the front of the van and turned on the perimeter lights, illuminating a large sphere around our van. We frantically searched outside the windows trying to figure out exactly what we were facing. The commotion stopped, but our hearts still raced as we wondered what would happen next.

Peter spotted it first: a giant, fuzzy, brown behind lumbering off into the darkness. It was the largest bear we had ever seen, and for some reason it seemed to want something in or on our van. For the moment, it was gone, and we were safe. 

They can weigh up to 1,500 pounds and can stand over 10 feet tall on their hind legs.

We sat on the bed, stupefied in disbelief at what had just happened. But the anticipation that it might return draped over us like a leaden cloak. We waited. As the minutes after the attack became hours, we settled back into bed and fitfully slept until dawn. 

At first light, we cautiously stepped out of the van to assess the damage. The aluminum storage box on the back of our van (where we keep a small BBQ grill) had a few large scratches etched in the black powder coating but was relatively unscathed. 

However, the heavy-duty, urethane bag hanging from our spare tire appeared to be the target of the attack. We often store our trash in this bag until we can dispose of it properly. Apparently, there were some tantalizing scents that lingered after the trash was gone that lured the bear into our camp.

There were three large punctures through the heavy fabric, no doubt the result of a well-placed claw, and the structural stitching at the seams was unraveled from a rowdy game of tug-o-war with the Kodiak bear, the largest land predator on earth. Fortunately, the bag held together well enough to prevent the curious bear from absconding with it completely.

The bear managed to rip off one of the outside pockets.
The stitching that attached the straps to the bag held up relatively well considering the rambunctious game of tug-o-war.

Although the bag was empty, there must have been some lingering odors that attracted the bear in the first place, so out of an abundance of caution, we decided to remove the bag and store it well out of reach for our remaining four days on Kodiak Island. One bear attack was more than enough excitement to last us an entire lifetime. 

Ironically, the Kodiak bear is what drew us to visit the island in the first place, and we actively sought them out in the daytime. Yet, we were ever mindful to maintain a safe distance and to store our trash properly. 

Kodiak is also know for its world class fishing, we caught four of the five species of Alaskan salmon in one day: pink, chum, chinook and sockeye.

We watched as they frolicked in the streams, gorging themselves on salmon. At one point, a momma bear was catching fish after fish, while her cubs wrestled and sparred in the grassy meadow alongside the stream. 

What started out as an absolute nightmare turned into one of my all-time favorite experiences we’ve ever had in our travels. You can watch the footage we captured of the Kodiak bears at play here

In spite of the bear attack, watching the Kodiak bear cubs wrestling in the meadows was one of the best experiences of my life.

While this is one of our scariest travel stories to date, we've definitely had some other tense moments (like almost running out of fuel in a remote area). However, we've found these harrowing moments are the ones RVers love to retell the most around the campfire! 

Do you have a spooky story from your RV travels you love to share?


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