Sunday, May 26, 2013

that bear feeling

"Arriving at 024 waypoint," my GPS announced.  I looked around.  I was in a small draw, thick with green regrowth.  An army of mosquitoes materialized out of the nearby swamp.  I burrowed under some trees to escape the drizzle and settled in to wait.

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.

Nobody wants to see this.


  1. Yikes...."that bear feeling" is a very good, though heart-pounding, feeling to have, I would think. Neat exercise in fire-finding, am assuming they found both you and W. as they helped the bear decide to run away from Waypoint 24.

  2. I like this one--I can think of several things it would have been nice to have a flash-of-intuition-alert about!

  3. My boyfriend thinks I will be mauled if we ever see a bear while camping, because I will try to pet it. I really wouldn't, but it would be tempting.

    I apparently don't have a warning for animals, because the last time we went camping, something ate all our food while we slept and I never woke up. But I have excellent intuition about people, and I instantly don't trust some people. It has always turned out to be for good reason!

    1. I feel like I have a pretty good intuition about most people, but apparently not about a couple exes! The signs were there, I just wasn't reading them.

  4. I don't know about bears, but I'll get that creepy, stalked feeling occasionally. It usually turns out that there's a BIG cat near by. Luckily if Ernie is with he picks up on cats and bears before I do. He's saved me from some excitement once or twice!

  5. That is badass. Can I take you camping with me next week? I've never seen a bear in the wild before, but I find them incredibly scary (except fluffy baby polar bears but there aren't many of those in California).

  6. Zach, I need an Ernie sometimes!

    Sabrina, I love camping! Fortunately I haven't ever had a bear come in my camp (that I know of) when I was in a tent.


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