Monday, August 18, 2008

Tent Camping With Black Bears

First off, I’d like to say that this trip to the Sequoia National Forest was to be my first encounter with Black Bears. Before leaving, as most of you know, Insane Mama (and many other people) told me all of their stories about bear encounters up there and I have to admit that as excited as I was, I was a bit nervous.

After our first night camping, I woke to no signs (or stories from other campers) about bears having been in the campground that night. Believe me…I asked just about everyone. I was a bit disappointed and quite honestly…a bit scared to come back to you all with no bear stories. On our second night there, after sitting by the fire and carving a large stick that I’d found into the ‘world’s best bear spear’…to protect us from our impending encounter, we actually opened a big can of baked bean and left them on the table at the site next to ours (nobody was there…we are not that cruel) to see if we could attract a nice big bear that would enjoy this friendly offering. Again with NOTHING! Anyway, we spent two nights at that campground (full post to come) and then decided that maybe we should head deeper into the forest…”where the bears live” for a few nights.

At our second campground, which was DEEP into the National Forest, the campground was a bit on the empty side and we ended up with a pretty cool site, in the woods right on the edge of the Kings River. We drove around the campground until we had found the site that bears would like the most. Again…NOTHING! I got a bit pissed and started “accidentally” dropping food around our site…and even calling into the woods, “bears….oh bears….come out and play”…Along with other ridiculous absurdities. At the site right next to us, there were 2 guys and a woman who were from another country and obviously did not know that being nice…and social with the campers around you was the proper thing to do. We did not like them…for that reason…UNTIL…on the second night, I heard one of the guys from that site yell, “BEAR!” and then start banging on a pan with a rock that he’d picked up. My eyes widened (out of excitement, not fear) and I jumped out of my chair. I turned and called for Insane Mama, who was in the tent …putzing around, to get her ass out of the tent. I grabbed my bear spear and basically threw it at Mariah while I snatched up our camera and ran to catch up with our neighbor, who was trailing the bear, warning the campers ahead of him.

When I reached him (in like 2 seconds), I asked him where the bear was and he pointed ….I saw it! In the dark I saw the outline of a fairly big bear. I had to get closer. I was going to get a picture of this beast. Armed only with my little digital camera, I darted toward the big black outline as he (or she) made it onto a campsite across the way. The bear stopped at the picnic table (where some idiots had left out trail mix and dried dates…I will thank them later.) The bear stood up and cleared things from the table and grabbed what it wanted. Meanwhile, people were yelling, throwing rocks and sticks at the ground near it, banging pans and blowing whistles…all of this while crept forward until I was about 15 feet from it. I started snapping pictures. They were coming out all black…not enough light. I fidgeted with all of the settings, snapping as I went…not really paying any attention to the 500 pound bear who could have reached my position in about 3 seconds if it wanted to. Seeing the bear only through the camera’s viewfinder, I took about 15 pictures before the bear started to move on towards the next loop of campsites. I did not care what the others were doing…I HAD to get a good shot. I trailed the bear into the woods. Once I came to the next campsite, where a large Chinese family was camping, I warned them and asked the dad if he’d seen the bear. I then heard an young voice from inside the tent a young boy’s voice frantically say, “Is it going to eat us? Are we going to DIE?” I, noticing that the bear was gone…and I was the only one who had followed it into the woods, decided to tell the family that they’d be fine and then I turned back through the woods.

As I got back to the site where thee bear took the food, I heard the woman yelling at her ??? husband that he had better get them packed and the hell out of there within the next few minutes. This lady really meant what she was saying. I did not stop, and when I got back to our site, Mariah was sitting by the fire awaiting my triumphant bear story and pictures (although her face said something like this, “ok…what happened? Oooohh….you saw a bear?…want a medal? You really are my hero….NOT!”

Anyway I told her about the “chase” after she informed me that as soon as I tossed my “Bear Spear” to her…she just returned to our site for a glass of wine. I guess seeing a bear was not such a big deal for her. She swiped the camera from my hands and started going through the last bunch of images taken and then looked up at me, shaking her head and said, “there is nothing here…it’s all black.” I told her that with the magic of Photoshop…I could get them to come out.

Here is what I have to show for all of my efforts.

OH....and by the way...bear are NOT attracted to the sweet smell of sex!

In tent, at the river on the rocks, on hiing trails, etc. No problems there!


T said...

What a great story. I love how you describe every one's response to the bear. Especially IM's. Too funny.

Nice pic. Umm. Not.

Ah outdoor river sex. Wheeee!

cIII said...

Glad you saw your bear brother. I've seen a few in my tenure in the Great Smoky Mountains. One flyfishing trip, the Troutbums and I decided to leave a day early. It was hot and the Trout a proven uncooperative. The very next day, on the very same trail we had been hiking a "sick" Mother bear and her cub attacked and killed a woman while her husband was in the River fishing. The very same trail. Be careful with bears brother. Glad you're home safe.

Insane Mama said...

Bear Shmear.... Just kidding, I'm glad you saw your bear.

Teri said...

I guess this picture is better than the one the news crew would have used if that bear had eaten you. Too close!

Jasper Mockingbard said...

That's no bear! That's Bigfoot!

TentCamper said...

Don't get me started on my quest to find Bigfoot!

Rhea said...

Too bad you didn't get better pictures. I mean, otherwise, how do I know your story is real?!

I want to believe it, I really do.

sista #2 said... do we know you really saw a bear?
Love the story....
and nice going on scaring the chinese kids!!



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