OKALOOSA ISLAND — Jacob Aland thought he was alone on the beach as he waited in darkness for the sun to rise over the Gulf of Mexico on Friday.
Aland said he was amazed, however, when the sun rose to reveal a black, furry figure a few yards away. There, sitting on a sand dune also looking up at the orange, yellow and pink painted on the horizon, was a bear.
"There he was just hanging out and watching the sun rise, too," Aland said. "After the sun rose I don't know where he went. It was great. It was not a bad way to start the day."
What made the experience even more special was that it was Aland's birthday Friday. He almost snoozed through his alarm, but said he was thankful he mustered up the willpower to head to the public beach access a little past The Boardwalk.
Aland said although he was there to watch the skyline, his attention quickly turned and stayed toward the bear. He watched it walk the beach for about 20 minutes before it disappeared.
"He was by himself and was a little bigger than a cub, but I don't think he was fully grown," he said. "I was at a safe distance, so I wasn't scared."
"It's a great birthday when you start it with a bear on the beach. Once I saw the bear I was enamored. I took videos of it and his footsteps in the sand."