Who: Suzanne Leigh, teacher, surfer, currently living in Japan
Where: Yosemite, California
What: “In my early thirties, I started dating someone who appeared to be a clean-cut, blond-haired, blue-eyed, California-boy. As a single mom, my dating pool was limited, so a cute bachelor in his thirties who was cool with kids was quite a find. Especially one who professed to have a love for nature and sports. I should have been suspicious right away.
Our first dates were fun. I suppose planning a backpacking trip in Yosemite was our equivalent of taking our relationship to the next level.
And so, having secured a baby sitter for my son, we threw our packs in the back of his pick up truck, stocked up on enough food for 4 days, and off we went.
The Young Lakes are a group of three alpine lakes at around 10,000 feet near the northeastern boundary of Yosemite. By the time we arrived at the lowest of the three lakes, we were both exhausted and ready to set up camp.
Having cooked and eaten dinner, we were relaxing as the sun streaked an array of orange behind the trees, when we heard pans banging together from the other tent across the lake.
I had never had a run in with a bear in the wild before. I racked my brain trying to remember what I had been taught in Girl Scouts.
“String the food in a bag and hoist it up a tree?”
“Put your arms over your head to appear larger than the bear and intimidate it? Or was it play dead?”
I couldn’t remember.
And as we were trying to figure out what to do about the food, my California Nature Boy (CNB) said, “Don’t worry. We’ll hide it in the rocks. Bears don’t walk on rocks.”
Me: “What? Are you serious? Of course bears walk on rocks. How do you think they catch fish?”
CNB: “Hey listen! I know what I’m doing. It’s a fact! Bears don’t like rocks!” he yelled angrily, raising his voice.
It was our first and last argument, ever.
I pretended to sulk off into the tent. But what I was really doing was taking all of the Power Bars out of the food bag. I shoved them in my hoodie front pocket along with a plastic bag and left the tent, saying I was going for a walk.
So while CNB was very craftily hiding the food amidst the boulders, I put the Power Bars in the plastic bag with some rocks. I tied a knot in the bad and sunk it in the lake about two feet below the surface by a big tree.
We didn’t speak to each other for the rest of the night. We lay in our sleeping bags, back to back in silence, waiting for the inevitable approach of the bear.
I must have dozed off.
CNB: “It’s here! It’s here! The bear!”
I heard it. The muffled sound of its breathing as it scraped and scuffed about the site, seeking and smelling. And then, as predicted, it went directly for the rocks.
I could hear it haul the food bag out, rip it open and then the sound of torn packaging, chewing and huffing. It was over in about 3 minutes.
I curled up in my sleeping bag fuming at my stupidity for venturing off into the wilderness before getting to know this guy better. I didn’t care about the bear anymore. And I don’t think the bear cared about me either, because it silently slunk away.
After packing up, we headed back to the trail.
CNB: “I’m sorry that bear got our food,” he said. “I swear that bears don’t walk on rocks. It’s weird. That bear must have been special.”
‘It wasn’t the bear that was special’, I thought and tossed him a Power Bar.”
This is an edited version of Suzanne’s story. The complete story is on her blog.