Fearless and Foolish

When I returned to Yosemite with my husband in 2004, after spending a night up on Clouds Rest, we hiked over to Sunrise Lakes and spent a night there.

Sunrise Lakes consists of three lakes that are at different elevations on the mountain.  We hiked our way up to the top lake, eventually coming to an area that was a popular place to camp.  As we passed a group’s campsite, a young woman stepped out of a tent.  She told us her friends went on a day hike and she decided to stay behind and read.  After chatting for a bit, we continued on, hiking over a ridge and finding a spot to set up our own, much smaller camp.

After getting our site setup, we were about to take a dip in the lake when the girl from next door appeared.

“Uh. . . can I hang out with you guys for a little bit?” she asked.

As it turned out, there was a black bear in her campsite.  I insisted we go back and chase it away or it would never leave them alone.

So, we returned to her site to discover a relatively small black bear (who was actually brown) had found a bag of trash that had been left in an open bear canister.

I have to take a moment to get on a soap box here.  We had never backpacked in a park where you had to use bear canisters before.  But, when we got our permit, the ranger explained to us why we needed them and how to use them.  We followed the instructions carefully.  They were simple:

  1. Anything that has a scent must go into the bear canister.
  2. Your kitchen area must be at least 50 feet from your tent
  3. Any and all leftover food, pot scrapings, wrappers, trash, etc have scent; refer to rule 1.
  4. The bear canister must be properly closed.
  5. A properly closed bear canister can be set on the ground in the kitchen area.

Although we found evidence the next morning that a bear had come through our campsite, as the rangers promised, when it discovered all the goodies were unobtainable in our canisters, it quietly moved along without even knocking over a canister.

But, back at our neighbors’ campsite, I should have been afraid of a roughly 400 pound bear with scary claws, but, he just seemed like a bigger version of our dog.  I experienced no fear.  I led the three of us as we shouted, clapped, and threw rocks.  Between throwing and clapping, I took as many photos as I could.  I can’t say I spent a lot of time on composition.

We chased the bear away, but, unfortunately, our neighbors didn’t learn their lesson.  A13 year old in the group left a container of Gatorade in her backpack and the bear harassed them all night long.

It makes me sad to think that bear may have eventually paid the ultimate price because people couldn’t follow simple instructions.