Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What Bears Do in the Woods

I think that just about everybody has seen a bear in his or her lifetime, whether it was on television, at the zoo, or maybe in the wild. And for those who have seen them in the wild, my hat is off to you.

Bears are really cool to watch. . . from a distance. Sometimes it is up close and personal.

And when it gets personal, who knows how it is going to go or how it will end!

We all have heard or read about bear contacts with people. And so, now it is my turn. No bears were hurt in this story...

The summer of 1977 found me up in the mountains here in Colorado. I had decided to forego my job and take a little vacation. So I packed up my camping gear and fishing pole. I loaded up my Chevelle, said goodbye to Grandmother and Pappy [I was living with them at the time] and headed up the highway towards Kremmling (Colorado).

After driving to Kremmling, I stopped and talked to my Uncle Fay, who was then running a store. I asked Uncle Fay how things were going, and he said that things were kind of tight right now and that he needed to get away for a day or two. So I invited him to go camping and fishing with me. He said that was a good idea, but that he would have to meet me up at my camp.

I told him I was going up on the Gore, by the cabin that was called the Mac. He said, "Great, I'll see you up there."

So I got up to where I wanted, pitched camp in the perfect spot -- lots of aspen trees -- and made myself at home. It was time to do some fishing. So, down the trail I went.

It was maybe a quarter of a mile or less to the beaver ponds that I liked to fish. I still bring friends there to fish and camp all these years later.

The fishing was great! I'd caught three or four brook trout, enough for a meal, when I heard what sounded like several people screaming and fighting. So I started to follow the sound. The farther I walked back up the trail, the louder the screaming got, and it was starting to really get to me. Of course, by then my imagination was starting to take over. (We can talk about my wild imagination more some other time.)

So I was starting to think that someone was fighting for their life, or that someone was being attacked by wild animals.

I was running up the trail, wishing that I had my pistol with me, but I'd left back in my tent. As I got closer, I found that all of that racket was coming from my camp!!!

So by then I was running like my butt was on fire.

As I came busting into my camp, my tent was no longer where I had put it up, but was now moving through the trees, bashing into some of them as it went.

All of my stuff was still in the tent, including my car keys. The tent was making good time, and I noticed that each time it hit a tree, I could hear a growling sound.

Now, it takes quite a bit to get me rattled and a lot to scare me. But this was the damnedest thing I had ever seen.

I was looking for a big stick to whack the hell out of whatever it is. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something BIG and hairy, and it was headed right for me! I turned my head and saw that coming right at me from about 15 yards was this black bear. Now, I know that the bears here do not seem that big, but when they are headed your way, they look to be the size of a bus.

I didn't know what this bear wanted, but it really looked mad, and I seemed to be in its way!

I tried to think quickly: Do I fall down and play dead? Should I try to spook it? Would I crap my pants, or what?! I decided that maybe I should just get the hell out of the way.

I did the fastest thing I could: crawl under my car. That's right -- under a 1970 Chevelle.

Do any of you know how low a 1970 Chevelle is to the ground? LOW! Really low. Those of you who know me right now know how I have put on a few pounds. Well I just seemed to be custom fitted to the bottom of that car. No way I could do it now, unless you jacked up the car first.

As I got under the car, who should show up but my uncle. So there I was under the car, waving at Uncle Fay. He was laughing and pointing, and my tent was still moving through the trees and getting further away. We both watched as a bear ran to my tent and jumped on it. The tent was now screaming in protest and making little jerky movements.

Fay hollered for me to stay put. We watched this bear take and rip my tent completely in half, like paper, and out came two little bear cubs. I realized what all the racket was about: I had left my tent open and there was a sandwich in the tent. Dumb, dumb, dumb. . . I know.

We watched as the three of them decided that it was the tent's fault, as well as the fault of the sleeping bag and all my clothes.

Everything was ripped, torn, chewed, and I think some of it might have been eaten.

And those fish I caught? Well, I dropped them in camp and those damn bears ate them also.

After getting out from the car and getting Fay to stop laughing, we went ahead and did some more fishing. The fishing was still good and we caught our fair share.

Later, after cleaning up the bear mess, we built a fire and cooked our fish. Uncle Fay offered to put me up for the night in town, but I turned him down. Fay left a little after sundown. I built up the fire, grabbed a blanket that I had in the trunk of the car, wrapped up, and looked at the stars for awhile. I had some more coffee and listened to the wind.

The next morning, I headed back for home. As I drove, I wondered what the bears thought about this. I'm sure they laughed about me trying to get out of the way. I know that Grandmother and Pappy did!


  1. You know, I can't even remember where I was in 1977, much less what I was doing! Great story.


  2. Good grief what a story. I come to return the blog visit and to thank you for the comments, and I get nail-biting, sitting on the edge of my seat action! Funny, but my real live experience with a bear was in Colorado too. I went back packing in the Rockies with a friend. One night I dreamt something huge stuck it's head into the tent and I could hear a deep sniff, sniff, sniffing over my head. The next morning we got up and our backpacks had been torn to shreds. We'd hung the food on a rope from a tree, but there were candy bar wrappers in the packs. That's one camping trip I'll never forget.


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