Caren Ware's Blog

September 1, 2010

BEAR with me…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 1:10 am

I think I blogged way back when about bear stories.  I tend to find some way to bring them up.  How many people have ever been charged by a bear?  Not once, but twice?  I choose to be in the mountains as often as possible. My youth was filled with trips into the Sierras and my college summers were spent as a water ski,  rock climbing, backpacking camp counselor at Bass Lake near Yosemite National Park.  Bears sniffed us out with our packs on, raided the trash cans, climbed on the deck of our camp house and looked into the window. I jumped in a trash bin to hide during a competitive night game of ‘capture the flag’… with a bear.  I had a bear climb a tree and jump out over our hung food bags, grabbing them on the way down and landing on the corner end of my tent.  My heart pounded like bongo drums as I played dead and the beast dragged the bags up and over a log turning ferocious when the strings entangled momentarily before it snapped them like meaningless threads with a few yanks and a lot of growling.  I respected these huge clawed and toothed mammals.   One charged my brother and I when we were crawling into his den thinking it cool to explore this burned out Redwood tree.  And I had the act of ultimate male protection when, as a newlywed, we were charged in an open meadow on our way to the top of Half Dome. Both charges were later labeled by others and false charges.  Seemed pretty un-false to me.  Both were warded off by high pitch shrilling, more like screaming for our lives.  I did not have a cartoon character,” oh, isn’t he cute” value of the bear.  I respected the bear’s ability to be unpredictable and terrifyingly forceful. 

So I warned Kimberly that we had some strikes against us for leaving so late in the day on our hike to the lookout point of Granite Mountain in the Cascades outside of Seattle.  We would have to return by headlamp in the dark, hitting the summit just at sunset.  Dark rain clouds were going to overtake us before we reached that summit.  And every bush seemed to have nice juicy berries on them.  Strongly self-sufficient she just grinned and nodding she was up for the challenge.  We moved fast and we moved up.  The trail climbed 4,000 in the last 4 miles.  Can you guess it?  Here I am again RACING AGAINST THE SETTING SUN once again. It IS the story of my life.

So what low mumbled words came out of my mouth when two cubs bounced past us in the dusk and scampered down the open avalanched ravine?  The avalanche had wiped out the trees and made it the perfect fertile bed for berry bushes.  The cubs deftly plucked berries and virtually ignored us.  Kimberly got out her phone and recorded the frolicking duel while in the background of her video I am desperately scanning the hillside brush for their mamma saying more mumbled words.  I told her best that we step back and let the lady pass.  But sunlight was leaving us and the mamma never followed her cubs.  We noisily moved ahead and out of sight of the cubs and relaxed as the rain started to fall.  We could see the summit and dared not stop.  Our cooled sweat would not be good at this elevation. 

That’s when we saw the sow . She looked huge to me.  She had beautiful jet black fur and was a giant, giant, giant dog.  She was very occupied picking berries.  She seemed a long way from her cubs, but those were her cubs because when she did spot us, she raised and gazed past us to the ravine the cubs had tumbled down.  We were standing between her and them. 

We picked up rocks.  Like that was going to help.  The sow started to descend down the ravine. Undaunted, but descending.  Kimberly asked if we should run.  Run where?  Back down the trail and get more between her and the cubs?  And, yet.  I wanted nothing to do with trying a standoff with this obese lady.  So I did what I always do when I am under stress.  Told Kimberly a life story.  One time I was taking a set of high school kids on a 25 mile round trip up the backside of Half Dome.  The forest service always made us hike to the trailhead through the back of the valley floor campground so we didn’t overcrowd the tourist trail to the falls.  As we were weaving through the camp sites we spotted a man up a tree yelling at his wife inside their camper.  I have no idea what their names were, but they seemed like a Fred and Myrtle.  So Fred yelled to his wife, “Myrtle.  Myrtle. There’s a bear in our camp. Grey haired Myrtle came out, accessed the situation, disappeared back in the motor home, and came out with a pot and pan.  She banged them at the bear that was busily removing the insulation on their ice chest. Bang, bang, bang. The bear shot upright. In his fright, the bear bolted up the tree and out on the same limb as poor Fred.  We laughed about that all summer.

I wasn’t laughing now.  We debated. Move onward and upward past the bear and claim victory of the summit…and descend by flash light pass this bear family…ooooh the adventure. Or back down the trail as quickly and unobtrusively as possible… and get past the cubs before the mamma overtakes us.  I have always tied and gagged wisdom and gone for the adventure thus giving me a lifetime of stories from the poor choices I have survived.  This time wisdom begged not to be so mistreated, and I listened.  We backed down and defeat descended with us.  We were bummed to turn back. We felt wise and not victorious. That’s twice in a short amount of time I have done something very out of character for me.  I trotted to the side of the track in the middle of a national race last month.  And this month I just didn’t feel like adding a third charging bear story to my repertoire.

Steve and Skip were Washingtonians hoofing it to get back to the parking lot before dark.

 I told Kimberly that there was possibly one more party on the mountain.  She asked what made me think that. I said because there were four cars in the parking lot and 3 parties and passed us coming down as we started up.  These guys overtook us on our descent and asked if we had seen the bear.  We said yes and described our experience.  They looked at us odd and said their bear encounter had been a brown furred black bear with one cub.  We all concluded that the berry gully was bear laden and our choice to vacate before dark was WISE.

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