Last week was Jake’s 17 month birthday. I’m pretty sure that he has been exposed to more wild bears in 17 months than most people have in a lifetime. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
A couple of weeks ago Jacob came home with a great picture of an oso (that’s bear in Spanish. I’m sure you knew this in 9th grade but understand if you haven’t retained this tidbit of vocabulary). So Jakey brings home my new favorite piece of diningroom artwork. Later on, I was watching the news and he says “Oso, oso!” Not sure what the story was– I was too impressed with this new lexicon.
Rewind to when Jake was 3 1/2 months old… we decide to go to the hunting cabin in Pennsylvania with my family. There’s really nothing like camping in a cabin with no running water in the wilderness with a new baby. Actually, in hindsight, it was significantly better than 2 weekends ago. There I go again, getting ahead of myself. Anyway, we are at the cabin no more than 3 hours when James goes out the cabin door to check on his BBQ, holding Baby Jake in his arms. About 20 feet away a bear was “using the facilities,” right next to the outhouse. This was Jacob’s first encounter with Juan the Bear (who then proceeded to find Geoff, Angela and me up at the lake… but that’s another story for another time).
Now fast forward to two weekends ago. We went to Yosemite on a 3-night camping trip with the Kellums (Jamie, Marcus and Jack), the Palms (Melanie, Dave, Amelia and Chloe), and Jenny and Steve. Jenny and Steve got the “most adventurous award” in their actual enthusiasm about camping with 4 kids, 3 under the age of 1 1/2, none of them their own.
The campsite, Crane Flat, was a dirt pit. There were no showers. But wait, there’s more. Crane Flat “has a lot of bear activity.”
The first night I am convinced we all slept in ignorant bliss. The second night, not so much.
At about 1:30 in the morning, Jamie A. now K. awakens in the middle of the night and jabs Marcus. There’s a bear in our campsite. Marcus gets up and instead of making loud noises to scare the bear away (he missed this 30 second ranger tutorial when checking-in), quick jumps in his van and drives out looking for a ranger. Meanwhile Jamie is left cowering in terror, grasping her son who has only just celebrated his first birthday, that very night. We are ignorantly sawing zzzz’s 2 yards away in our tent. Of course the rangers work from 8am-6pm so Marcus returns and must take the situation into his own hands.
I wake-up to the following shouting outside our tent, “Get the f&*k out of here, F&8#er! I will kill you!” (This literally must have scared the s*&^ out of the bear, as we noticed the next morning.)
Jake stands up in his Pack n’ Play, disoriented. Then the bear bolts directly toward Jamie and Jack in their tent. Jamie watches through her little screened window in horror as the bear comes galloping directly at her, only to make a hard left turn after she has gotten a look right up his nostrils.
By this point I have sent James out of the tent to help save us. He comes back a bit later, reporting that the bear had gotten a white wine box that was left on top of our bear box. What was in this box you ask? Oh, just our leftover lunch… tuna fish, a box of Pepperidge Farm Chocolate Entertaining Collection cookies, and a gourmet orange Izzie soda. The bear ate the cookies and drank the soda. Great, I was really looking forward to eating some more of those cookies! And now it’s our fault that we are being terrorized by the bear. There is a fine if the rangers find you are at fault for “bear activity.”
I am frozen in terror, clutching my flashlight and watching every shadow illuminated on the sides of our new tent mansion. I don’t think the bear will purposely get me, but is likely to lumber right through my tent out of sheer bewilderment. There is an invisible tent cable that keeps tripping all of us. The bear will surely trip on this and come sprawling through my “screen porch.” Jake is cocooned in my sleeping bag in case I have to sacrifice myself to save the innocent. James finally comes back to bed.
I hear a twig crack. My heart is racing. “James, I think the bear is out there.” James sticks his head out of the tent–the bear is hiding in the woods by our microscopically thin, nylon door, hoping to sneak back for the overlooked tuna fish. Somehow the bear gets back in and fearfully, climbs a tree directly over our bear box in the middle of our camp.
All I can think about is how I left my chapstick in our daypack in our tent. With me. And little helpless Baby Jake. Anything that smells is supposed to be in the bear box. Please God, don’t let me die for a tube of Blistex. Why did I watch that news story about the camper being bitten in his tent in Yellowstone, and then the next guy being killed? (Luckily I didn’t watch the show Melanie watched, “When Bears Attack.”) Exhausted, I finally fall asleep.
On the third and last night I did a thorough camp inspection. Anything remotely bear-bait-like was stowed safely in the bear box. All night I can hear “Pepperidge the Bear” terrorizing other campers above us on this hill. Each time these crazy people would hit their car panic buttons, lay on their horns and wake us up with the clambor of what we deemed “The Bear Parade.” I kept my big pan and wooden spoon next to my bed in case I needed to save my family. We were so thankful when these campers scared a new bear back through our campsite on the morning of the third day.
Jake loved camping… tons of dirt, sugary snacks, swimming every day. I am still beary tired.