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Copyright 2008 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

Unwelcome Visitor

By Mary Anne Lynes, Corvallis, MT

 

October 2008 Issue

 

     It was not a dark and stormy night. But it was night, and we were sleeping soundly in our little tent in the Bitterroot Wilderness.

     We were tired. This was our fourth hitch working on the trail that led to camp. We had promised ourselves that after eighteen years of backcountry work as contractors for the Forest Service, that we were through digging trail with pick and shovel. But this trail was close to home, and being able to go home every four days had a lot of appeal.

     The trail reconstruction had started at the trailhead and ended about four miles ahead. We commuted from the trailhead by foot and on our horses for the first twelve days. Even though we were still only two miles from the trailhead, a lot of elevation gain was involved, so we packed in a camp with our horses. The very camp we now lay in.

     Our ol’ dog Tucker was half lame, but he managed to walk the two miles into camp. Tucker could be annoying if coyotes were howling. Bark!

Bark! And he started being annoying. We kept telling him to shut up, of course, and finally I unzipped the tent to get in his face about all his noise.

     About thirty feet away was a black bear. A pretty big one. I informed Brad of this development, and we promptly charged out of the tent, yelling at the bear.

     The bear crossed the creek and stood there on the other side.

     “Maybe he’s just thirsty,” I said to Brad. It was, after all, one of the few springs on this hill.

     We backed off and, sure enough, the bear came down to the creek and took a drink. He was just thirsty.

 

     The bear left and we went back to bed. We were tired. But it wasn’t long before Tucker started up again. First the low “grrrr,” which Brad calls a gurgle. Then it progressed to the actual “bear-in-camp” bark.

     Now maybe I haven’t mentioned that we, being experienced in the backcountry, always travel with both pistol and bear spray. Except for this time.

     Brad and I got up. The bear was in the kitchen. We had set up a fly over my table and our two bear-resistant boxes. All of our food was in the boxes, except for the evening’s garbage, which consisted of two vegetarian soup cans tied to the table in a plastic bag.

     As Brad, Tucker and I charged the bear, the bear spotted that bag and the race was on. The bear won. He snatched the bag off the table, without disrupting anything in the kitchen, and headed into the woods, bag in his mouth.

     We chased him. He dropped the bag and a can fell out. We got the bag, and headed for the can. So did the bear.

     About that time, Brad tripped over the chainsaw, which he had just sharpened like a razor. “Stand back!” he shouted. He fired up that baby, and took off for the soup can.

     The bear still faced us, not backing off. I had one hand on Brad’s shoulder and one on the flashlight. The bear turned around and vanished into the blackness. I shone the flashlight all around looking for the bear. The shadows were moving, Brad’s saw was roaring.

          Brad saw a shadow coming his way and, thinking it was the bear, started backing up. Fast. Now I became more worried about that chainsaw than the bear. He shut it down.

          We started a campfire to burn the soup cans which we now had back in our possession. With the fire going, we couldn’t see a thing past the firelight. We were tired! We secured every little thing and went back to bed.

 

      Then Tucker growled. We got up. Tucker went back to bed, in for the long haul. The bear had been into camp five times already that night.

     Brad shouted to me, “Stand back!” but with less enthusiasm. His chainsaw roared; and the bear went away.

      Besides the chainsaw, we had various other tools, and had gathered a pile of good throwing rocks at our tent door.

           Tucker growled. I was ready to give the bear the dog food so we could get some sleep. Of course, that wouldn’t have worked.

     “Brad, let’s just let him come in and find out he can’t get any food,” I suggested.

     That sounded good to Brad. So I sat in the tent holding the flashlight on the bear, and narrated to Brad: “He’s smelling the boxes.

He’s licking my table. He’s sitting down, almost in one of our chairs, looking at our bear boxes. He’s putting his paw on one.”

     Then the bear started to tip over my tall box, which had glass in it and would make a big mess. I yelled my signature admonishment —“Nah! Anhh! Anhh!”— which meant to “immediately stop whatever it is you’re doing!” I had been using these sounds to scold my horses, dog and even Brad, with good results.

     The bear set the box upright again, stood up, and left town. We never saw him again for the next two months we were camped there.

     Yes, a chainsaw may be loud, but fear the wrath of a woman!

Copyright 2008 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

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