Bear Story, August, 1997


A favorite loop of mine is from Chantry Flats, over Sturtevant Falls through the campground, to Newcomb Pass, down the (automobile) road to West Fork, up Rattlesnake Trail to Mt. Wilson, then down the mountain on the road that leads to Henninger Flats, but turning on a trail that runs across a ridge, before going down through Hoegee and back to Chantry.

The last time I took this trip - a week ago - I spotted a large bear near the creek that runs along Rattlesnake trail two thirds up to Mount Wilson. It was trying to climb up the slope but was 'stuck' in a pile of leaves.

I heard the noise of rustling leaves from a distance. At first I though that it was a hiker doing a 'river hike' - hiking straight up the arroyo. It was much too loud and active to be a squirrel or a dear - which I see frequently. (I have even seen a fox - same hike, near west fork campground.) As I approached I thought that it might be a hiker who had fallen from the trail and needed assistance. I was about to call to him (or her - I suppose) but for some reason I didn't.

I wear camis (camoflauge) pants and a military t-shirt and hat when I hike - so I can hide fairly well - if I need to. I lowered myself and slowly crept along the trail until my eyesight could just see over the ridge. I pulled out my 6" knife - no I am not some crazed viet nam vet - to protect myself. (I always carry it with me.) Across the stream (arroyo) I saw this bear - maybe six to eight feet long and much heavier than myself - trying to ascend the hill but helplessly stuck in a pile of leaves. The trail ahead of me, incidentally, runs atop that ridge that the bear was trying to climb. I walked very quietly and checked the direction of the wind. I knew that he couldn't see me but I didn't know if he could smell me.

I wore no bug spray or suntan lotion on this hike - so I didn't give off any 'smells of civilization' - just sweat and a lot of it. Soon he was very quiet and I didn't know if he smelled me and now he was trying to hear me. When I passed the ridge just above him, I continued to look back for another mile or so. No signs.

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Copyright © 1997, 1998 by Tom Chester.
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Updated 10 January 1998.