Monday, July 1, 2013

Bear!

I have seen bears from my car. I’ve seen a cute cub up a tree in the village of West Stockbridge. I’ve seen a bear trying to get into the dumpster in a state park. I’ve had a bear take down my bird feeder. From inside my house, I’ve seen bears on my deck with just the sliding door between us.

But this is the first time I've seen a bear while hiking solo. I heard it first, breaking sticks and moving the brush. It was walking slowly directly away from me up a stone ridge near the trail. It turned, looked at me for a long moment and then kept climbing the cliffs. I, of course, stopped and watched. I lost sight of it but could still hear it moving.

I realized it was heading for my destination—Flag Rock on the west side of Monument Mountain in Housatonic. I walked on a few minutes and met a young woman walking quickly down the path.

“Did you see the bear? “ I asked.

“No, but I heard it,” She said. “I didn’t want to stick around!”

I had to decide to continue on or not. I opted to continue but walked slowly and started singing to let the bear know I was coming. The only song I could think of at the moment was “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall”. It worked! I did not encounter the bear again.

Whenever I meet wildlife on the trail, I stop and watch, and wait until the animal moves on. I let them have their space. Black bear are not normally confrontational and I can appreciate their strength and power at a distance. What a privilege!

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