A Personal Bear Story!
When I was 13, I went to a summer camp specializing in wilderness canoe trips. One night, I woke to the sound of something smashing around our campsite. I stuck my head out of the tent and saw this black shape struggling with our wanigan.
(A wanigan looks like a wooden cooler; you carry it on your back using a leather tump strap)
I thought a camper was trying to get a roll of toilet paper out of the wanigan.
But it wasn't a camper—it was a bear. A very big bear!
Even though we mostly stored pots and pans in the wanigan, he must have thought it smelled pretty good. He couldn't open it, though, so he kept smashing it on the rocky ground.
By now, we were all wide awake.
We were five days from our drop spot and a hundred miles from civilization by car. This could be bad.
Our guide yelled, 'run for the canoes!'. We got them into the water and paddled out onto the lake. Then we banged our paddles on the gunnels (canoe rails), making a lot of noise, trying to chase the bear away.
The bear happily ignored us . . . Because now, he'd found our food stash! We'd hidden it away, but bears have an excellent sense of smell. He sat down and started munching.
Our guide was furious. We were sure we'd be stuck in the middle of nowhere, starving to death. This was before cell phones, so we couldn't call for help.
The guide decided he'd had enough. He paddled back to shore, climbed out of his canoe, and marched toward that bear, shouting, "Get away! Get away, bear!"
I thought this was pretty heroic. But the bear wasn't impressed. He chewed on a crust of our bread, enjoying his banquet.
Our guide went extreme. He threw a stone at the bear. We gasped, watching from the safety of our canoes.
The stone missed.
"Get away!" the guide shouted again.
The second rock he threw struck home. It hit the bear right in his big, furry behind. That got the bear's attention. He turned and eyeballed our guide over one shoulder.
Then, I'm not kidding, the bear let out a big sigh. He might as well have rolled his eyes. He put down his bread crust, got up, and moseyed off, like a party crasher who knew he wasn't wanted. I almost felt sorry for the big guy.
Until I learned that the bear had eaten everything except a jar of peanut butter and a burnt crust of bannock bread.
Although it was the middle of the night, I was already starving, thinking of the days ahead with no food!
We needed help. We got out our maps and flashlights and found an outpost several days away. We could only hope it still existed. At dawn, we set out. For two days, we ate peanut butter on spoons. But luck was with us, and this story has a happy ending. The outpost was real. Even better, it had a pay phone. We called for help, and an emergency float plane arrived the next day, loaded with delicious supplies.
I like to think we helped fatten that bear up for the winter. I bet he thought it was a tasty, strange, and unforgettable feast.
As for us campers, we had a great story to tell once the emergency was over. I'll never forget that big sigh of his. What a personality. I'll be thinking about that bear for decades.
Phew, that was a long story!
If you're still with me, that bear was on my mind when my co-author, Ellie Crowe, suggested we do a grizzly maze book.
I loved the idea, so we did.
While I Escaped The Grizzly Maze is a very different story than my own, it's full of unforgettable bears. Some are fun, and some are grizzly scary.
It's packed full of adventure, so if you're a bear lover or have any bear lovers in your home, I hope you'll check it out. Let me know if you do, I'd love to hear from you. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed hanging out with our fictional characters Cody, Samantha, and Matt in Katmai National Park!