A few bear encounters recalled

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2019

in the woods header

People seem to fear bears in the woods more than a psycho murderous human. For me, it’s the latter, but logically, that would be a very rare event.

Victor and I, however, have had our share of bear encounters.

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My favorite exchange was on a backpacking trip off the Blue Ridge parkway and close to Shenandoah National Park, which is the New York City of Virginia’s bear population.

Bears like our food. It’s that simple.

I was relaxing in my one-man tent after making a fragrant batch of guacamole with lots of garlic, with smelly being the key word here.

Victor had wandered off and for some reason, did not immediately appear when I called. I was walking up the trail looking for him when I saw two black objects not far from the trail. Bears.

I went back and got my trekking poles to make noise and beat them over the head if they got closer, but they didn’t. After watching me get more and more panicked about Victor, they appeared to slink off somewhere else.

I returned to the tent only to find the bear pair sitting even closer as if to get a better view of the unfolding drama. I like to joke that they sat there and enjoyed the show with a bag of popcorn and a soda.

By this time I had lost my fear and started yelling and waving my poles at them. They didn’t budge.

Unsure of what to do without my dog, I irrationally decided to start packing up the tent and going to an AT shelter a couple of miles away. When Victor saw that happening, he appeared from behind a nearby rock. Victor hates people being upset even if he causes it, so he had been hiding.

That evening I took special care hanging up my bear bag. After dark I could hear the bears walking around the tent, looking for that guacamole. For some reason, that didn’t bother me a bit because I knew it was bears and not a psycho, murderous human. I also knew that it was very unlikely they would tear into my tent because all the smelly stuff was hanging in a tree.

The bears finally left. My bear bag full of supplies remained untouched.

The funniest bear encounter was on some remote trail at Douthat State Park. I turned a corner to see a bear running away from me in fear. Victor and I continued on, with me making all sorts of noise to keep him or her away. When we got to this very pretty overlook, we sat down to enjoy it only to be joined by six women on mountain bikes. I told them about the bear.

They were afraid. I pointed out that they were a group of six seated on what would appear to be big, scary items to a lone bear. They could beat the bear nearly to death with their collective bikes, if necessary. That wasn’t enough. They were still scared.