Like Stephen Colbert says, bears are a big threat!
Returning from an overnight kayaking trip out in the islands near where I was working, I had a short margin of time to get through a narrow pass between an island and the mainland before it got too shallow to paddle through even in a kayak. Glacier Bay was famous for having 20 to 25 foot tidal changes at times. I missed my margin by at least a half hour. I now had a ten hour wait before the passage would be deep enough again to get through.
The entire bay I was in dried up. I was literally on its floor pacing around. I pulled the kayak up into the weeds so it wouldn’t float away in case I was gone as the slowly water came back up. Then I set up my tent on the bay’s now solid bottom and prepared for a long wait. I would probably just get in the tent and snooze the time away.
I wandered up to where a stream cut an island off from the mainland. At high tide it became gorged with sea water; now it was just a trickle, but too gooey to wade across. It had cut a deep gouge out of the sea floor that I stood above. I contemplated my situation. Had I crossed it when I first got there I could have paddled to the other side, parked the boat and hiked a couple miles back to my room. As I stood gazing sadly down, realizing I was stuck in Purgatory for the whole day, a black bear came off the dense foliage of the island across from me and descended into the stream.
I about wet myself.
He hadn’t seen me yet so I backed up slowly, turning as I got back far enough from the rim so he couldn’t see me. My tent with the bear spray was hundreds of feet away and the one thing you don’t do is run from a bear. They have an automatic reflex to chase anything that runs. I started picking up good sized rocks into my pockets as possible hand to nose missiles. I kept doing quick turns to see if he had come over the lip yet. Finally he did. I turned and walked backwards, keeping my eye directly on him.
He ran a good twenty feet before he saw me.
Let me stop the story here for a minute:
I wish I could have taken a picture of the look on HIS face when he saw me.
OK, continuing reading on:
He stopped dead on the spot with a look like “What the hell are you doing here?” on his mug. He abruptly did a 90 degree turn to the left and went on running. I watched as he ran along the tall grass, finally disappearing into the woods. He wasn’t an old bear. I would have estimated him to be a younger one out looking for his buddies or something. He ran by a couple times and never gave me another look. I managed to get my camera out and get a picture of him the last time he romped by.
I was kayaking alone further out in Glacier Bay where I had been dropped off by the tourist boat for an overnight. I had spent the day exploring rock cliffs and had stopped at night on a sand beach to cook my evening meal. I had planned to head out to an island to sleep that night to avoid bears, but was feeling tired and, not having seen any evidence of bears and that the long dusk had started, I decided to take the chance and sleep here. I moved a long way from where I had cooked my food (bears have incredible noses.) and left my bear-proof container also far away from where I pitched my tent.
I laid down to read, but would glance up out of the mosquito netting on occasion just to make sure a bear wasn’t wandering by. About a half hour into the book I looked up and, lo and behold, here came Mr. Grizzly up the beach.
I grabbed my bear spray (I had smartened up since the first time and kept it close by now), got out of the tent. I stood up and started waving my arms and yelling “Hey bear! Hey bear!” He was sniffing over my bear canister trying to figure out why it smelled like food.
I had always wanted to have my long kayak paddle nearby if I ever encountered a bear and now, of course, it was down by the kayak near the water. I started to make a move for it which initiated the chase response in the bear and he made a move towards me. I stopped, returned to my stance, waving and yelling. The bear looked confused, took a turn in both directions, then finally marched off into the woods from not knowing what sort of strange thing I was. Relieved, I waited a few minutes, then went back into the tent.
This bear did not seem like the bad or starving kind, so, tired as I was, I decided to stay and chance it for the night.
Shortly thereafter came:
I kept poking my head up to look down the beach. The first encounter had made me paranoid. I continued to read my book, but more nervously. About a half hour later I looked up and, sure enough, there sauntered another grizzly down the walkway, this time bigger and older. I again got out of the tent as quickly as possible and began my chant – “Hey bear, hey bear!” My bear mace was firmly in my left hand and this time I had the kayak paddle in the right to use to keep him at a distance if needed.
This guy wasn’t listening to me. He too caught the scent of the bear canister and sniffed around it. Then he kept walking along the trail that went right by my tent. I continued yelling, but he just ignored it. He didn’t appear to have any interest in me, but going the way he was going he would pass within 10 feet of me. I stood my ground nervously, spray and paddle at the ready. As he drew alongside me out of the corner of my eye I could see the first bear back in the brush standing on his hind legs trying to see what all the commotion was. When grizzlies stand on their hind legs they are BIGGGGG!
“Oh great!” I thought “Now I’ve got two of them to deal with!” Meanwhile, the older bear caught the scent of the first bear and chased after him. I immediately, but slowly pulled down my tent, and stuffed it in the kayak, calmly returned to the campsite, picked up the other items, non-rushedly walked them down all the while peeking over my shoulder lest the bears should return, stuffed them in the kayak, pushed the kayak calmly out as deep as I could, then paddled like hell out of there.
I rowed surprisingly hard for someone who only an hour ago was beat and ready for bed. I went two miles up the coast to where the boat had dropped me off. I knew there was little vegetation there and it was a narrow beach so I thought there wouldn’t be any reason for bears to be there. Despite that I took a good look around first and kept an eye out as I put up the tent. Before I closed my eyes to sleep, I made real sure that I did not hear or see anything.
The funny part of it is that when I got picked up the next morning the boatman told me that they often saw bears at this drop off point. It was a passage way for them to get from one area to another.
BEARS #4,5 and 6
I was camping out in a small woods just outside of Mammoth Lakes, California at the foot of the Sierras. Being almost to the desert area the trees were widely spaced, making it hard to hide a tent from common view. I had pitched mine where it was only visible from the road if someone happened to look at it from the right angle. I was headed back to it for the night when I suddenly had to ‘return unto nature what I had taken from it’ to put it in a politically correct way. I squatted down under a tree within sight of my tent to do my business. Suddenly I saw a face peeking out from behind a tree about a hundred feet from me. I thought “What the hell! Is that some kid spying on me?” Then I realized that the ‘kid ‘ had a fuzzy head and two pointed ears! It was a young bear!
I started my old singing routine – ‘Hey bear! Hey bear!’ hoping it would just go away. Then I saw the second fuzzy head peeking out just above it. There were two young bears.
Wait a minute! I thought. Two baby bears means there is a mama nearby. I stood up fastening myself together and waving with my free hand while yelling ‘Hey bear!’ I nervously looked around for the mama. It is a dangerous enough to be dealing with a mama black bear’s cubs but to do it with your pants at half mast is even worse.
All of a sudden I heard a thump and saw four sets of paws wrapped around the tree above the cubs heads. The mama bear had jumped up the tree to get a look at what was making all the commotion. I had three bears peeping tomming me from behind this one big tree.
I waved both hands and continued calling “Hey bear!” I did not want to deal with an angry mamma and her two inquisitive cubs. Fortunately she decided I was too strange to deal with, jumped off the tree and ran away. The two cubs followed close behind. I breathed a sigh of relief, then realized they might have gotten into my tent. Running over I was happy to find that they had not touched it. Had I come back any later they might have ransacked the place even though I kept nothing edible there.