I am very thankful for all of you who bear with me through the bad puns and incoherent ramblings here. I am less thankful for the literal bear who was literally with me in southeast Idaho.
Tuesday, July 18 (cont.)
After I finished Rexburg, it was getting late. I found a free campsite at Wolf Flats Recreation Area, a secluded BLM area along the Snake River. The road going back to it was really rough. It ran right alongside the river and there was no sort of guardrail. The campground was basically deserted. There was a trailer back in the trees, but that is not where Andersons prefer to camp. Andersons will always pick the spot closest to the water. It is in our DNA
The only thing I didn’t like about the spot was that there was some trash about 10 yards from my tent. This was a pack in-pack out site, so there were no waste receptacles. The rubbish was a black trash bag, an aquarium and what looked like the seat to a dining chair. I didn’t think much of it, just kind of shook my head at the lack of consideration. I eyed the pile, wondering if I had space to pack it out myself. I decided it was too much.
I was mildly encouraged that the trash appeared undisturbed. I thought I was kind of on the edge of bear territory and this untouched “feast” seemed to indicate that this area was ursa-free. Additionally, there were no signs at the camp information that indicated taking bear precautions. These sorts of signs had been ubiquitous at campsites ever since I began on the Alaska Highway. Finally. A night where I could rest easy. I made the conscious decision to leave my bear spray in Annie’s frunk (“front trunk”: The locking compartment on the NC700x where normal motorcycles have their gas tank. I don’t know if I have used this word yet on the blog.).
I was rocked to sleep easily by Snake River.
Wednesday, July 19
I am a heavy sleeper. I always have been. It takes quite a jarring sound to disturb my slumber.
It must have been some sound…
I usually come to really slowly, gradually fading from dream-world to reality.
But this sound…
My sub-conscious felt it was necessary to give me a double shot of adrenaline. I grasped alertness suddenly.
I know this sound…
Where have you heard it? Think! Wait….dinosaurs….what? Yes! The Jurassic Park movies.
The sound of branches and brush snapping under enormous weight…..
Whew….I’m just dreaming…oh wait…no….no I’m not. This is happening.
The sound grows louder, just outside the east side of my tent….
A bear! Yeah, it’s a bear. That’s OK. You know what to do. You yell at it and scare it away. Wait, no. You play dead. My spray….. Oh no. Did you really do that? Why would you not bring it? What were you thinking!
The sound stops as it exits forest and enters the hard packed ground of the campsite…..
I don’t know how much time passed. Just a few minutes probably. Whatever was out there, I could no longer track its movement with my ears. I tried to completely suppress my breathing. I did not even sit up, for fear of making a sound.
The trash. It was going through the trash. Why had I set up camp so near to it?
The animal was taking its time, going from package to package. The adrenaline in my system began to return to a semi-normal level. I could now have some coherent thoughts. My first line of thinking considered food. I realized that I was basically out of supplies. I had a small jar of Nutella and an empty can of beans (supper) but those were both in Annie’s trunk. I had no strong scented items, not even toothpaste, in the tent with me.
I remembered that I was somehow receiving a strong 4g signal, despite being in such a secluded spot. The city of Idaho Springs was not too far away. I realized that I could consult the internet for some advice. While the trash continued to rustle, I took about a minute to slowly roll onto my right side. Before turning it on I said a brief prayer, hoping that it was close to daybreak.
Dang, only 2am
Well, Google is always helpful, right? I opened up my browser and began to type in my query.
At this point, Google decided to be helpful and offer the most relevant suggestion it could think of:
Really, Google? That is the last thing I need to see right now. Just seeing the word “attack” sent another adrenaline shot through my body. I decided not to read about the attacks and instead focus on safety based articles. Unfortunately, I did not find a real consensus. Some recommended to just stay still and quiet and the bear would go away. Others recommended to exit the tent, since that was the worst place to be attacked, and wave and yell at the bear until it left. The only real consensus was about having bear spray.
The sound stopped.
Did it leave? Is it coming closer?
I had about a half hour of silence. My heart rate was nearly back to normal. I debated trying to get back to sleep and even laid back. Then a sound was heard to the south of my tent. It was investigating a gallon water jug that was even closer to my tent than the trash. It was not there long before I heard silence once again.
The night kind of settled into a pattern: Silence for 15-30 minutes, then a rustling for a couple minutes, either in the trash to the west or the trees to the east. I remained on high alert and did not make a sound.
By 5am, a little bit of twilight was creeping in. I decided I had had enough. I was leaving this tent. I estimate my motivations to be comprised of the following: 20%-Courage, 30%-Impatience, 49%-The urge to urinate, 1%-The desire to tell a cool bear story on my awesome blog.
I began to speak. Gently and softly at first: “OK, bear. It’s morning. Time for you to leave so I can get up.” My volume crescendoed and my tone harshened as I went along. I began to yell at the bear about how sorry it would be when it met my devastating, ninja, roundhouse kicks. (OK, that’s not quite what I said, but I was harsh). After my salvo of verbal abuse, I decided to use technology for one final check. My action cam, which was in the tent with me, syncs to my phone through wifi. This means that the phone screen will display whatever the camera sees in real time. I poked the camera through the door zipper and out beneath the rain fly. I could see the scattered trash but no animal as I panned back and forth. I repeated the same technique out of the window opening on the opposite side. Nothing.
I exited the tent, all the while speaking audibly. The trash was less organized than when I went to bed.
I packed up with remarkable efficiency and sped away. I thought I had had a pretty rough night. As I bounced down the washboard road along the Snake River, I saw that at least one person had a night worse than mine.
Getting back to civilization never felt so good.
I hope I haven’t been overly dramatic just now. I really wasn’t trying to embellish. But I gotta be honest: Bears really scare me. Perhaps those who live in areas where bear sightings are commonplace are amused by my phobia. Maybe its due to a lack of familiarity (or that I watched The Revenant not too long ago), but I was absolutely petrified with fear this night. I don’t think I’ve ever been that scared for that long.
I know bear attacks are fairly rare, but if they do decide to attack a human has absolutely no chance. We are separated by about a dozen weight classes. I also have concede that I never actually saw a bear, but I don’t know what other animal would be capable of making those sounds. I looked around for tracks as I was packing up, but the ground was just a bit too hard.
I think the grizzly bear portion of my trip has officially concluded. There will be some brief moments in black bear country, but these worry me much less.
Ok. I think my heart rate is back to normal now. 🙂