If you have read the “about” section of this blog, you’ll see that I joke about getting eaten by a grizzly. Not having many big bears back home, we knew it was a possibility we could run into such a creature on this trip. After seeing a small grizzly in the Grand Tetons (from the comforts of our truck), we thought our bear days were behind us. They weren’t, far from it in fact. This is our bear story…
We were lucky enough to score a primitive campsite just outside the Lassen Volcanic National Park entrance in Lassen National Forest (Forest Service Land). Lassen Volcanic is an incredibly underrated and beautiful park (more on the park in another post though). The campsite we found was away from everything, not a neighbor around and we were able to park Tin-E next to some stunning pines. Definitely, one of the best spots we’ve found on this trip.
With the windows open, a slight breeze and 70 degrees, J cooked up some pasta and sausages for dinner. After food, we decided to walk up the forest road that we had come in on and explore some additional campsites at the top of the hill. Walking up the hill, I thought about the bear spray, but decided against it as we were only going to be gone for 15 minutes or so before we needed to put the kids to bed. Also, we hadn’t heard about many bears being in California where we were. Pressing on, we took the following photo to show how terrible the road is that we drove on for almost an hour to make it to the campground. (J and E’s thumbs are down to show their disdain for the bumpy road, not for what we would encounter next).
Continuing up the road a little bit, something caught my eye to the left, just off the trail. “SH*T, SH*T, SH*T, BEAR, BEAR, BEAR!” I wasn’t “cool” at all and went into serious freak out mode. Fear surged through my body. Fear that this hulking mass of an animal was going to maul me and my entire family. The bear, a gigantic brown bear was between 20 and 40 yards away. Thank the gods, trolls, magic leprechauns, the force, and whatever else that provides luck, that the bear was running away from us.
My 4 year old daughter saved us.
Just before we crested the hill, E was singing some ridiculous song, loud, REALLY loud. Usually, we will tell her to quiet down a little bit if we are on a populated trail, but this day we let her sing to her heart’s content as we were in the middle of the woods with no one around. No one except a giant bear. We’ve frequently joked on trails that E’s “amazing ability to project” would scare away the bears. Well, she did just that. Her song, about something that had to be sung at the top of her lungs, most likely scared the crap out of Smokey the Bear before he got a chance to scare us first. I legitimately think this post is completely different or not being written at all if it wasn’t for the nonsense that my daughter was singing that day.
Seeing the bear run away from us through the woods, I was left with an overwhelming sense of the power and speed with which he ran. This was an animal that I would estimate was between 500 to 600 pounds and he was running with the agility of an NFL running back. I just remember thinking how quickly and easily he could have wiped us out, yet how beautiful it was to see something like this in nature, not in a zoo. Definitely a weird experience to be thinking about your death and being in awe at the same time.
After freaking out, I was snapped back to reality by J (the calm one). With fight or flight raging inside, I wanted to GET THE $^#% OUT OF THERE! Wisely and appearing calm (I seriously don’t know how she does it), J goes, “we can’t run, if he turns around, we will look like prey.” Damnit, my calm wife is right again! With a quick pace, we stopped watching this beast gallop through the words, gathered up our kids, and walked back to the safe confines of our aluminum Airstream at the bottom of the hill.
Two hours later, I was still shaky despite drinking more than my share of our Bota box. That night, I didn’t sleep much. The stars were amazing, but I was too scared to get out of the trailer. My brain kept playing tricks on me that a bear was waiting to pounce. It usually takes me a bit to calm down from things and this case was no different. But it was different. Something as mundane as hiking with my family had just become a UFC cage fight experience when you know one side is going to win and win in dominate fashion. I couldn’t get the gory thoughts out of my head.
The next morning, I wanted to leave the campsite and the terrible bear thoughts behind. Thankfully, J kept things calm once again and we didn’t leave (the place was beautiful and free!). In fact, I gathered up some courage to go back to the area of the bear sighting to see if we could find some tracks (and get some proof for you!). We couldn’t find any tracks and we decided to load the kids back into the truck and head back to Tin-E. That’s right, our big ass truck. You didn’t think we would walk back, did you? Hell no! We were “Ford Tough” prepared this time as we sat in our half ton truck armed with a can of bear spray. If that Bear was there, I was now ready to make this a fair fight. However, the bear wasn’t there, Eva was still singing, and we went back with what we hope is our last bear story of the trip.