In the summer of 2003, Charlotte and I decided to take a trip across the country by rental car (why a rental? Don't ask--it's complicated, dull, and annoying.), stopping at various friends along the way, seeing the sights, and culminating in our annual visit to the Burningman festival in Nevada. This is the diary we kept along the way.
|25-26||Hot Springs AR|
|?||Oklahoma City OK|
|31||Mesa Verde CO|
|?||Grand Canyon AZ|
|11-13||Los Angeles CA|
|16-24||San Francisco CA|
|24-Sept 1||Black Rock City NV|
|2||Salt Lake City UT|
An short update on life in the hood, uh wood. We arrived in the area of the Sierra Nevadas, magnificent redwoods, gigantic Sequoias and tons of bear warnings.
Being the saavy, conscientious campers that we are, we had all our food packed in plastic, and in the trunk of the car. We are not going to attract any bears by not being good campers.
We got a sheet of warnings about the bears. We got a sheet of warnings about cougars. The park rangers were being overly-cautious we thought. Bears really aren't that friendly. They don't reeally eat all those wierd items in the list. Bears can smell things 3 miles away. Dutifully, we ravaged the car; removing an air freshener, deet, sunscreen, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, first aid kit, deodorant, candles, all almost microscopic crumbs, and anything that remotely smelled like it was vaguely perfumed, as well as all of our food.
Parents with babies are advised to remove car seats and leave them outside the car for the bears to get a sniff and go on their way, without destroying any car frames.
OK, the warnings start to sink in and I am a bit sceptical, but when we sign out of our camp grounds and go to the other end of the park, I get nervous just having food in the trunk. Thank goodness we don't eat in the tent, I think and breathe a sigh of relief.
Sebastian and I head down to the visitor center and on the way, he spots a momma bear and cub in a tree on the side of the road. We get to our new camp site, and immediately load everything (perfumed, lip balm, and dirty dishes) into the bear lockers: stainless steel, animal-proof latch, and anchored to the ground with cement. Closed! Whew! Off we go on our adventures. I remain doubtful, I still haven't seen a bear. A glorious cave tour, a wonderful hike alongside a waterfall, a trip to see more sequioas and an event-free night -- despite warnings that we are camping in an active bear site.
As we head back to camp to start dinner, we pass a traffic jam -- 20 people with cameras, one ranger with a stick yelling at a bear, and several people leaping out of their cars to snap pictures. We are about 10 feet from him, as he rounds a large chunk of granite and the car in front of us parks. I have seen my bear, medium brown, medium size (they can grow up to 600 pounds). I add that to my list for the day: Gambrel Quail, Stellars jays, and a handful of lizards and a bear.
We start dinner. I spot two large bucks foraging in the fire grate of the campsite next door (camp sites are about as far apart as houses). The bucks are gorgeous and they quietly wander off. Then I hear a loud crash!! Probably a squirrel. They climb to the tops of trees, wait for people to pass by, gnaw off the exceptionally large pine cones (some almost 12 inches longs, and almost baseball size in diameter)and send them crashing down. They can crash pretty darn hard, take off dead limbs, and scare you out of your socks. Damn squirrels.
I see the guy across the street take out his camera. I stand still and watch and listen. Crackle, snap, pop, crunch. The two stags, again or some pretty noisy squirrel, nope.
It lurches through the camp, sniffing at the fire grate, sniffing at the big, brown, bear-proof metal box, licking the gas canister from their grill, and sniffing their tent. Finally he gets further away from my car, I get the keys from Sebastian and head down to the ranger station. All good campers are supposed to alert the rangers, when they spot a bear. Sebastian follows it down the road.
I leave a note at the ranger station. 20 minutes later the ranger comes by, as he approaches at a nearby camp everyone (adulta and children) start yelling 'bear', blowing whistles and an airhorn. This is what you are supposed to do, when approached by a bear. Yell and scream, make a bunch of racket while standing together in a group to make you look bigger and fiercer --bear hazing. Don't run...don't give him the bag of chips in your hand, don't chase him too far, don't throw rocks at his face, do throw sticks in his general direction. YELL!
I slept ok last night. In the last two hours we have heard at least three or four bear hazings by different, well-populated groups of people. These bears are shy? Crunch, what was that sound? You should see the list of tactics for cougars! Were these claw marks on the bear-box there when we arrived?