Monday, July 9, 2012

Barely Bearing the Bare Bear Canyon... and the Bears

We live in Bear Canyon.  Our cabin is unit B.  B as in bare. No, not the fuzzy wuzzy kind with cubs.  Bare as in we barely have any furniture that it makes our 1-room cabin seem huge!  We invested in a very nice air mattress which will be our bed for the next 3-months.  Our large Coleman cooler doubles as a dresser and a night stand (bonus: cup holders next to the bed!).  Our sweet landlords donated a couple of beat-up ice cream shop chairs and a small folding table.  And a couple of friends donated a nice little patio set.  So we have a lot of hard chairs and an air mattress.... bare.  

During the first week in Bear Canyon we drove around every night getting a feel for the lay of the land.  A few miles down there is a little bear sanctuary where a few rescued grizzly bears are put on display.  It costs 7 dollars and the admission is good for two days.   But really once you've been there for 30 minutes you've seen it all.  There's one enclosure that that the bears get to run around in and there are no barriers between you and the bears besides a 12 foot ditch.  Luckily for the tourists, the bears aren't very good jumpers.  

Bill, the bear's buddy, was there to answer all of our bear-related questions and gave us 5 fast tips about wandering around in bear country:

1.  Carry bear spray... and use it if the bear charges.  Point it towards the ground as grizzlies will usually charge you with their noses down.  Pray to the Lord that the bear is coming from downwind.

2.  Travel in groups: the bigger the better.  Bears are blind, or at least have poor eye sight.  If you're in a big group you'll look like a big animal.

Brutus, the 900lb bear. (up by the rock)
3. Talk.  Bears are scared of the human voice.  So when you say "Please don't eat me"  they'll just run away in fear.  Let's hope so.

4.  Don't let a bear eat your food or garbage.  Don't carry food or garbage with you unless it's in a bear canister.  If you're camping hang your food from a tree at night so the bears can't get it.  If a bear eats one persons food, it'll turn into a crazed people-food eating maniac.

5. If a bear is about to charge you, don't look it in the eye.  It takes this as a threat.  If you are wearing sunglasses and he can't see your eyes turn your whole head to the side.  Do not run.  Grizzlies can run up to 35 miles.  And they love a good chase.  You will lose.  Stand there, maybe slowly back away and say sweet things to the bear in a soft little baby voice.  Say things like "Niiiiice bear.  Atta boy.  It's ok.  We are your friends.  We are not here to hurt you.  We won't touch your babies.  You can keep eating that carcass.  We'll just head on back the other way."  If you can climb a tree this will probably be best.  But climb high enough that he can't reach you. 

Bonus: If all of this doesn't work and the bear attacks you, lay face down on your stomach with your hands over your head.  Wear a big backpack.  And just hope he bites the bag....

A couple day later we meet a girl who used to work with the National Park Service out on Kodiak Island in Alaska, home of some of the biggest grizzlies in the world!  New friend, Kristen, was showing us pictures and videos of grizzlies up close and personal and telling stories of her experiences with the bears and with other bear enthusiasts.   She was working out on Kodiak when the one crazy bear entusiast, Timothy Treadwell, was out making his crazy documentary, Grizzly Man.   If you haven't seen it, you should watch it.

[Note: she didn't get to personally meet him, but she was working there when some of her co-workers were giving him tickets for feeding the animals....that's why those foxes were so nice to him!]

Well all of this bear stimulus must have been really affecting my paranoid subconsciousness because a few days later, I awoke in the middle of the night thinking "there is a bear in the bathroom."  Now I can assure you that my thought process was not this calm and peaceful at the time.  I must have been having a weird dream to begin with, that combined with living in the middle of no where where even the smallest noises seem loud in the quiet, still night.  I heard what I am now assuming was the refrigerator tinkering or the hot water heater ramping up or maybe it was a big bug repeatedly hitting into the window ... whatever it was, I never found out.  But at the time I knew it was a bear that had come in through the back door and was mucking around in the bathroom. I woke up in a panic..grabbed Trevor's arm,  and shrieked in my softest panic whisper, "Trevor, get up! THERE IS A BEAR IN THE BATHROOM!!!"

Now our place is a studio.  It has one big room which is the bedroom/living room/kitchen, but then from the kitchen-side of the room there is a door that leads to a small room with a washer/dryer and from this little laundry room is a door to the outside and the door to the bathroom.

In the middle of the night we got up and the door to the laundry room was closed further enhancing the mystery of my fantasy bear in the bathroom.  Trevor is groggy as anything.  He has no idea what is going on.  We both get up and out of bed but for some reason neither of us thinks to turn on the light. We both scootch over towards the laundry room door.  I am still hearing little tinkerings now and then.  Trevor hears nothing.  Trevor becomes more paranoid that he can't snap out of his dream and actually hear what I'm hearing.  We get to the laundry room door which is open maybe a half an inch.  Trevor gives it a big push to close and lock it...but it pops back open.  Trevor looks at me with wide, fearful eyes: "What the heck was that?!!?!?! Did you feel that?!!?!?!"

We had never closed that door all the way before.  Had we previously tried this we would have found out that the door doesn't really fit in the frame completely...and it has a tendency to open itself back up because of this structural imperfection.  But at this point I was starting to think maybe this whole bear thing was a crazy dream, until that "bear" pushed the door back open.  I can't breath at this point.  My heart is pounding through my head.  Am I having a heart attack?  As Trevor slams the door back in to place and locks it,  I frantically run around closing and locking all the windows and dig out the can of bear spray.

We both get back into bed.  Bear spray is within arms reach.  "Bear" is confined to the bathroom.  We lay still listening for any movements, any noises.  Every time I think I hear something, or Trevor moves,  I feel a wave of fear flow from my head to my feet.  Trevor miraculously falls back asleep, although I am not too sure he ever really woke up completely during the "bear" in the bathroom episode.  Him sleeping makes me feel more relaxed.  Trevor wouldn't just fall back alseep if there was a bear in the bathroom. Therefore you are crazy Julie and there is no bear in the bathroom.  I start dozing off.

What feels like 15 minutes later, Trevor wakes up, unbeknownst to me, and sees a bear outside the window on the patio.  His instincts immediately take over.  His instinct is not to warn his unsuspecting paranoid girlfriend about what he is going to do next.  His instinct is to scare the "bear" away.  He silently grabs the bear spray and aggressively starts smashing it as hard as he possibly can on the cooler to make the loudest banging noise possible.  I am so petrified.  I am frozen. I can't even speak.

Trevor mumbles, "Sorry. That was me. I thought I saw a bear...."


Reni said...

Did you ever think Jimmy was a bear when he was living with you in your old studio apt?

Nancy said...


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