High in the Sawtooth Mountains, my Molly mutt charged into a small valley. Through the trees, I glimpsed the creature she’d spotted. It was a little bigger than Molly, dark, and slow. Bear cub? The glance I’d gotten had left a calf shaped impression, but rough-cut, like a Gumby character. Bear or bovine, that critter’s mama was not going to stand for this. I shouted with little hope. I knew that Molly was too excited to hear me, and that my lumbering pace would make me a fine target for that mama’s wrath. This sort of situation is […]
In the fifties, Crater Lake was overrun with bears. My parents watched a man taking a picture, go rigid when he realized that a bear was using him as a leaning post. A less friendly looking bear tempted Mom to try for a bear-on-the-attack photo. She popped out of the car and waited for the bear to rear up and threaten her. When it did, she lost her nerve and sprinted around the car. She kept trying, and she might have pulled it off if a cranky ranger hadn’t got involved. In the sixties, tattoos weren’t for “nice” people. […]
Bear scat ought to be too icky to draw interest, but it’s so readable. It doesn’t even stink if the bear’s eating vegan. I was lured into the topic by an Alaskan guide who said that bears eat dirt, rocks, and moss to plug their systems for hibernation. It turns out not to be true. Bears do rid themselves of “plugs” after they hibernate, but hidden hibernation cameras reveal that dirt, leaves, and hair get lapped in as sleepy bears groom themselves through the winter. Much as I love guides, I need to remember they may not know squat.
Along the Alaskan Highway gas stations are crucial stepping stones. Travelers–especially RVers–who leap, then look, are apt to end up hitchhiking in hungry bear territory. Steve did his homework and plotted every gas stop along our route before we left home. Milepost, the guide to negotiating Alcan, kept us comfortably fueled until we’d almost reached Alaska’s southernmost highway stop, about 40 miles from our intended Hyder camp spot. At Meziadin Junction we pulled into a lonely gas station and found it closed–as in vacant. Our fuel-mileage-estimator showed no hope for making Hyder with our camper…but the pickup, unhitched, had a chance of getting close. Leaving the trailer mid-nowhere […]
Steve spotted the bear a good way down a wide-open Canadian highway. He let off the gas to give her ample time to get clear. Then a cub scrambled up behind her. Steve applied some brake. Well all know that camp trailers take extra time to give up momentum, but the cub was okay as long as he held to his course across the roadway. As many bears as we’d seen in our Alaska exploration, it was still a treat to watch the pair–until a second cub took up the rear. Steve used his best words, pushed the brakes to the limit, and we held our […]
Why would someone lace a Denali Park sign with big nails, points out? Denali’s bears, it seems, have a number of destructive uses for signs–including backscratching. Park maintenance workers edge the signs with nails in hopes of increasing the signs’ lifespan.
In 56 years a Coloradan, I never saw a bear in the wild. That changed in a hurry when we set out for Alaska by way of British Columbia. In two months I went from zero to 18. A longer stay in Hyder promised more interesting encounters. According to a local, there was a bear trail through the middle of town, and bears sometimes stopped cars to lick smashed bugs off the license plates. We walked a boardwalk along a stream where we would have seen bears fishing–almost close enough to touch–if the salmon had been running, but our timing was off there too. I don’t know why Steve […]