After surviving a bear attack in Cordova, 57-year-old Thea Thomas said she had never encountered an angry bear in her more than 30 years of hiking in Alaska.
"I heard the growling, remember thinking, 'Oh, that could be a plane,'" Thomas said from her hospital bed Wednesday.
Thomas said the attack happened in just seconds.
"Just like that the dog is running straight for me and the bear is right behind it," Thomas said.
Thomas, a commercial fisherman, said she had been walking along Heney Ridge Trail in Cordova with two dogs, one belonging to herself and the other to a friend.
Her friend's Akita took off and returned with a brown bear chasing it close behind.
"The dog just goes right on by and the bear just stops and starts in swatting me and biting me," Thomas said.
The bear knocked her down several times, biting and clawing her before it walked away.
"At one point he's like standing right over me, I'm flat on my back and the bear is just standing up on its haunches," Thomas said.
Once the bear was gone, Thomas realized she was alone and knew it might be her only chance to find help.
"I have a feeling my dog just took off, and she didn't show up, and I was just really upset about that when the bear finally left," Thomas said. "I realized I couldn't go looking for her. I just had to get out of there."
Bleeding badly, Thomas walked more than a mile back to her car.
"I just had to keep walking," Thomas said. "It was a chance that no one would have even looked for my car until the next day."
Thomas drove herself to the local hospital and then had to be medevaced to Anchorage.
"The creek I was on, this is the thing I've seen more bears on that trail than any other trail I've been on," Thomas said. "It's salmon season, there were carcasses, salmon carcasses all up and down the creek."
The experience was a lesson.
"Sometimes I'll carry a horn 'cause I hear that's a pretty good deterrent, but I don't own bear mace," Thomas said. "I've never carried a gun, so my takeaway lesson is don't be stupid and carry some sort of deterrent."