Bears are not my favorite animal; in fact I really dislike bears, but I’ll admit, we have a lot in common. Bears’ midsections are round and mine is too. Bears have notoriously bad attitudes and my kids, who are notorious liars, say I do too. Bears hold a grudge; I’m happy to do that. Bears are pretty well built from wrestling each other. I’m well built from wrestling with temptation. There’s also the lumbering walk, the unpredictable behavior, basic crankiness and foraging for food all the time.
Years ago, Gar and I sponsored a pack trip into the wilderness. There were about 10 couples sitting around the fire enjoying the summer night, eating cookies we’d brought to share. About 11:00 pm, we all headed to our respective tents and 10 minutes later, in the quiet, there was a crash in the cook tent. Not hearing another sound, and since we’d spotted moose by camp earlier, we thought one had stumbled in. Since we’re not ones to go looking for trouble, Gar and I agreed we’d do a full investigation in the daylight.
When the sun came up, what we found was bear prints in the mud at the cook tent’s front flap, and a newly carved exit out the back. Panniers were scattered and assorted plastic cases, emptied of contents, were strewn up the mountainside. Inside all the containers had been homemade cookies, and not one was left. However, every store-bought treat was untouched. Bears are obviously thinkers. Well, there you go, I stand corrected. I’m only somewhat like bears.
Our daughter, Lunny, was camping last year in Yosemite with a friend, Rachael, and sleeping in her vehicle. At 2:00 in the morning they woke to banging, and raising up, Lunny saw a bear by her car, peering into an empty trash can. Their food was in with them, but the day before we’d been talking about a bear who’d torn a person’s car apart to get to the eatables inside. This bear wasn’t that enthusiastic and ambled off. The next evening, coming back from a hike, the girls put their backpacks on a picnic table, cooked and ate dinner and took their dishes to the washhouse 20 feet away. A few minutes later, coming back with clean utensils, Lunny started to put things back but her pack was gone. The neighboring campers were sitting in lawn chairs facing them so Lunny asked if they’d seen anyone or anything around. They said they hadn’t. Rachael’s husband is a cop so she called him and he told her to contact the local police. An officer came out and as he began asking them questions and taking their statements, Lunny told him she didn’t want to accuse anyone because there’d been a bear around the night before. He asked if she’d had food in her pack and she said there were some snacks under a sweatshirt and it was all zipped up in the hood part. Holding his professional flashlight with high beams, he swung it slowly around and through the trees. Seeing nothing, he turned to Lunny and was about to tell her he’d go, when she hissed, “Wait, go back, put the light back in the trees.” He obeyed, because well, she was a woman on a mission. There in the dark something glinted, like backpack buckles, and there a bear sat, licking his paw. As they started toward him, he stood up, and since he’d ate everything interestingly, he hurried into the darkness.
He’d smoothly, as if with scissors, slit the backpack’s little pocket open just above the zipper seam and carefully took the hoodie out. Without unfolding it, he’d set it aside, then retrieved the snacks. Other than the one slice, he’d not damaged anything. It was like he was a polite robber and said, “I couldn’t undo the zipper, but I don’t want to get in trouble so I carefully cut a little hole you can easily sew up. Also, I’m sorry for the trouble.” The snacks he’d stolen were a bagel, a sour chew gummy, half a protein cookie, half a fig bar and a tangerine. He ate every crumb except the tangerine. There was a tooth puncture in it as if scowling, “That’s nutritious, who needs that junk?”
So, there’s a limited correlation between bears and me. Cookies, yes, healthy, no. But nobody saw or heard that ninja bruin, and I’ve never been accused of being soundless, subtle or silent. I guess I’m only partially like bears.
Trena Eiden, [email protected]