August 25, 2022 Comments Off on Unbearable
I’m not afraid of bears. Unless I see them. Then, I’m really afraid.
There is a healthy population of black bears around here, although many of them left after last year’s fire because it devastated their habitat. I’ve seen a few while riding my bike and once while walking, but they run like hell, which is good, because they are terrifying. I don’t care how scared they are of people, I’m scared-er of them.
Yesterday I was coming back from a bike ride, passing the Chico Flat campground. Chico Flat is always filled on the weekend, people hanging out at the river and camping. It has a massive dumpster. But today the area was completely empty except for one car. School has started and summer is over except for the last big Labor Day Alcohols Celebration.
As I passed the campground a voice said, “Hey!”
I looked but couldn’t see anyone because my view was blocked by the huge dumpster. Then the voice said, louder, “Want a beer?”
I was on my loaded touring bike and going slow, returning from a test ride for a little trip that I have planned, a trip up into Bear Everywhere Country. If I’d been unloaded and going faster I would never have heard him. I slowed, did a u-turn, and only saw a lone car. As I got around the dumpster I saw a man and his girlfriend set up underneath a giant tree. Chico Flat is hot.
I pushed my bike over. “Want some water first?” the woman asked.
“Sure,” I said. “I’ll pass on the beer, though.”
“Man, we had something happen last night,” the guy said. He was really shaken.
“We were in the tent and we heard somebody trying to get into our car, so I grabbed my flashlight and baseball bat and yelled ‘Hey!’ and the noise went away, then it started coming towards the tent and I figured they was going to rob us and I shined my flashlight and saw these two blue-brown eyes set about as far apart as my dog’s, at my eye level, and I yelled again and it dropped to all fours and ran off.”
“It was a bear,” the lady said. “He was coming to our tent looking for food. Look what he done to my car.”
“Did you have food in it?”
“Yeah, of course.”
The driver-side handle had been torn off. There were big bear prints on the hood, and claw marks all around the window, along with the dried white glaze of saliva. “He was hungry,” I said. “And he intended to get in.”
“So fucking glad we didn’t have any food in our tent,” the man said.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “That tent doesn’t look big enough for you two and a bear.”
The lady laughed a little but the guy was still very rattled. I don’t blame him. The only time I’m brave and fearless enough to make jokes about bears is when they are gone. Long, long gone.