“Bear!” my wife cried. Ahead of us, a cinnamon bear darted off the hill, across the road and into a thicket of brush. Black fur painted its legs and raced along its rump. Just like that, it disappeared. We stopped the car. He was gone, lost in the thicket. After a moment, we drove off, chattering like school kids. Around the corner, we pulled over. “There it is,” we cried. It swam across the ragging creek, stepped out, shook himself dry and slipped into more brush.
With every sighting, my mind races back to my two most memorable encounters. One June, on the Iceberg Lake trail in Glacier Park, my wife, nephew , and myself watched two grizzlies make cubs. If that wasn’t cool enough, John Lithgow, one of my nephew’s idols, came trudging down the trail in time to watch two elk creep past the amorous pair.
The second, my dog and I set out for our favorite huckleberry patch. I had just settled in when I heard a ruckus. Looking up, I saw a black bear running straight for me. I stood up. The bear slammed on the breaks. It didn’t know I was hunkered down in the bushes. One has crazy thoughts when in a Mexican standoff with a bear. “I’m gonna feed it huckleberries – and live to tell about it.” I thought. I looked into my bucket. A scant few lined the bottom. “It ain’t getting my huckleberries,” was the other.
It’s empty gold eyes starred at me. He wasn’t going to walk away. At my feet was a large stick. Eyes locked, I reached for it. I grabbed the stick, jumped into the air and swung the stick back and forth while doing my best Brave Heart imitation. The bear whimpered and took off into the woods. I paced back and forth wondering if that had just happened.
My dog came running up, nose to the ground and tail waging. It had stirred up the bear from its siesta and chased the bear towards me. Poor fella, snoozing away one moment, the next in the craziness of our traveling road show. Figuring, the bear wouldn’t come back anytime soon, both Biscuit and I settled in for a long afternoon of huckleberry picking.
Springtime in the Rockies, you can’t beat it – with a stick.