Mystic Writer

Peeking out to see if there is a real world out there...

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Blowing the bear

About 6 years ago in October I went on a solo backpacking trip. The temperature was well below freezing and the weather wasn't great, so I had most of northern Minnesota to myself. When I arrived at my intended campsite I decided I would skip it, because I was making much better progress than I expected and it was too early to turn in, so I set off in search of the next one.

The next campsite turned out to be perched on a 200 foot sheer cliff, and the wind was blowing hard enough that I was pretty sure my tent would blow out into space, giving new meaning to the phrase "air bed". Needless to say I skipped this one too, and set off with the intent of going to the next campsite.

I got to the Bear Lake campsite after another mile and a half, and I was tired. The sign for the campsite pointed down a trail which followed a crack downwards through the face of a 200 foot tall rock face. I went down the trail, and got to the base of the rock face and found there was a narrow trail that ran between the rock face and Bear Lake.

Bear Lake is a glacial cut lake, and it looked like it was at least 50 feet deep about one inch out from the shore line. The rock face was about 8 feet from the shore, and there was scree sloped from the rock face down to about 1 foot from the shore. The path went between the scree and the shore, and as my eye followed the path, I located the campsite about 200 yards away. It was complete with a bear. I looked for a little bit, and then decided I was too tired to climb back up the rock face, so I filled my water bottle from the lake and watched the bear.

The bear didn't do much, so I dipped another bottle full and set about purifying the water, and then stood up and noticed the bear was gone. I drank some water and redid my pack, and then stood up ready to hike to the campsite. I heard a little noise to my right, and turned to find the bear up on the scree slope about 3 feet away from me.

I slowly turned to face the bear, and tried to look big. The bear seemed bored. I tried to whistle, which is apparently not possible when you are scared out of your wits, so I spent a while blowing air at the bear. The bear tilted his head side to side, maybe enjoying the sensation. I then tried swearing at the bear "You goddamn f'ing bear! You're ruining my f'ing vacation". I tried several variations on that, and the bear went back to being bored. I finally couldn't think of anything else to do, and I *really* didn't want to climb the rock face, so I sidled my way down the path to the camp site. The bear promptly moved down the scree and plopped his butt square in the middle of the foot wide path.

I looked around at the campsite and found huge claw marks in the ground. A bear had broken a hand made picnic bench, had made teeth marks in the metal fire ring, and had pretty much tried to destroy everything man made at the site. On top of that I could see a lot of wolf tracks - apparently the camp site was smack dab on a prime path for animals heading for the lake.

I decided I couldn't stay at Bear Lake, and as the sun was getting low I decided I had to get moving. The bear was still meditating in the middle of the path, so I tried to make myself look as big as I could as I started down the path towards him. The bear blinked a couple of times as I approached, and then lumbered to his feet, turned around, and started leading me up the cliff face.

At one point the trail required a scramble up to a flat ledge. The bear did the scramble and disappeared. I couldn't see beyond the edge of the ledge, and I was sure the bear was just sitting there.

I took my hiking pole and popped it above the ledge provocatively several times, and getting no response, I slowly inched my head up above the edge. The bear was gone. I climbed the rest of the way up, and then hiked several miles to the next site.

I set up my tent in darkening twilight, and eventually slept.

When I woke up, there was a pile of bear poop just outside the tent door.


  • At 12:45 PM, Blogger Strawberrie-Shortcake said…

    LOL! Cute title;) I'm sure the bear enjoyed that thourally (sp?) Come on over to my place for a wild moose chase!

  • At 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Very funny! Nothing like "getting the last word", eh?

    As Jack Grows

  • At 8:20 AM, Blogger Faye said…

    WOW! I would've pissed my pants seeing a bear anywhere near me. I love your blog!!


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