I rounded a corner on the trail to face a startled grizzly standing on his hind legs fifty yards away. I heard Annie barking in a spastic fury in the distance. The bear could easily cover the distance between us in three seconds. I was about to become pulverized cube steak like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant. Just behind the bear, Annie came barreling down the road toward me. As she ran by the grizzly it gave chase. That meant they were both charging right at me. I didn’t have bear spray. I wasn’t carrying a pistol.
As I prepared to be mauled to death, Annie darted off the road just ten feet in front of me. The bear followed the dog. Sweet mercy, I was saved! At some point Annie ditched the grizzly and I watched in awe as it darted up a mountainside. Sheer luck. I was humbled.
Years before that I had a job as a fourteen year old girl counseling a horse camp for the summer. In my time spent in the woods thus far I’d never once considered bear safety. I think my dad mentioned it a few times – but the info didn’t really sink in. We did an overnight camping trip and I had a giant old-school Coleman tent filled to the brim with ten year old girls which included a wide array of snack foods – or rather, bear bait. Chocolate wrappers and Cheeto crumbs dusted the surface of our sleeping bags after several hours of stories and binge eating. We slept soundly. Too soundly.
I heard a gentle swishing noise on the tent, but was so bloated with chips and cookies that I didn’t fully wake up. One of the girls emerged from her snack coma and went outside to pee. I heard the pitter patter of her little feet running and she leapt into the tent.
“Miss Renee. There’s a bear.”
I opened one eye and looked out my side of the tent. Sure enough the little jerk had it’s claws hooked into the cracked window of our camp supervisors car. She had been sleeping in there, but not anymore. I saw her yelling at the bear to no avail. I got out of the tent and threw a rock at him, which sent him high tailing for the woods. Just a punk.
I climbed back in the tent and laid down. I looked up ready to fall asleep, but I noticed the tell-tale shred of claw marks above my head spanning the length of the tent. They stopped just above my face. I didn’t fall back asleep.