hen we came off the trail onto the overlook at the falls, the two kids stood open-mouthed and wide-eyed, their heads swiveling as they said to Steve and me things like: “Dad, look! Look! Wow. Dad!” A dozen brown bears patrolled the river, some only yards from the elevated platform we were standing on. The “smaller,” younger bears roamed the banks, picking over half-eaten salmon. The river seethed as dense pods of red salmon surged upstream. Huge mature bears staked out the prime fishing spots, some catching salmon as they leapt the cataracts. Others charged into the water, coming up with salmon flopping in their jaws while the river around them exploded in a spray of panicked fish. We were at Brooks Camp, the world-famous bear-viewing spot in Alaska’s Katmai National Park. My son, Oliver, age 9, and I were there with my buddy Steve McGrath and his 11-year-old son, Aidan, taking time out from our weeklong fishing trip for what Steve and I recognized as a bucket-list experience.