I’m lucky enough to live next to a mountain trail. Hiking takes me away from my regular life to a place of serenity.
Because of the recent forest fires, the fire department cleared the brush as a precaution. As great as that is for the mountain, it makes for a grueling hike in the hot sun.
I began my two-mile trek up the steep incline at around eight, hoping to beat the heat. I did not beat the heat, but I was determined not to let the heat beat me.
I took the small trail off the beaten path down to my favorite spot, First Water. But there was no babbling brook of melted snow – another victim of climate change.
I took refuge under the canopy of thick trees that cooled the area and provided a lovely haven. I plopped down on the bench that was an Eagle Scout’s project and let out a loud sigh.
I. Had. Made. It.
My stillness was interrupted by splashing, like kids playing in a swimming pool. Hmmm. Quietly I peered over the boulders.
“Holy crap!” A Mama Bear and her two cubs frolicked in the watering hole.
The Mama Bear climbed out and grunted at her cubs. Playfully, they hopped out of the water, shook off the residue, and made whining sounds, “but Moooooom.” That’s what I thought I heard, anyway.
While hiding in the foliage, I watched as the cubs roughhoused. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. At the same time, the Mama Bear couldn’t take her eyes off of me.
Suddenly, she charged at me. For a big girl, she can move fast. Taking the hint, I backed off.
“Fine,” I said, “I’m a mom too. Don’t worry.”
Then I noticed the yellow tag on her left ear. “I know you. You’re the one that keeps getting into my trashcan. I talked to you last night about not making such a mess, remember?”
She looked at me differently, “Oh, right! I thought you looked familiar.”
Relaxed, she turned her attention back to her cubs. I made myself comfortable, leaned on a rock, and took it all in. This must have been how Jane Goodall felt when she discovered the chimpanzees.
At one point, the adventurous cub waddled right up to me like a Labrador. He was so close I could have reached out and petted him, but not a good idea. Mama Bear glanced over at me as if to say, “He’s always getting into trouble, that one.”
The cub lost interest. I guess humans aren’t that interesting after all. Close to an hour passed while I sat on my rock. The Mama Bear brushed up against my leg. Oddly, I wasn’t frightened. Equally strange, she didn’t smell bad. It was the most Zen moment of my life.
Then, without warning, I heard a quartet of cowbells rattling from atop the trail. Men shouted, “WE ARE HERE TO SAVE YOU! WE’RE COMING DOWN.”
“Like hell you are!” I called back, attempting an unalarming tone. “Please stop your bells.”
“ARE YOU TRAPPED BY THE BEAR?” Another man, at the ready, shouted.
“No, thank you, I’m fine.” I waved them off.
I checked in with Mama Bear, who was unfazed by the disruption, “Do they think those bells scare me?”
Dejected, the strapping men strapped their bells back onto their belts and clattered away. I overheard one refer to me as “The Crazy Bear Lady”.
A moniker I will wear proudly.
It was time to go. I wished my bear friends a lovely afternoon.
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