Don’t get between a Momma Bear and her cubs. It’s Wilderness 101, yet somehow Brad still managed to do it. I guess I can’t blame him. Stupid pollen. He bent over to sneeze and looked up to find a growling, lunging Momma Bear. Rex didn’t even bark. His survival instincts had to have kicked in.
I was approximately 100-yards behind the boys, lolly-gagging, taking pictures of recently-bloomed wildflowers. I saw a doe, which was exciting. Then, of course, Brad had to steal my thunder. Bear and cubs tops doe every time.Brad’s pace was quick as he walked back toward me, and I could tell his eyes were wide even though they were masked by his Oakleys. Rex had his tail between his legs, and if Brad would have had a tail, it probably would have been between his legs, too.
“What’s the matter?” I asked. In detail, he rehashed the sneezing, the momma, the growling, the cubs, etc.
“Were you scared?” I said. “Is your heart racing?”
“You know,” he replied in a nervous laugh, “They say you don’t ever have to outrun a bear, just have to outrun the person you’re with.”
“Funny, Brad," I mumbled.. Side note: Brad ran a 6-minute mile in the Army. I think my personal best was 9-something. "So what do we do, babe? How are we gonna get home?”
We both looked at each other for a moment. Then, Brad draped his arm on me, resting his entire bodyweight on my shoulder, while Rex hid his entire face in between my legs. They were scared and silent. I was, too. In a weird way, though, it was kind of awesome.
After a few minutes, Brad decided he needed to check things out again, so he handed me Rex’s leash. I had one eye on the wooded area that led to Skyline Drive, to safety. I had my other eye on Brad. He was stupid to go up that trail again, but I wasn’t thinking that. I was thinking “Why does he get to be stupid and I don’t?” I holler for him to come back.
It was my turn to push the envelope. Adrenaline pumped through my body as I inched my way towards the mom and her cubs. As I rounded the bend, Brad yelled at me to stop. He said I was too close, and then I saw him. A tiny little cub hiding behind a tree. Mom was on the left side of the trail with cub #1 and cub #2, and cub #3 was on the right side of the trail. We would have had to walk between this little family in order to finish our hike.
Against my better judgment, I made eye contact with the cub. And I just couldn’t look away. I stood there for second, soaking in the moment. It was absolutely beautiful. There on the trail, I tried hard to capture every detail, just so I would never forget how it felt to have this amazing-- but brief--connection with such a majestic and innocent animal. Then, I snapped a picture, turned around, and walked back toward Rex and Brad.
|My cub friend. I'll call him Barry.|
“You shouldn’t have done that,” Brad explained. “You’re not supposed to turn your back to a bear.”
“Oh,” was all I said.
Vulnerable but not trapped, Brad and I discussed what our next step would be. We knew we couldn’t finish the hike on the AT as we had planned, so we decided to blaze a trail up to Skyline Drive--hyperaware of every noise we heard during the oh-so-brief walk to safety. To our surprise, when we reached the road, we were at the trailhead and only 100 feet away from my car. We survived...bearly. ;)