Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bear Encounter

Friday morning we left bright and early and headed to Shenandoah National Park for our annual fall camping trip along Skyline Drive. Our car was loaded to the max (yes, we're over packers, but you have to remember we're packing for COLD COLD nights), but we somehow still made it up the "mountain" (yes...mountain in quotations) and found ourselves a BEAUTIFUL campsite at Mathew's Arm. It was everything we would want a campsite to be: tons of trees (all changing colors), not too close to neighbors, not too close to the fluorescent glow of the bathroom (but close enough)... yes, we were thrilled with the campsite.

When we were picking the site, we saw a big ole pile of bear doo doo (probably should have been our first red flag...well, second; the first should've been the ranger lecturing Brian when we checked in about food and toiletry storage. But we knew we were headed into bear country and weren't too worried about it.). We thought it was (Yes, we can occasionally be middle-schoolers.) We also thought it was pretty cool that we were secluded enough that at dusk two deer (a mama and her baby) spent about 5 minutes just strolling right through our site, round and round. Must be all those dense woods we surrounded our tent with.

But by the next morning, Brian and I were discussing how all the features of our campsite that made it a killer camp site, also could've made it...well, KILLER. :) Here's what happened. After spending a windy night at the campfire, making smores and chatting, we headed to a very cold bed. Brian drifted off after not too long, exhausted from the work week. I was struggling. As I lay there awake, I thought I heard footsteps approaching from the direction of the woods. "Hm--a little weird for someone to be out there, but whatever floats their boat." But as the noise got closer, and closer, and CLOSER, I realized they were some pretty heavy footsteps, causing lots and lots of not only leaf rustling, but also twig and branch snapping. "Hm--a little creepy, but we knew there were bears in the area, so I'm sure he'll just head over to the edge of our campsite to his favorite latrine location and.... WHOA buddy. Why are the footsteps now inches from our tent and stopping?!!!!" I grabbed Brian's arm, and he awoke in time to hear the steps moving along right outside our tent and pausing again (for WAY too long). For the next 15 minutes or so (felt like FOREVER), we listened and flinched and about had heart attacks as what we can only assume was a black bear made his way around our camp, and our tent multiple times. Finally, we heard the footsteps leave, but guess who spent the rest of the night hyperventilating every time the gusty, gusty wind rustled our tent or dropped a leaf on us? :) It was crazy scary. Scary enough that we scrapped our plans for night number two, and drove home late Saturday after a day of hiking.

But guess what we saw on the drive home? (such a cherry on top moment...) We're cruising along Skyline Drive, when the car in front of us stops, and we see a big black bear in the middle of the road. Then out pops a cub... and another cub. They all scampered across before I could get my camera, but we were so excited! It was the first time either of us had seen a bear in the wild, and they were RIGHT there. Much better than having them lurk around outside our tent. Much better. :)

All in all, such a fun camping trip, even though we're exhausted today. There's lots of pictures! Enjoy!


Val said...

beary pretty haha!

I was scared silly long before you got to the part about the bear footsteps outside your tent. I wouldn't have slept either. :(

That's awesome you got to see bears in a safter way the next day.

The colors are beautiful!

Alisa said...

Glad you had fun and glad that bear did not get too curious!

emily said...

OH MY GOSH!!! What does this little incident remind you of? Well, I of course couldn't help but think of all our years at girls camp... you know the nights where we would scare oursleves silly picturing a big long bear claw slicing the side of our tent. Little did we know it was only just a "little leaf." I can't believe this... I am so glad the bear spared the life of my little ooga. Oh, and Brian too of course:) Love you!!!