Monday, October 18, 2010


my second vehicle was an isuzu trooper.  the first stick i ever drove.  i learned this skill driving around my dad's house in gardena during christmas break.  eventually the cops pulled me over because the neighbors were getting suspicious- "this truck just keeps circling the block!"  even when i finally did master that art she was like an elephant that needed to be coaxed.  yes, she had a name.  basheba.  she had the personality to fit it too.

now you could really road trip with her.  you couldn't go very fast uphill, but you could pack everything you needed in it and stretch out to sleep.  before my grandma dorothy passed away- after i graduated from college- me and my boyfriend decided to go to ohio and visit her.  along the way we made many stops.  and each stop had it's own adventure it seemed.  and each adventure somehow thwarted our attempt to actually camp in the back country.

the black fly incident on one of the great lakes, maybe lake michigan, was hilarious.  i still believe that some old timer watched us throw down our packs on that pristine sandy beach and then laughed himself sore as we tried to outrun those biting black flies.  now i know what that old song means "i'll die with those flies picking my bones."  we spent that night in the trooper.

just outside of glacier national park we were all geared up to hike in and camp out.  that year the snow fall was heavy and even though it was summer the animals were farther down in elevation because of the snow pack not melting off quite enough for them.  everywhere we went there were bear signs...not signs of bears, but signs warning us "this is bear country!"  my boyfriend, being from alaska, was mostly nonchalant about this fact.  me, being from torrance, was clueless.

what i remember most about this hike was the alpine meadows of wildflowers and butterflies.  they rolled away from us to the snow covered peaks.  the sky was that luscious blue and the sun was shining but not burning.  there were tall trees and bushes here and there, so as you hiked along sometimes your sight was limited.  as we rounded a corner we almost smacked into a bear snacking on some bush on the side of the trail.  my boyfriend was in front of me, and i remember that as he started to try to scare the bear off- i grabbed his pack and started to pull him back down the trail all the while saying softly "don't eat us bear- we are leaving."  we paused to look back and saw the bear standing up on his hind legs sniffing at us with a very large nose on the tip of a blondish head. finding us uninteresting, he rolled around on the trail some and then disappeared.

we weren't quite sure what to do at that point.  he thought it was a brownish-black bear.   i thought it was a juvenile grizzly.  we decided to hike on while singing very loudly.  i remember doing a lot of "second verse!  same as the first!" because it's hard to thing or harmonize when you are singing because you think a bear is about.  we got especially nervous when hiking through tall grass.  we hiked down into a small valley and as we came up we crossed paths with two young men.

we were the first people they had seen since their bear incident.

they were our age- in their 20s with new coleman camping  gear and doughy faces.  they told us their story with the wide eyes of someone thirsty for an audience.  they went out camping the night before- to the very site we were headed to, cooked dinner and then tree'd their goods which is what you have to do in bear country.  i think they probably ate the stankiest meat product around, like a slim jim sloppy joe, and most likely slept in the clothes they had cooked and ate in.  no doubt they didn't tree their stuff very well because they woke up to the sound of a bear ripping through their stuff.  they huddled in their tent as the bear sauntered over and sniffed at them through the thin nylon.  they said the full moon lit up the night so clearly that they could see the silhouette of the bear and as it sniffed at them the nylon stuck to its nose.

imagine that.

when it was quiet out again they peered out.  seeing nothing, they snuck out.  they told us they went to the bathroom.  i think this meant they changed their shorts.  having a bear that close could cause anyone to have a weak bladder.  then the bear reappeared and charged them.  they said they grabbed their tent and ran through the woods to the  next camp site.  in the morning they came back to gather their shredded goods.  they still had that nervousness about them- that sense that they had scrapped through something they might not have otherwise. 

we decided not to camp out that night either.   on the way back we passed the guys telling their story to the next folks on the trail.  and then they passed us as we ate lunch so we had to hear it again the next time we passed them.   a gal who worked for the forest service told them "a fed bear is a dead bear" and was sad to know that someone was going to have to find that bear and kill it.  she said once a bear figures out that human carry tasty treats they'll just keep at it.  bears are all about the easy meal.  she kind of glared at them as she said this.  i don't think they realized that maybe they should have done something differently.

when we got down to the ranger station we looked at bear photos.  i was sure it was a grizzly we had seen, my boyfriend wasn't so sure.  i like to think it was the same bear those guys had fed- that he has wandered far away from that campsite.  i like to think that he didn't really care for slim jims, turns out, and that berries were more to his liking. 

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