Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bear!


So, I'm out for a hike today minding my own business when I hear a noise behind me. Sounds very much like deer but the foliage is too thick to see very far. The noises go past pretty fast but then I hear another behind them moving more slowly. I already had my Droid out and on camera mode because I thought I might get a deer photo. With this noise coming my way, I was practically drooling for the animal to emerge.

Turns out, I wasn't the only one.
A black bear meandered onto the trail about 50 feet behind me. This was a small side trail leading to another side trail. Not the best place to encounter a bear (if there is such a thing as a good place!). I did what anyone would do with a camera poised--took a picture. The bear, which looked to be my size (I'm 6' tall), took a step toward me as I took several steps backward. I said, "Hey buddy," as I backed away slowly. Immediately I thought of what I could do to stall his advance and recalled having two lollipops in my pack. I took them out as I continued to retreat up the trail, unwrapped them, and threw them to the ground.

So this is how it ends, I thought as the bear took another couple steps my way. When I reached the intersection of another trail shortly thereafter I banged my walking stick on a tree and yelled, "Hey, don't you come up here!" I recalled that bear don't appreciate loudness and that they may not approach you if you're threatening (it's easy to say this advice when you're not facing one though).

At that point, I took off down the trail as fast as I could go. I chanced a look back and spit out my gum to give it something else to investigate should it decide to follow. I ran until I couldn't run anymore but I would not stop. Walking as swiftly as my legs could carry me, I continually looked back and twice though I saw a black form in the distance. I briefly considered making a bee line for the edge of the woods which I knew was somewhere on my right but there was no telling what barriers I would run into before reaching the unseen treeline.

Somehow, I kept my cool and stayed on the most direct trail over to the Hamburg reservoir (about two miles away at my encounter point). I took the trail leading to the road right before the parking lot because it was a little faster. All the while I was praying the bear was not interested in pursuit and indeed did not see it after my first couple of possible sightings. When I was just about at the main road I called my brother and said, "I need you to pick me up at the reservoir. Now." When he asked what was wrong I replied, "I'm being chased by a black bear!" He said, "I'll be right out."

He and Zlaty arrived, the latter bearing two knives to fend off the bear (thanks!), shortly thereafter and I was driven back to my car 3 miles away. All in all, I would have preferred an uneventful walk but you have to play the hand your dealt. :)

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