Ever since I was a little girl, I have been fascinated by bears. Not the poor souls you see in zoos, but real-life bears. I'm sure it started with stories my grandfather told me as he walked me to school about bears who liked to eat little girls and who happened to live RIGHT THERE IN THE WOODS NEAR MY HOUSE. Like most little girls and granddaughters, I wasn't sure if he was serious or not, but I wasn't taking any chances. I held on tightly to his hand, just in case.
In kindergarten, I wrote not one, but two, happy bear stories (evidently, I wasn't very creative when it came to titles).
This love affair continued into my professional life where the bear stories made their way onto my About page.
I found the bear stories a couple of years ago in a box salvaged from my childhood. I've shared one of the stories here, complete with illustrations:
So why has this come up now? Because a couple of weeks ago, we visited the Peaks of Otter Lodge off the Blue Ridge Parkway. During the check-in process, I read the bulletin put out by the National Parks Service about how the bear population has increased. "Woo hoo!" I told Mark. "Maybe we'll get to see a bear!"
Mark, born in Alaska, the REAL wilderness, says, "Um, you might not really want to see a bear."
"Well, I want to see a bear from a safe distance," I amended.
"Define 'safe distance.'"
"Well, a distance that is safe so that I'm not harmed." Duh, I'm thinking.
Not thoroughly convinced of my propensity toward caution, Mark shakes his head.
Fast forward to the next day, where we start out on a fairly strenuous hike up Sharp's Point (there's a reason it's called that). About ten minutes into the hike, I stop, turn around to Mark who is behind me (which, I realized later, is a male protective strategy - protect from what's coming behind) and whisper, "I got my wish."
There it was. Black and beautiful. It was above us on a ridge, sort of walking parallel to us. We kept walking up the trail, with Mark wondering if the bear was going to interesect with our trail.
As we got further ahead (at a safe distance, mind you!), we could see that our trail was crossing a park service road. The bear was walking on the road while we were walking on the trail.
(I can just imagine what the bear was thinking: "Why in the world are the stupid humans walking on the rocky, root-ridden trail when there's a perfectly fine and smooth road to be had?")
The bear turned off the road and went down the hill away from us, and as he turned, we could see he was pretty young.