Today I brought my official bear count for the season to 17 with my sighting of a local sow and her four (count ’em!) three year old cubs. There reason this particular sighting merits note above the others is because this one was slightly more life threatening. Rose and I were put on fuel delivery duty by driving several 55-gallon drums of aviation fuel to the air strip about half a mile away via four-wheeler. Rose was driving, and we were barreling along the grassy dunes on the way to the strip. Just as the thought crossed my mind that we were approaching the dump and might want to think about keeping an eye out for bears, we round the corner and are rather abruptly alerted to the presence of five large grizzly bears standing a painfully close ten yards away.
Rose and I immediately went into what I like to call “Oh shit, get us out of here” mode, and abandoned the four wheeler since neither of us were particularly good at backing it up with the trailer attached down the narrow one-lane track. I have never had to fight the urge to run as hard as I did for the next thirty seconds as we power walked back the way we had come. I think we seriously could have been power walking Olympic contenders there for a little bit, though I’m not sure if “bear fear” counts as an illegal steroid or not. All in all I was really impressed with the way we didn’t panic, calmly shut the four wheeler down, didn’t scream or run around waving our arms like tasty looking chickens with our heads cut off, or anything else that would have been a good laugh from a hospital bed. In hindsight (which, I’ve decided is the best way to look at an encounter with a bear), it probably wasn’t necessary to take the keys from the four wheeler when we made our get away since last I checked bears aren’t particularly capable drivers. Nevertheless, it was definitely the high point of my day, followed with a close second by polishing off the last of that vegetarian chili tonight. Safe hiking to everyone!