Any long-time camper can tell you that it’s inevitable that you will run into all sorts of wildlife when camping. Whether it’s deer, snakes, weird bugs, coyotes, mountain lion or bear, it’s good to remember that you are in their territory and to respect their home. We have had several bear encounters over the years and it’s terrifying and exciting all at the same time. Terrifying because they are big, wild, unpredictable animals and exciting to be that close to nature and to see something up close that not everyone chooses to see!
My favorite bear story happened at a campground that’s only 30 minutes away from my home. It’s called Indian Creek Reservoir and is a great little campsite. This trip was different though because my non-camping parents were joining us in a trailer that they had rented for a week to “try out camping”.
The campsite was actually full, so we made camp right outside the camp area near a tiny airport landing strip off of Airport Road. This is BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land and is essentially FREE, dry camping. Yes, I said FREE. I wanted to show my parents how to “rough it” without having hook-ups to show them the variety of camping that we do. They were thoroughly enjoying themselves and enjoying hanging with their grandson….until it was time to make dinner.
Before the sun set, we started to prepare our dinner of marinated chicken, salad and baked beans. As the chicken was cooking on the grill, my husband walked 100 yards away and dumped the leftover marinade and raw chicken juice into the bushes. As we were not at an official campsite, there were not any bear lockers or dumpsters. So we all sat and ate our evening meal and after dinner we were sitting outside enjoying the early evening and admiring the pink and purple hued sky.
It was at that moment that I turned to look at the mountains and I saw a black shape off in the distance. I thought nothing of it and turned back to join the conversation. I turned my head back in that direction a few seconds later and the black shape was CLOSER. It was in that split second that my brain deciphered what I had just seen and I JUMPED up out of my seat and yelled “BEAR, BEAR, BEAR”! My parents, the city slickers, also jumped up and screamed and headed straight for the protection of the trailers. That bear was headed straight for that chicken juice and marinade and was not leaving until he got what he came for. We quickly rounded up anything that was an attractant within bear’s reach and threw everything in the trailers. My son was terrified, my parents were even more terrified and my husband and I were trying to protect and secure camp, but man I was nervous too. Needless to say, it was an early evening for all of us as we remained in our trailers for the rest of the night. But that wasn’t the end of it.
My husband tried to scare that bear off by yelling and throwing rocks, but that bear was not leaving until he found the source of that delicious smell. He found the bushes that had the marinade and was not satisfied with just the juice. He circled our trailer and then my parent’s trailer. We kept our eyes peeled for that bear all night but as soon as night fell, it was impossible to see anything that was past the immediate glow of our trailer lights. It was virtually impossible to go to sleep that night. My only comfort was knowing that my son was safer in my parent’s trailer that was fully enclosed. My trailer on the other hand is a tent trailer, and when there are bear around, I don’t feel secure at all!
So, come midnight, as my husband and I were trying to sleep, I hear noises outside our trailer. I immediately wake up (who am I kidding, I wasn’t asleep) to listen to where the noise is coming from and I know that bear is back in our camp. I elbow my husband to get up and take a look. Again, it’s so dark, that you can’t see anything outside. Then I heard the noise coming from directly under my bed. See that zipped tent portion? That’s where I sleep. I sat up from bed and peered out the tent screen. Directly below me was a very large black bear right below me…1 foot away. I was TERRIFIED and could not believe my eyes. My husband was then right beside me and all we could do was remain perfectly still. The bear knew we were there as they have a good sense of smell and he was just looking for the food. He ended up leaving us alone and I ended up not sleeping a wink, but WOW, that is a story that I will never, ever forget. My favorite bear story.
Do you have a close encounter that you can share? Tell me all about it!