I am hiking across acres of Southwest Colorado with my fabulous best friend, a Black Mouth Cur that I named, appropriately, “Blessing” on our morning “walk” through the fields and woods of the farm where we now live. It is out … Continue reading
TRAVELING ALONG THIS IMPRESSIVE RIVER, WHICH IS FLOWING NORTHWEST, paralleling the coast, I scramble up a hill for a photo op. Standing as close to the edge of my perch as safely possible, I hesitate to begin shooting. The awe and power of the river is complimented by the fantastic diversity of the rock walls and it is commanding my full attention. Clearly, iron dominates the rock canyon, leaving a fantastic rusty patina which is frequently interrupted with dark green trees and shrub. Gray to black mudstones, siltstones and sandstones further the pleasant variations. Even a swipe of golden brown color to complete the picture.
The river’s edge cuts a raw, white, jagged saw tooth line, the salt-crusted shoreline and boulders that rise above the water, where the natural water’s pulse and current spray have frequently misted the protruding boulders, scatter these highlights throughout the landscape. The current is intense, furious whenever the canyon walls insinuate upon the channel.
There is an odd, captivating rock formation close to the more turbulent section of the channel. It appears as though molten gray rock has spilled from the canyon wall with a round, spoon-shaped end closest to the water’s edge with its wide handle, ladle-like, balancing on the upper riverbank. This salmon-frequented river flows primarily northeast before changing course to southern pastures and wetlands.
Only a few hours into the trek and I’m met with dry-grass contrasting a man-made path with lush forests of oak and pines and other trees that I can’t distinguish, looming into its distant future. This revs my energy level, the promise of cooler, green pastures is inviting.
It doesn’t take long to leave signs of civilization behind and soon the hushed, fog-covered forest embraces my curious nature. Every step is soft, debris-mulched and fragrant under my boot.
This is true paradise.
On up the trail I continue, not knowing just why I feel I should get really deep into the forest today but I am very happy to be here, doing what I’m doing. The scenery never gets old, thank You God. The wildflowers are in full bloom and some are exceedingly fragrant. Their youth is renewed every spring, man, what a thrill that must be! I continue to scan the ubiquitous plant life and deeply inhale the surrounding scents. The perfume of the forest, nothing can beat it. The fragrances change as I proceed, pine mingling with wild licorice, licorice mingling with bay, bay mingling with mustard … I’m not sure if the oak trees have a scent but their dropped acorns are like marbles under my boots.
There is a spot reserved for me under a very large sequoia, its branches outstretched in a welcoming, “Come hither, under my canopy and rest.” I oblige. I remove my pack, habitually snapping the belt closed and settle down for a snack. The sound of rusting paper from my energy bar has apparently alerted many creatures, the most forward and aggressive of which is the scrub jay in front of me. Not far behind are a few squirrels & chipmunks in various stages of anticipation and wariness, and I’m beginning to wonder where Thumper and Bambi are.
I ignore the advancing blue jay and tip my head back to see if I can see any sky. What I do see sends my heart racing and my hands shaking.
My head now on a swivel, I check my surroundings more thoroughly, then up again into the trees. I begin to rise, keeping my eyes on the trees above me, moving ever so carefully, forcing slow and deliberate movement.
Where is mama bear?
Two curious black bear cubs are peeking down and over the foliage of the pine that is right next to the big sequoia that I am against. Still looking up, I reach for my pack, once again thankful for my habit of cinching the belt, and toss my power bar over past the oak that holds the cubs. Backing away, thankful for the soft, cushy debris and needle-carpeted ground I am looking everywhere. Seriously everywhere. Behind me, above me, beside me. No longer does my immediate forest hold a critter audience, the animals have left town.
I just can not even believe this is happening.
My heart ratchets yet another level as I swing my eyes towards the scraping, then soft thump sound. NO WAY! Those cubs are heading towards me, SNAP! I speak firmly to them, “No bear!” but apparently they don’t understand English. The larger of the two is still, although a bit hesitant, coming forward. I am nearly paralyzed with fear. WHERE IS MAMA BEAR?
I bump into a bush, maybe a tree I don’t really care and could not afford to be distracted with finding out. My entire body is shaking, my muscles feel weak, defenseless and inadequate. I sneak a look and find the path I came in on still backing away. Both cubs seem to be very perplexed, the smaller a bit distracted with a flying insect of sorts, the other looking from its sibling then to me, sizing up the situation. Thankfully they are remaining grounded where they are. But for how long, and the million dollar question: Where’s mama bear?!
I need not wonder any longer.
Emerging from the underbrush, sending a fleeting glance toward my power bar, is protective mama bear! She brawls at her cubs like a mother admonishing her children for straying beyond the yard, then gives her full, very direct attention to me. Somehow I continue to back away, averting eye contact, wild and insane thoughts swirling through my mind. Out of the corner of my eye I see the cubs scrambling up a tree to safety. Obedient children now that mom’s back.
Realizing that I have been shaking my head in a “no, no, no!” while retreating further, I force every cell, every adrenalin dump into sniper-concentrated focus. I know the choices on what to do, now how on earth do I choose which avenue to take? “Read the body language” comes back to memory and I continue backing away, not saying a word, my hands needlessly out in a “stay away” gesture.
Mama grunts threats, her sounds deep and quite menacing, then makes a swipe at the ground in front of her, sending dust and sticks flying into the air, shaking her lowered head. I’m reminded of a bull about to charge and I’m certain I’m going to lose it completely, right here. Right now. She has not charged me, I take this as a very good sign. I am still backing away when suddenly I’m falling, and I still haven’t landed yet!
Tangled in brush and briars, I look up the hill to see if she has decided to follow, then end me. Piece by piece, Marybeth-mulch nourishing the forest. At this point I have lost all reason, tearing my clothes and skin as I thrash through the sticky under brush in full panic mode. I don’t see her, I have lost my pack somewhere along the fall and I no longer care. I am completely overcome with irrational fear as I begin to run down the trail. DO NOT RUN FROM A PREDATOR but I figure after the fall that I’m far enough away and I’m around the bend so that she can’t see me? Panic trumps reason, it really does.
I am back to the manmade pathway, out of the dense forest and I have not heard any movement or growl behind me since the fall but every fiber of my being is still at high alert. I collapse in a sobbing heap, then I begin to laugh. I think perhaps I’m hysterical, just a thought.
Once I recovered and was shakily on my way home I was first, exceedingly grateful that I was reasonably unharmed. Physically. Emotionally I’ll probably never be the same. I thought about the good habit of keeping my keys and phone separate from my pack and for the habit of always fastening my pack belt. Even though I lost my pack, had I not fallen, I would have had it for minute protection or for the first aid kit inside it.
Establishing good hiking habits and knowing how to interpret and react to animal behavior goes a very long way. Even when you mess up the best laid plans.
For information on safety, signs of presence, and first aid please click:
A child died of a gunshot wound on Saturday at a popular campground in Yellowstone National Park, according to park officials, who said the girl’s mother reported that her young daughter had shot herself with a handgun.
Emergency responders were unable to resuscitate the girl after her mother called emergency dispatchers from a campsite near Yellowstone Lake, park spokesman Al Nash said in a statement.
The names of the mother and girl in the incident, which is under investigation, were not released pending notification of extended family members, Nash said. The child’s age was also not released.
A U.S. law that took effect in 2010 allowed people to carry guns into national parks as long as federal, state and local firearms laws were met, according to the National Park Service.
Although hunting is permitted at a handful of national parks, including Grand Teton in Wyoming, hunting or even firing a gun is unlawful in Yellowstone, according to park literature.
The forested campsite where the shooting occurred sits near a developed area in the Wyoming section of the park known as Grant Village, which features a ranger station, lodge, stores and other amenities.
Yellowstone, which was the first area designated a U.S. national park and is among the country’s most popular outdoor destinations, spans 2.2 million acres of pine forests, river valleys, mountain lakes and geysers in parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, and attracts about 3 million visitors a year.
The monstrous California wildfire that has scorched an area nearly the size of New York City doesn’t just loom over hundreds of homes — it’s also threatening one of the cornerstones of the regional economy: cattle.
Many of the thousands of grass-fed cows who have grazed on lush land in the Stanislaus National Forest — where the massive fire sparked Aug. 17 — are now feared displaced, wounded or dead, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
As local ranch hands deal with their potentially decimated stock — and with the future of grazing in the forest area unclear — the regional cattle industry may take a big hit, according to the newspaper.
“They go out every day, gathering the cows they can find, the ones that have made it into the green areas,” Susan Forbes, a national forest staffer, told the Chronicle. “They’re finding pockets of livestock and concentrating on removing them as fast as they can.”
Forbes told the newspaper that 12 of 36 grazing grounds in the park were devastated by the blaze. Herds of cattle are now scattered over thousands of acres — making evacuation efforts a huge challenge.
The Golden state accounts for 7.4 percent of the U.S. national revenue for livestock and livestock products. It’s also the number one state in cash farm receipts, making up 11.6 percent of the U.S. total, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
Cattle and calves were California’s fifth leading commodity two years ago, and remain a chief state resource, according to CDFA data.
Meanwhile, crews battling the so-called Rim Fire made significant gains overnight, officials said.
The fire was 60 percent contained Monday morning, a jump from 45 percent Sunday night, said Dan Bastion, a spokesman for the multiagency fire management team.
Cooler temperatures and higher humidity allowed crews to get an advantage on the fire overnight, according to Bastion.
“The fire is a little less active today,” Bastion said early Monday.
And yet the so-called Rim Fire grew slightly late Sunday, and now spans over 357 square miles, or 228,670 acres, making it the fourth-largest blaze in modern California history, he said. It surpasses a 1932 fire in Ventura County, according to officials.
The fire threatens some 4,500 homes, although many of those structures are “not in imminent danger,” Bastion said. Some 11 residences have already burned down, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Mandatory evacuations still stand for some people south of Highway 120. Tioga Road west of Yosemite Creek Picnic Area remains shuttered, according to The Associated Press.
Crews will continue building fire lines and scorching away the fire’s potential fuel sources Monday, according to the wire service.
Authorities are investigating the cause of the blaze, but the possibility that it was started by an illegal marijuana growing operation was recently raised by a fire chief in Tuolomne County.
Todd McNeal, fire chief in the town of Twain Harte, west of Yosemite, said at an Aug. 23 community meeting that officials “know it’s human caused, there’s no lightning in the area. … (We) highly suspect that it might be some sort of illicit grove, marijuana grow-type thing.”
His comments surfaced in a YouTube video of the meeting.
However, Rim Fire spokesman Brian Haines told NBC Bay Area that at this juncture, the marijuana theory is merely “an opinion.”
In June, 15,000 marijuana plants were pulled out the forest to the south and four miles of irrigation pipe were removed, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
The newspaper said a 40-acre wildfire the month earlier in the same area was blamed on marijuana growers tied to Mexican drug cartels.
Unmanned drone is the latest tool in the battle against the wildfire raging at Yosemite National Park.
The MQ-1 National Guard unmanned aircraft being remotely piloted hundreds of miles away quickly alerted fire bosses to a new flare-up they otherwise wouldn’t have immediately seen.
“This morning it’s allowed us to see a spot fire,” said Mike Wilkins, commander of forces at the Rim Fire.
The 12-day-old Rim Fire continued to grow, expanding to 292 square miles, and containment remained at 23 percent. But increasingly confident fire officials said they expect to fully surround it in three weeks, although it will burn for much longer than that.
Each icon represents one of the dozens of large fires currently burning across the West.
“It’s looking better every day,” said incident spokesman Glen Stratton.
While unmanned aircraft have mapped past fires…
View original post 991 more words
Fire officials said the blaze burning in remote, steep terrain in Northern California had grown to more than 84 square miles and was only 2 percent contained on Thursday, down from 5 percent a day earlier.
Members of the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors gathered Wednesday night to write a resolution asking Gov. Jerry Brown for help, according to NBCBayArea.com.
Despite the progress crews made Wednesday, the fire has gone from burning 16,000 acres on Wednesday to 54,000 acres Thursday morning — making it almost twice the size of the city of San Francisco.
The fire fight is in its sixth day against the aggressive flames that have burned through trees, brush and nine structures.
Crews were forced to close parts of Highway 120, a main east-west route that leads into the national park, and other roads because of the active fire. About 1,300 fire crews are battling the blaze.
The U.S. Forest Service announced Wednesday that it is running out of funds to fight wildfires and is diverting $600 million from timber and recreation. It has already spent $967 million on the more than 32,000 wildfires this year.
THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING SYNTHETIC ABOUT THE WILDERNESS. It is so fresh, so honest and seemingly random. Zero pretense. I like it. I like it a lot. I think that God is expressing His majesty, His creative, limitless presence through nature, and through His people that He loves when we allow Him to. I’m surrounded by His presence, the evidence expressed in the numerous species of living things, the vastness of the sky, the universe. Even in the great variety of color. I suspect green is His favorite since it renews, returns every spring. Through His inexhaustible imagination, through His power over all, for nothing is too difficult for Him. Nothing.
It’s my first time “caving” and I’m stoked. As I drive through the winding road to get down to the caves entrance, I see movement off to my left. The dark form is heading up onto the road and I slam on brakes. Bear! Frantically, I scramble for my camera and head out onto the road. The bear is thin, and its fur is mangy. It stopped its foraging as soon as I exited my car and is now heading back down the hillside. It cries out with what almost sounds like “Ma!” Now I can’t see it any longer, only the movement of the brush branches; so I try tracing the moving bushes but come up empty. Just as I’m heading back I see it scuttle down from the tree it had scrambled up on. Obviously I really scared it, and clearly from its size it’s a juvenile, probably the runt of the litter at that; I’m mildly surprised it’s still alive. Disappointed that I missed yet another photo op, I continue my drive down towards the cave.
THE SOUND OF THE MOVING WATERS, SOME SCANTILY, some pooled, some rushing with surprising power, sound utterly fantastic in this underground world. The sights from initial to final are breathtaking. The stalactites (above, holding on tight/”tite”) and the stalagmites (below, powering up with might/”mites”) are plentiful, so varied. As I continue forward, my eyes feast upon the variety of tites, mites, soda straws, flowstones, helictites, and pillars. The few strategically placed lights (solar-powered from above) really highlight and enhanced the colors and other-worldly formations of mineral deposits. It’s wonderfully cool in this massive cave and plenty dark as well. I find that I’m just a tad off-balance working my way through the darkness but the tour is quite impressive. Most of the pics I take are in the complete dark and it wasn’t until I uploaded them onto my computer that I was able to see and appreciate them. Seriously cool formations, what an excellent adventure.
AS I HEAD BACK, I’M MINDFUL OF THE SECTION WHERE I SPOTTED THE JUVENILE bear and sure enough, I see the tip of an ear! With my heart racing, I pull over and I am shocked to see mama bear! I am so completely stoked, I am giggling as I capture her doing what is completely natural for her, in her natural habitat.
I don’t see the juvenile, but I’m very excited to have mama all to myself.
I even stopped snapping pics just to watch her. She’s so casual, sitting back as if the twisted undergrowth is her personal lounge chair. She swipes lazily at a berry-laden branch and pulls the berries to her mouth. I can’t completely comprehend just how relaxed she is, for she sure can see me if I can see her.
She gnaws gently at her leg, obviously taking care of an annoying itch. I glance over my shoulder time to time, just to be sure another bear isn’t coming up from behind me.
Remembering that these bears come down to lower elevations during this time of year to climb up into the oak trees to feed on acorns, I also scan nearby tree tops.
All is well, bless God.
Figuring I don’t want to intrude any longer, (I could have stayed all day, the relaxed actions of this powerful animal is fascinating.) I trek back to my truck and head on up to the main road. All the while I am laughing, thanking and praising God for the fantastic treat, and to have been able to safely capture some of it on film … well,
I flat-out got a slice of heaven today!
Thank You, Lord, that You made up for my missing a pic of the juvenile that I encountered earlier for an even better photo op!
Next, I need a picture of my own of the ever-elusive mountain lion.
That would really put me over the edge!
GRATEFUL FOR THIS NEW LEASE ON LIFE, THE OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE THE TIME to be outdoors experiencing, sighting, encountering, exploring, smelling, hearing, feeling, tracking, enjoying, documenting, collecting, photographing, fearing.Grateful for the physical demands; the climbing, the meager oxygen, the falling, the decent, the blisters, the aching muscles, the pain, cuts and bruises, the heat, the cold, the hunger and the thirst. Even the threatening times, the terror, the confusion, or when I’ve attempted a trail far beyond my experience or abilities.
Grateful that I began to notice that I tend to look down, straight ahead or to the side as I walk. Rarely up. Once I began to look up, what a refreshing perspective! (Not to mention the numerous stars!) This perspective reminds me to look up to Him, in all circumstances. In all trials, joyous occasions, new experiences, past experiences, and throughout my life, because there are continuous lessons to be learned and appreciated. It’s amazing what can be discovered when I look up time to time.
Grateful that I’m never too old to learn, to enjoy, to embrace, to change. Cherished family, good friends, warm hearts become my sum total. The heartache, trials and loss although perceived as beyond my ability of bearance, somehow I endure and I survive, building strength and character along the way. My heart overflows with memories and timeline snapshots of my life, some more vibrant than others, but forever locked away never to be forgotten.
I’m grateful and appreciate all of it. For I have a completely new field and range of admiration towards my creative, wise, uncreated God by witnessing His handiwork and experiencing His discipline, lessons, companionship, protection, His leading, clear intervention and approval. And through this, I am also finding purpose along the way.
And most importantly: He loves me and isn’t afraid to show it.
I’M IN A DIFFERENT SORT OF FOREST THIS OUTING. THE TOWERING, aptly named Giant Sequoia’s are a jaw-dropping experience to stand beneath. Exceedingly lush greenery, ferns, flowers and low-lying brush all dazzle the eye with such a nutrient-rich intensity, thriving in rich beauty beneath the trees. The large trees with thick, impressive branches often inhibit rainwater, greedily absorbing the moisture before it reaches the plant life beneath them. But the cool, moisture-rich fog that lingers beneath the trees keeps the forest floor inhabitants hydrated, allowing the plants to look longingly up at the giant redwoods. It seems almost as a love-story, the duo-shared nutrients feeding the other, depending upon one another in an almost intimate manner.
Even the long ago felled giants continue to feed the forested floor with the decaying wood. Beautiful, full ferns sprout from the tops of the now sideways trees. The champions lay precisely where they fell after a devastating flood in the 1960’s, their root system so very shallow, could not keep them upright in the weakened, saturated soil. I can only imagine the impact of it hitting the ground, surely it felt like an earthquake. The roar had to have been something of a train wreck and the massive wave it created in the flood waters must have been intense-intense. I picture something similar to high tide waves hitting cliff shore boulders, the impressive splash and height the foamy water reaching high, violently into the blue.
Its resting length is more than half of a football field and impossible to scramble to the end with the dense new-growth forest swaddling, caressing it. Even in its death it is fertilizing the forest for long-term health and providing essential habitats for endangered animal and insect species. Accordingly, these fallen trees are called nurse logs since they provide ecological facilitation to seedlings.
Puts giving your life for another in a completely different perspective.
These colossal ancient-of-days are at least 21 feet in diameter, jutting their spiking crowns 200-feet to over 400-feet into the sky. The thick, fibrous and split bark snakes irregularly upward and outward, cultivating protective highways and byways; trunk to branch, branch to twig, to the very narrow, high top of the tree. Protection is its mile marker, shielding the delicate inner structures from injury. This “guardian” is a thing of beauty, with tints of brown and red, shades of sienna and burnt umber all richly textured and variant. The cluster of trees so similar, the hues quite individual.
THE FOLLOWING MORNING I LEAVE MY CAMP EARLY AND BEGIN TO EXPLORE MORE FOREST. The feel of the land is very different in the early morning; a sense of refuge fills my spirit. Mystifying, even magical. So very quiet and tranquil. The environment is similar to a rain forest from another part of the world. Well, at least similar to photographs that I have seen of rain forests. And fortunately, this woodland is lacking the deadly snakes. There is a fantastic hush, a peaceful wonder in the air. The intensity of the giants can be overwhelming.
What an impressive, imaginative, creative God we serve. To have even thought up the idea of more than a septillion of created forms, with their reproductive capacities not to mention the inner, intricate workings and details, how it all works together, harmoniously, it’s too much for me to comprehend!
My God truly reigns.
A wild turkey trots across the path, quickly into camouflaging brush, and unfortunately too quick for me to capture on camera. Well, snap! I decide to stand still for a spell, see what else may cross my path. No more critters, but I spot an ugly banana slug among the debris. It is yellow-green with brown splotches, vacuuming the forest floor. Pass.
I capture a few pics of smaller nurse logs, redwood sorrel, orangebush monkey flower, a plethora of various ferns and mosses, and of course a pretty butterfly. Scrub jays are in abundance and squawk their territorial ranges, jousting, flying swiftly at intruding jays much like fighter jets.
I stand and attempt pics demonstrating the extreme height of the redwoods but struggle with getting dizzy as I tip my head back to capture it. Seriously. This really is “looking up”. But I did get some photos nonetheless.
I’m intrigued by the notches that remain in the tree stumps. I investigate and learn that the lumberjacks would hatch these notches in order to insert what is called a springboard. After seeing an old photo of these springboards, trust me, they are aptly named. One end of the board is placed in the notch, then they continue up the tree until the final springboard is inserted. It becomes a “platform” for the logger to begin chopping the behemoth down, all by hand. The springboard is used to get beyond the widest part of the tree to begin chopping at a narrower section. I would suppose that while they stood on these springboards, with the action of chopping either another notch to get higher, or from the vigorous action of sawing the giant tree down, that those boards they were standing on really began to “spring” up and down.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until much later that they discovered the wood from these trees was inadequate for building. Such an incredible, mortifying shame to have logged these ancient giants for nothing.
Crazy or gutsy, or desperate for work?
I’m so glad we are learning from our mistakes and are becoming better stewards of our facinating planet. Be kind to your environment, and leave no trace of your adventuring.
There are interesting info and photos at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logging Please check it out. It even shows where one springboard is inserted in a neighboring tree, enabling the logger to walk along the springboard to the opposite tree with just a vertical board placed to support the unnotched end of the springboard.
Strolling along, enjoying the quiet tranquility of the forest stepping among mild weather, highlighted with a perfect breeze, I duck under a low-lying tree that has slid down the rain-softened mountainside, toppling it across the trail. I check the section that is obscured; I’m ever-snake-aware these days, watchful of my footing, particularly over a larger rock or a felled tree, who knows what’s on the other side? I note that I am sweating profusely as I check for snakes. I don’t like this fear I’ve developed, it’s unhealthy.
As I pass a few piles of bear scat, I’m reminded that I have bear bells in my pack. I’ve never felt the need to use them before but the bells are relentlessly drawing my attention. Finding scat and tracks along this trail is certainly not unusual, why this change of attitude? The impression is intense enough for me to stop and dig deep into my pack for the bells. I strap them to my trekking poles and continue my most-enjoyable morning trek.
Step jingle, step jingle.
There is sudden, chaotic movement ahead, my heart beats violently; I’m instantly alarmed. Something is just not right, there is an outright panic in the air! My ears are straining to distinguish the sounds that I hear. I recognize the sound of several hoof beats, at a gallop at that, but there is something far more fearsome, deep, heavy, and threatening. Three panicked deer are charging down the trail, oh man! Do they see me?! These animals are fast! I jump to the uphill side of the trail, plastering myself against the rough mountainside. A huge flying leap from the trail and they swiftly, gracefully disappear deep into the downhill brush.
Then a flat, deep noise that challenges my bladder control. This noise completely rattles my insides, weakens my bones and muscles. Undoubtedly this is a large animal making this noise; the air is motionless and thick with fear.
Then what sounds like a smaller animal, makes a sort of baying sound, almost a sheep-like “ba”, but not. Maybe it’s “ma, maw”. It sounds confused, if that’s possible, maybe frightened. I can’t explain it. Oh snap! More hard, deep and yet with an odd hollowness, chomping. Now I hear oruff, errhh, then a deep, heavy growl similar to the warning growl from a dog. The kind of growl you hear right before it attacks.
I’m suddenly drowning in a whirlpool of fear and panic.
It sounds like a large animal, panting with angry, heavy stomping and scraping against the earth. The snorting sounds like a charging bull that terrifies me beyond reason. Huff, pant, eerrhh. The noise is a psychological stun gun, keeps me from moving. I’m literally frozen in place. There’s chaotic noises among the brush, a different growl, then a howl, almost a yip, like it was injured, definitely a different animal. Are there two animals fighting? Now there’s heavy stomping, scraping, it’s the larger animal. Instinctive fear envelopes me. I feel as though I’m made of jig-saw puzzle pieces and each piece is about to unhinge from one another.
Silence. Heavy silence. Intimidating silence. Scary silence. Silence that is LOUD.
I look down at my chest to see if I am still breathing because i’m really not sure. Then I close my eyes, I’m trying really hard to refocus, to center myself, to trust my Savior. I’m afraid to look up or to look in any direction. My knees are buckling, an insane thought flashes through my mind: camera. I immediately dismiss it. I need to preserve myself first! Not exactly a Kodak moment here…
The forest is very, very still. Not a single squirrel stirred, not a single bird chirped, even the lizards sunning their selves have simply vanished. I think even the ants are frozen in their tracks. It’s as if a mega pause button has been pressed throughout the woods, with the entire world in slow motion.
Frantic, bizarre thoughts swirl: I think about the sound of crashing ocean waves, about the thrill of riding horseback at a smooth canter, about the stupid mending pile at my home … I need new tires for my car soon … HAVE I LOST MY MIND?
I don’t know how long I stayed plastered against the mountain. It seems as though I am waking up from a deep coma, my mind a little foggy, taking a bit to orient, I don’t trust my legs to support my walking much less standing. Standing still as though I’m part of this rough mountainside seems to be all that I can muster. I need to feel camouflaged. I am rock and leaves and dirt. I am the mountain.
Seeing nothing swing out from the bushes, no horrified deer charging my way, no more nerve-shattering dinosaur-level snapping sound, just the usual bit of small animal activity. Once again, the world around me is back to normal. Oh, the joy of the “little things” in life! I realize the threat is gone. Deep breath. Loosen the tight neck, swirling my head slowly. I reach for my fallen trekking poles. They jingle.
The bells that I have never used before. Until today. Thank God for giving me a heads up, for causing me to step aside momentarily. Who knows what the timing would have been, how this “encounter” may have changed if I had not stopped for a few minutes to strap on the bells?
“All those who know Your mercy, Lord, will count on You for help. For You have never forsaken those who trust in You.” Psalm 9:10
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
Lord, I want others to know just how accessible You are!
Todays Lesson Learned: The importance of being bear aware and never negotiate a blind trail-corner quietly. You never want to surprise a wild animal, much less a mother bear and cub. Whether you use bear bells (not my favorite) or chat with your partner, lightly clap your hands as you approach a bind corner, or simply sing softly as you relish your environment, these are all good methods to prevent a surprise for you or the animal. Pay attention to “warning signs” such as fresh bear scat, a fresh kill, etc. and adjust your trip accordingly. DO NOT HIKE QUIETLY.
Wondering why I (temporarily) developed a fear of snakes? See my post The Day I Stood On A Western Diamondback Rattler here at http://ow.ly/j3LdM Enjoy!
Visit me on Facebook for offers, photos, hiking and wildlife updates! http://ow.ly/hycIm
You can also visit me on Twitter @MarybethHaydon