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.