Monday, June 9, 2008

Close Encounter with a Black Bear

The kids and I loaded up our backpacks this afternoon for a training hike (we'll be hiking the Chilkoot Trail in a few weeks, a 33-mile, 5-day trek) and headed down the hill towards Kachemak Bay. Our road turns into a dirt track that meanders down a couple miles to a retired couple's home where it ends. As we headed down I kept my eyes roving for wildlife as usual, and noted that the swampy area, thick alders, canyon and stream would be great habitat for bear and other wildlife. With this in mind, I kept up a steady stream of chatter with the kids and talked louder than usual.

The trip down was uneventful. As we headed back up the trail, conversation lagged since we were a little more breathless. I suggested we sing some songs, and we were about halfway through a rousing rendition of "The Littlest Worm" chorus song when a huge, beautiful, glossy black bear came crashing up the embankment of a stream that ran by the trail, just ahead of us. It headed across the path and crashed off into the alders on the other side. As Denver said later, his body stretched clear across the trail.

It happened so fast--seconds--from the time I saw the bear, told the kids to stop, and it was gone. I told Aurora to keep singing and we went on, with some glances over our shoulders from time to time. It fueled us to get back up the hill. I had a hard time getting Aurora to stop singing! We didn't relax until we were out of the woods and back on the gravel road.

It was a good reminder. I am always telling the kids to talk, talk loud, and make noise when we're out in the woods, and until now I don't think they really understood the importance of doing so. This could have ended differently, as any encounter with a wild animal is not predictable. But we did a number of things right, and now I can say "The Littlest Worm" saved us!

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