Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Bear Market - Part 3

We still had another night to go. We knew they'd be back. And they were. This time we would be waiting for them. So would Bear Bait.

We slept restlessly but the kids slept great. They were a little miffed when they woke up and realized what had happened and no one woke them. JoJo was a little miffed, too. And a lot older. But the kids had fun checking out the mess and JoJo hit pay dirt eating what the bears had left behind.

We saved what food we could. They had left two packages of Little Debbie Snack Cakes completely untouched. That should tell you something about Little Debbie. Grizzly was happy. He had breakfast. But we had to make a grocery run. We found enough left to snack around on for the kids and I but by lunchtime, everyone wanted real food. We decided to hit the dining establishment at Huntington Lake before we headed to town.

We drug ourselves into the Lakeshore Lodge restaurant looking like we'd just stepped off the set of "Deliverance." I think the Wild Man was even missing some teeth at the time. And Hannah Bo and I have exceptional hair. Get it dirty, add a little moisture and you can see the family resemblance between us and Albert Einstein who gave "big hair" a whole new meaning. We had been camping for six days with only baby wipes for pretend baths. We beat our clothes and dusted off but the fact of the matter was, we were disgusting.

We just didn't care.

We chatted up the waitress who tried to serve us from as far away as her arm would let her. We ate heartily and tipped well. It was the least we could do. And as I've been known to say, I always try to do the least I can do.

Our full bellies gave us renewed energy and we began to plot and plan for the evening events we knew were coming. We stopped by the campground offices which were down the road and across a main bridge. We found out there had been another bear incident. A guy had left dog food in his truck and mama bear bashed the window in and sent the kids after the goods. It made us glad we had forgotten to roll up the window. At least it wasn't broken. But, now that they knew the food was inside, they wouldn't let a window stop them. The ranger said to expect them. Maybe smart people would have gone home at this point but we have never been mistaken for smart people. Besides, we wanted to squeeze the life out of our last day. We weren't about to hand it over to a bear or three.

We grabbed enough grub to get us through another night, including marshmallows, hot chocolate, and coffee. Our plan included sitting around the campfire long enough to let them head for the car and then we would chase them off. If we had to sit up half the night in the cold, we at least wanted to be fortified with caffeine and sugar.

We convinced the Wild Man he had to go to bed by ten. He was eight at the time so his droopy eyelids helped seal the deal, and Lassie was more than willing to climb to the bottom of his sleeping bag and keep his feet company. But Hannah Bo was determined to make it all night. She had always been a night owl and this was worth staying up for. Grizzly had a plan and excitement was in the air.

Grizzly frequently has plans.

There was another camping trip, this one out in the wilderness of the National Forest, with no one around for miles. We were getting overrun by mice. We didn't know it until a few days later but someone had dumped some garbage near our site weeks earlier. It had become a mouse haven. We found HB's purple knitted gloves with the fingers chewed out. When we opened the engine compartment of the van, we found a little purple glove nest on top of the battery. The mice ran up and down our tent trailer in the night. The pitter-patter of little feet kept us up and aggravated. Grizzly was done.

He sat outside the next night with his shotgun in one hand and his night vision monocular in the other. Meanwhile, I laid on the bed with a three-year-old Wild Man, sound asleep, and a very excited Hannah Bo wearing her dad's gun muffs clamped on to her head. He would yell, "Ready?" and I, in my gun muffs with my hands pressed over Wild Man's ears, would yell back, "Go Ahead!" and we'd hear the roar of the shotgun's report. This happened about six times. Grizzly would watch for movement through the monocular and then blast away at the mice. It worked...uh...great.

The next morning it was evident that the world was now safe from folding chairs. They were shot to heck and were the only thing he hit. The mice rebuilt the nest on the battery the next day.

So we were primed, once again, to take on our latest forest nemesis. Grizzly would be armed in case things went terribly south but there would be no shooting. We just wanted to keep them from destroying our car and show them they couldn't bully their way in everywhere and damage property. It seemed like a humanitarian mission. We had pots and pans and noise makers. We would honk the horn and scream and yell.

Wild Man drifted off to sleep and the three of us hunkered down around the fire. The campground grew dark and quiet. It wasn't well populated because it was mid-week and off-season. A few fires could be seen in the distance but they slowly flickered out. Our conversations grew fewer and more hushed as the night crawled slowly into the wee morning hours. No signs. No sounds. Grizzly grew restless. He felt eyes boring into him but couldn't see anything. He decided to scout the perimeter and weave in and out of the trees. HB wanted to stretch and go with him. They grabbed the night vision monocular, with JoJo at their heel, and headed out.

I wasn't about to leave my son or the car so, with my .38 snuggled deep in my pocket, I pulled my parka in tighter, my hood up farther, and tucked down into my chair (one without shotgun pellet holes). And I waited. All that could be heard was the occasional pop or crackle of the campfire. At times I would hear or see my three bear hunters working their way through the trees. Eventually they would come back, wait for a bit, and then head out again. Grizzly was getting frustrated. There was just no sign. He absolutely knew the minute we hit the sack they would be at the van. I mentioned that mama could have easily treed herself and the babies and be watching them every time they passed underneath, and they would never know. That gave him a new mission: scouting out trees with the flashlight while he hunted.

The hours drug on and 5:00a.m. approached. We thought maybe we would see daylight before we turned in. Grizzly decided to make one last trip through the forest. Hannah Bo and JoJo set out with him. With my chin resting on my chest I fought sleep. My bones had turned to columns of ice and I wasn't sure I could move if the need presented itself. I found out I could.

Off in the far distance I saw the sweep of the flashlight and knew the posse was headed back for camp. At the same moment I noted a sound right behind my chair. My eyes shot open wide and the hair on my neck stood up. I froze. Was that just a little animal making its way through the underbrush? Don't panic. Then came a very heavy footfall an arms length from me. I screamed and jumped from my chair. By that time, Grizzly was within shouting distance up the road in front of me.

"It's okay!" he yelled. "It's just us!"
"No it's not!" I cried out.
Thunderous paws ran down the hill behind me as I turned to watch.
"She was right here! Right behind my chair!" I shrieked. And she vanished into the forest depths.

The breeze had been blowing gently toward me and she hadn't caught my scent. I was downwind. My dark green parka had blended in perfectly with the night. I have no doubt she never saw me. But the jig was up. We scared each other to death, equally.

Dawn was a short time away and we all crawled into our sleeping bags, exhausted. We were confident she wouldn't be back with so little darkness left. It would be long enough to give us a few hours of sleep. We drifted off finally, warm, snuggly, and dim-wittedly victorious.

I have no doubt there is a bear out there right now, with a blog, telling all her readers about how she almost ate a woman once instead of a Ding Dong.......because the description applied so perfectly to both.

Copyright 2009


  1. Oh, man girl I can't even imagine, I would have been so freaked out!! Hope ya'll are all rested up from that long night!

  2. Oh Rob, What a great story. I read it outloud tonight to Dave and Jen. We all had a good laugh and a good scare...remind me to tell you our bear story from a stay at the Allred cabin.

  3. OMGracious Me-Oh Mi-Oh! ...Geeeeeeez. I think I may have been ruined on camping after that (and I like to camp!) ....gees, gees. When you said, "My bones had turned to columns of ice and I wasn't sure I could move if the need presented itself. I found out I could". I thought, 'oh S**t' (and I'm not the cursing type).
    You are a talented write... a wonderful story-teller. I love the words you choose and how and when you use them. You really have a gift.

  4. Oh that is scary. Bears? I never liked camping much either so now I have an excuse (even though we dont have bears here). You have a great writing style.

  5. Oh goodness - so exciting with a hilarious ending! Although I'm sure you would have been easier to unwrap than a Ding Dong?

    I could bear-ly handle the suspense I tell ya!

    A wonderful story - and surely one of the reasons I don't do camping...

  6. Great story, Robynn! I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.
    I must say, I'm surprised you didn't have to change clothes after that. I might have had to.

  7. Ahhhhhh, well worth the wait! That was great. Very suspenseful and such a great read!

  8. You are a wonderful story teller. But I am concerned for your sanity. I would not have stayed another day, nor an extra hour. I would have cleaned out the van, packed up the kids and left. Let someone else have the tents, I would NEVER need them again. ;)

  9. Hafts Happenings: I WAS freaked out but somehow I thrive on freaked out! lol

    Teters4: Thanks for letting me know and I think I know the story you're talking about. BLOG IT so we can ALL READ IT!

    BZ: I believe I many have had your same thought, cursing type or not, when I heard her behind me!
    And you are KIND and GRACIOUS with your words. :)

    Lilly's Life: If I can give you a good excuse to stay out of the woods I'm happy to serve. And THANK YOU for that encouragement! So fun to have you and your precious little girl as new friends!

    Lady Fi: THANK YOU! And yes, I think I would have been easier to unwrap and might have had a creamier center. Ewwww!!! ;)

    Twisted Fencepost: No, I kept nature's call at bay by making fast trips into the dark forest through the night. THAT was thrilling! Bare bottom next to a potential Bear bottom.

    Vicky: So GLAD you liked it and THANK YOU!! Glad you're here all shiny and new! :)

    Sharon: WHAT sanity? It's not my strong suite and I never lead with it. But all those thoughts crossed my mind, too. Another YAY! for you hangin' out with me! How fun to have new friends this morning!!

  10. Going camping soon?? Too close for comfort. Think I will just stay at home, thanks anyway!

  11. My word woman - does you entire family pack heat?
    Again..HOTEL. Clean sheets, hot running water, room service...sounds good don't it?

    Try putting the Swiss Cake Rolls in the freezer...delightful!

  12. Hi Robynn,

    Just wanted to say thanks for stopping by my blog & leaving such a sweet comment- you made this aspiring photographer's day!

    And what a great story! : )

    ~ Deb T.

  13. Robynn, Thanks for stopping by my blog! I'm slowly learning how to surf blogs and discover the ones that I'll be stopping by often. I haven't completely read all of your yet, but I will! I can tell from what I've read, I'll be back !

  14. Loved your bear story. I acquired a whole new respect for bears when the rangers at Denali told us bears could smell toothpaste in a sealed tube from a mile away. Made me feel like a burrito in my sleeping bag every night! Thanks for rekindling those memories!

  15. Oh Robynn! I love this adventure! We camped alot when we were younger.Once in the smokey's in a tent,two kids,in the spring, me, six months pregnant,we camped.
    We had bear encounters every night. Finally, I said enough, I need sleep, let's move this vacation to a hotel. We did!

  16. Tabitha: Thank you friend!

    Sassy: No, I'm not and I can't tell you how much I wish I was. I am drop dead SERIOUS! I LOVE it!

    Libby: Yes we do! We're a bunch a nuts around here. I told you guys we were both packin' when we met up in the mountains. Love at first shot! And no Swiss Rolls in the freezer, girl. I just had Little Debbie exorcised and I'm not letting her back in!

    Deb: All flattery aside - you rock! This gal is a great photog and you should check her out.

    Karen: WELCOME and THANK YOU FOR FOLLOWING!! You are smarter than we are. Maybe you'll be a good influence. :)

    Frugal Maven: LOVED that word picture! Guess if they ate you and you had toothpaste with you they'd have fresh breath. Silver lining and all you know.

  17. Now I know why I don't like to go camping! I would've had a heart attack, for sure! I definitely would NOT have stayed another night if the interior of my car had been trashed!

    Good writing, Robyn. This was a 'heart-in-throat' story for sure!

  18. My WORD! Oh my goodness, Mrs. Reilly. My family probably gets much entertainment just watching me read your blog. I burst out laughing in short, but loud spurts and I get the question from the other room, "what did Mrs. Reilly say NOW??!!" And I try to repeat it, but can't because I'm giggling. "What was that, Kaylee?" "well, she was describing......PAH!!!! *giggle, burst of laughter*......*sigh*....she said that --- that ---- AHAHAHAH!"

    It's a hopeless cause. They just have to read it for themselves.

    See you Sunday, friend :-D

  19. That was a good story for sure. My goodness. I had to read aloud the part about the mice to hubby. I so much enjoyed this. Thank you for making us laugh. You do that well.

  20. I can't have mascara on when I read your blog! I laugh out loud and cry which might be disturbing to my kids if they would ever notice! You are a hoot!

  21. Ok, there are always two sides to a story, I'm going looking for that Bear's Blog!

  22. Homestay Mama: YOU?! A heart attack over that after all you've faced? If it was between you and the bear MY money would be on you! :)

    Kaylee: Glad I got to hug and squeeze you a bit ago at the bowling alley - Gut Girl - (she kept getting gutters so she dubbed herself Gutter Girl but it came up on the board Gut Girl!) Now, I could totally represent that title but this girl is a pretty little picture! You all looked like you had a ball and I LOVE your comments to me. You make me laugh at you LAUGHING!!

    Neabear: So glad you enjoy my nutty life! :)

    Sandy: HI!! So GLAD you stopped by!! THANK YOU! And do be careful..running mascara CAN be frightening. Mine makes my eyes stink - isn't that disgusting?! You won't hear that kind of deep, moving info just everywhere.

    W.O.W. - Let me know when you find it! Remember: bears tend to use hyperbole generously so don't believe everything she says. JoJo has an epilogue she will be adding shortly about this bear business. She is put out that she didn't get her two cents in. I promised her some air time. :)

  23. I love the way you write! So exciting..... Camping in your part of the World is certainly different to camping in Oz!
    Narelle from Australia

  24. I guess you figured out you have a pretty stout heart. If you'd had a bad heart, you would have found out for sure that morning. Heck of a way to find out, though. My heart would of probably been okay, but my bladder would have left a trail following me as I ran the other direction...

    Great funny story. Thanks.

  25. What a great story and what a gift you have for writing. I would have packed up and left...probably left the car behind and bought a new one...maybe left the husband behind too for taking me camping LOL!

    take care,

  26. Oh me, Oh my. My heart is racing. :-) Great story. :-) If you were downwind of her, shouldn't she have been upwind of you? Bears stink, ya know. Perhaps you should get the nose checked out. :-) Just kidding.

    (so after I typed this in, I scrolled down to do the word verification, and the word it gave me was "snot"--how ironic is that?)