Two of my employees were on a hunt to find me, GPS coordinates in hand. A few miles away, W. also waited to be found by another group toting a map and compass. We do this exercise because they have to be able to navigate into fires, and more importantly, find their way back out. "I started a warming fire," W. texted. Supremely unprepared, I had no food, water, or matches. Actually, I didn't have anything except a two-way radio and my phone. "I'm getting a bear feeling," I texted back.
I can't explain the bear feeling. I don't get it often, but when I do, a bear usually shows up. A few summers ago, I decided to backpack a solo 26 mile loop in a wilderness area. As I hiked along, I started to feel uneasy. There's bears around here, I thought. But despite some very fresh bear sign, I didn't see an actual bear. After 18 miles I was ready to camp. I set up my tent near a lake and haphazardly hung my food from a tree. The sun was setting. It was time to relax. That is, until I glanced up and saw an enormous (well, kind of big) bear on the hillside above the lake.
I engaged in a heated inner dialogue. Oh no, there's a BEAR. Is it a grizzly? I can't tell from here. What should I do? There's nobody else camped here. Oh look, the last people left some tinfoil in the fire ring. Great, probably smells like food. It's getting dark, I don't want to hike out now. I guess I have to stay here. Better re-hang the food. Arrrrrgh. Amazingly, I was able to sleep pretty well.
Now I burrowed deeper into the trees as it began to rain steadily. I started to read a book on my kindle app. Absorbed in Amanda Knox's troubles, I looked up distractedly to see a large black shape moving toward me. Why is someone's dog out here, I wondered. OH. A BEAR. It saw me and stopped, gazing as if deciding what to do.
"There's a bear here," I said on the radio for some reason, maybe so someone could identify my cause of death. I heard some yells in the distance. My employees were floundering through the swamp. The bear looked confused, then turned and ran off.
And that's really the deal with bears. Most of the time they don't want anything to do with us. However, I'll trust my "bear feeling" even more now. To the five people who actually read this: do you have any warning feelings like this? For example, "emotionally unavailable bad boyfriend material alert" or "backstabbing co-worker in area/stop talking now!" Now those would be handy.
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