THE BEAR

Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

Getting ready to head out on a “maiden” run along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, we stopped to look at the map and trail. What we found was a warning—Just two weeks earlier a black bear had been sighted in the area.
We set out anyway.
By the time we had meandered up the winding trail, viewing massive scenic expanses of water sparkling like diamonds across the sky, greenery reaching up, up, up into the billows of blue overhead, that bear was all but forgotten. I don’t take my camera on most runs—I like to capture the moments in my heart and my mind’s eye—like taking the time to try to capture the AWE will scare it away like the mist of breath on a cold night.
Seven and ½ miles later we had witnessed a skunk blaze the trail ahead of us and two deer bravely traverse a cliff. Our senses were mildly alerted to the wild life, but our perception of danger was overpowered by the beauty of this place.
Then we heard it.
Straight from Friday the 13th, the crisp and foreboding break of a branch on the forest floor—broken by something heavy and halting our journey.
“The bear!” it was a hush that felt like a scream to me.
I stopped dead in my tracks for just one moment that felt like eons.
“There –just to the right—about 50 yards up from us—“
That’s all I need to hear. My sights never locked on that bear, but I didn’t need to. The ominous echoing crack of that branch and the sudden memory of every bear mauling I had ever read about, heard about and seen on TV. came pushing through my body propelling me toward the safety of the trailhead and the protection of the car.
It was easily a quarter of a mile before my more adventurous bear seeker caught up with me. “Did you see him!? Did you see it!? I didn’t see any cubs…I wish I would’ve taken its picture!” The words came out in excited bursts…
We continued our escape and warned all below us of the sighting. The rest of the trip I heard about how much he wished he would’ve taken that picture.
Hindsight is 20/20—especially from the safety of your car.
What if? What if he would’ve got that perfect shot?
I am glad he didn’t. Like I said earlier, I am okay with not having the photo— Seriously; it is okay to miss some shots in life. I have the story to tell.
What if he’d stayed just long enough for the bear to get pissed at us in his territory…What if?
I have a picture of another bear.
It was mid 1980’s and my father spent three years bear hunting in the woods of Colorado. Three seasons of baiting, waiting, re-baiting, more waiting and nothing, nothing, nothing.
All the hours spent preparing: practice shots at the range, canvassing the perfect area, months spent reading about the most aromatic and appealing black bear baits. And then–the season comes and all that waiting–crouched for hours, with black bear shot gun loaded and ready–finally pays off.
His first black bear! Large nose sniffing the air and moving ever closer to that perfect bait, branches breaking beneath the weights of those grandiose paws getting closer and closer and closer!
Breath is suspended, muscles peak and moving ever so silently (especially after three years of practice!), he prepares to shoot. There is something untold that happened right then. What will all the men say! The pride of shooting this creature, the pelt, all that meat for black bear burgers…I think not. I think it was awe.
He shot it. With his 24 exposure Fuji disposable camera. Got three wavering shots off before the rest of her cubs came into the view–two babies trampling behind her. (This was way before digital, so there was an actual wait time before we could see the evidence!) The film was so fuzzy and the pictures only showed the mother’s behind and the babies’ beginning.
I know my dad got a lot of crap about that moment. The moment he made the choice to not shoot—it was the last year of his preparing, baiting and waiting.
I was never more proud of my dad for shooting his first (and last) black bear.

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2 thoughts on “THE BEAR

  1. Enjoyed your detailed, thrilling” adventure and was surprised by the unexpected and hapy ending..awesome job!!!

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