|Print | Back||July 12, 2012|
The Secret Life of MollyA Grizzly Tale
by Hannah Bird
We live near bear country. More specifically, we live near grizzly bear country. This is not a problem for smart families that stay at home and watch movies about animated cuddly bears. But as I have already pointed out, we are not smart.
We go camping.
I fully realize that lots of people would love to see a grizzly bear. Every year people flock to Yellowstone Park with anxious eyes and a prayer in their hearts. Usually, they have no such luck. If one wants to call it luck.
In my opinion, you can tell a lot about people by how many times they have seen a bear. If you have seen one, you are adventurous and outdoorsy. If you have seen two, you are truly blessed. If you have seen three, you are a professional outfitter. But if you have seen any more than five, you are an idiot who does not make good decisions.
Which makes the weekend we saw seven a tad embarrassing.
We had gone for a camping trip with my husband's family. We camped at the edge of a small lake high in the mountains. The lake is lovely and still. The edges are covered with water lilies with huge waxy yellow flowers. It is picture perfect. We weren't the only ones that thought so. The shore was dotted with RVs and tents.
We set up camp and the kids went out on the lake with my husband in a little blow-up boat and paddled around. We looked up to see a momma grizzly and twin cubs ambling along the far shore of the lake. This is a pretty rare sight, and we were very excited to see it. We watched quietly as they made their way east, momma lumbering along and the two cubs splashing in and out of the water. Of the lake. That my kids were in.
Apparently, we were not the only people excited to see a grizzly. A camper across the tiny bay from us jumped on his four-wheeler and chased the bears. Into the lake. That my kids were in. Momma and babies splashed right past my family in the little blow-up boat.
That was a lot of excitement for one afternoon (more than enough for my lifetime, but I just couldn't muster enough votes to really take a stand). My husband and kids paddled back and we started to make dinner.
My husband (who has green eyes and therefore has super powers where I am concerned) convinced me to go on a short walk while we were waiting for dinner. We walked a little bit down a trail. The kids stopped and looked at flowers. I stopped and looked at rocks. And suddenly we heard a whuffling noise in the bushes.
Despite the fact that I freaked out immediately on the inside, I looked calmly over to my left. Standing about 30 yards away was a grizzly. I think it was male, but you'll forgive me for not taking a closer look.
We backed cheerfully down the trail, moving the children to our right sides. Running is not a good idea. But I still managed to move faster than I ever have before or since. For those of you who did not start a tally at the beginning of this piece, this was bear number four. We had been in camp less than six hours.
We ate dinner scanning the shore nervously. As quickly as we could we bedded down in the Suburban and hoped for an uneventful night.
Other than some pretty invigorating growling noises, the night was uneventful. We woke up bright-eyed and refreshed. We were sure the worst was behind us. See -- that many bears was an anomaly; surely they would have moved on. Right?
After breakfast we rowed out to the little dock in the middle of the lake. It was a lovely warm morning with a light breeze. I got out of the boat and floated around for a minute. Suddenly, one of the kids knocked my glasses into the lake.
Now I can float like no one's business. If floating becomes an Olympic event, I am in. But I cannot swim well at all. Luckily my brother-in-law dived in and saved the glasses. I thanked him while the children stood gaping in awe at his superhero-like speed (they talk about it to this day). As I put my glasses back on, I noticed some movement in the marshy area on the east side of the lake. But I didn't pay much attention.
As we paddled back I turned to make sure that all the kids were fine. Behind us in the marsh with their noses just out of the water were two grizzlies. That was it for me. We made our way back across the lake. I marched my kids into my in-laws' trailer and swore I would never go outside again. Ever. I meant it, too.
Except that my husband was hiking.
I was chatting with my sister-in-law when my second-oldest daughter came up to me and said, "There is a bear following Daddy." We had been in the trailer for quite a while at this point. I assumed my seven-year-old was just worrying. I assured her that Daddy was fine. She repeated her concerns. I repeated my assurances. She finally gave up on me.
She turned to her Grandpa and said, "There is a bear following my Daddy." Now I started to get interested. She explained that when we had thought she was in the other room she was outside looking for Daddy. She found his tracks but there were bear tracks too. My father-in-law was no more convinced than I was but calmly went outside to show her that the footprints were from a neighboring camper's large dog.
He flew back through the door, tossed my daughter to me and told us to stay inside. There was, in fact, a bear following my husband's tracks.
A mile or two from camp, my husband was hiking along an old dirt path. Suddenly he heard pounding. He looked up to see a grizzly running at him with full force. He stood completely still, mostly because he didn't have enough time to react. The bear passed close enough to touch and then veered off into some brush. My husband began making his way back up the hill when he found his dad, who had gone to look for him.
And that is how you see seven grizzlies in 24 hours. It is also irrefutable proof that if you do see seven bears, it's because you don't make good decisions.
And how did we reward our seven-year-old daughter for identifying bear tracks, tracking a bear, and possibly saving her father's life? Not very well, I'm afraid. In what has now come to be known as the, "We did not raise you to be food," lecture, we chastised her all the way down the mountain.
Luckily, in the nine years since she has forgiven us and has agreed to save us from any future bears as well. I don't think the issue will come up. I am never camping again.
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