Neighbors

“Hey bear! Yes! You!” I said. Not shouting, but using a deep, firm voice. I was just about to pour the cous cous into my pot when I noticed movement in some nearby ferns. Initially, my eyes said turkey, so I kept watching to count them.

It kept moving leftwards, and then I realized it was a fairly small bear, some thirty-five yards away. It wasn’t long before he was staring right at me.

I speak to pretty much every animal I meet on trail, often the daddy longleg spiders too. He just kept staring at me, so I stood up and again in a firm voice told him to “go on!”

He turned his head to the side, sniffed the air, and reluctantly walked away. Immediately I was thankful that I decided to cook so far from camp. Often I’ll cook miles from where I stop for the night, but in this case fifty yards seemed sufficient.

I packed away all of my smellies tonight, including the wet wipes and hand sanitizer. I’ll be sleeping with my contacts in. I did a PCT bear bag hang with a twenty-five foot limb. I felt pretty confident in my hang until ten minutes ago.

Before settling in, I heard more movement, and my headlamp caught two pairs of eyes. A mom and her cub. The mother was small, but I’m fairly certain it was not the same bear as earlier. Her cub was tiny and adorable, as they always are. The pair were headed for the exact spot where I cooked dinner. No doubt, they were looking for scraps.

That baby might have a shot at getting my food tonight. He’s impossibly small, and the limb my food is tied to might hold him. I also spoke to them in a firm voice, but they disappeared behind a low stand of boulders. I threw a few hefty rocks that direction, and they took off.

In the presence of predators, I need little reminder that like General Patton, I too am “the meanest motherfucker in the valley.” I have made every effort to explain to my woodland friends, that I will not be fucked with tonight. I peed around my shelter too, a tip I learned from Les Stroud. Neither of us are sure if it works, but I’ll sleep better tonight for it.

Hiking while sick has been surprisingly doable. I’ve leaned another Hiking 102 skill; blowing my nose without tissue. You get your face close to the ground, clear your shoes, etc from the path, then plug one nostril and let’er rip! Ugly green snot spots on trail? This guy. With all of the bear scat I’ve stepped over today, it’s not as gross. I promise.

Other than sudden sleepiness and my body’s ability to thermoregulate being delayed, I feel fine. I can tell I’ve been feverish at times, but mostly at night. Once I get moving in the mornings I am okay, though certainly not one hundred percent.

Tomorrow I am aiming to hit the Skyland Resort for breakfast. I’m about three miles north, and I’m out of water. It should be an ideal early morning pit stop. I keep meeting more and more cool hikers out here. I imagine breakfast will draw a few new faces too.

I’ll sleep easy tonight knowing that the peanut butter and granola in my food bag smell way better than I do. If a bear does manage to kill me tonight, I’m okay with that too. Best high school reunion gossip ever:

“Did you hear Ryan was eaten by a bear!”

If I die old in a bed somewhere, I am going to be VERY disappointed with myself. Sleep well friends!

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