I’ve heard this place referred to as bear country several times. Apparently it’s an accurate description. Today we went to the Shenandoah National Park to hike up to Stony Man Mountain. On the way there, I thought to myself that it would be neat to see a bear…from the car. I’ve only seen a wild bear once before, while driving through Glacier National Park. That was a pretty neat experience so I thought it’d be cool to see one again. Wrong. Kind of…
The hike up to Stony Man was really easy – a lot easier than Humpback – and the view was awesome! There weren’t any people at the top, so it was very peaceful and way way beautiful. We stayed for a while before deciding to head back down because Harper was beginning to get fussy. We passed several groups of people on the way down. Close to the end of the trail, we passed a group of about 10 people hiking with a park ranger – he was giving them the lowdown on Stony Man. You would think this scenario would be pretty safe, right? I mean, I wasn’t even worried about snakes with all that noise, much less bears. Well about 2-3 minutes after we pass the huge group, the trail curves and I see this black mass about 15 feet away, off the side of the trail. At first, I think nothing of it, assuming that it’s Sasquatch or something, but then I realize that I am looking at a flippin’ bear! I immediately froze and whispered to Benji to tell him there’s a bear ahead of us. We stop and I panic (because just two weeks ago, I read this story). To get back to our car, we have to walk where the bear can see us. When I say I panicked…I panicked! Like…my feet froze to the ground and all I could do was this weird shuffle thing, back and forth, while telling Benji over and over again, “I want to go back up the mountain, I want to go back up the mountain!” The bear was actually eating berries and minding his own business, and here I am acting like a psycho and picturing him charging at us with my sweet precious baby in tow. I’m not sure if I would have reacted so poorly if Harp wouldn’t have been there. I just went into crazy mom mode and wanted to get him far far away from that thing. Benji was more level-headed about the situation. He could see that a). Going back up the mountain wouldn’t get us back to our car; and b). the bear was minding his own business, and as long as we didn’t make it feel threatened he probably wouldn’t bother us.
He ended up being right, of course – otherwise, I wouldn’t be blogging 😉 It took a lot of praying to make my feet move, but I finally stepped out and we walked (very slowly and quietly) away from the bear. He looked up a couple of times, but other than that, didn’t pay us any attention. When we had passed him, I told Benji that if the bear had charged us, I had planned on playing dead for it while Benji ran away with Harper – don’t think I’m heroic…Benji’s just a faster runner lol. When I got home, I researched what you should do if you encounter a bear in the woods. You’re actually only supposed to play dead if it’s a grizzly. According to the article I read, black bears are very timid and will most likely run off if you fight back. Just FYI, in case any of you happen upon a bear in the woods sometime.
Here’s my favorite picture from today:
The forest was nothing but fern in the very beginning. It was magical. (Benji isn’t very good at taking pictures..that’s why it’s blurrrrrrrrrrrrrry)