Every road crossing I’d come to yesterday had had signs posted asking my friend, and fellow thru-hiker, to call home to contact her family or to use her spot device ASAP. Initially I’d worried that maybe something had happened to her. This morning, when I saw some southbound hikers, I asked them if they’d seen her. Sure enough, they had, and just the day before. I was incredibly relieved. She was ok.
As I continued hiking I came across some dayhikers. “Are you J****?” They asked. I let them know that I wasn’t, but that I knew who she was and had heard this morning that she was ok. “Good,” they exclaimed, “the sheriff was out here looking for her yesterday.” The Sheriff was out looking for her too? That seemed strange. I was completely lost in thought and in my own world worrying about my friend and her family as I continued up the trail when suddenly… Bear.
Bear?! I’ve never been pulled back to the here and now so quickly before in my life. There was a big bear with golden fur standing in the middle of the trail staring at me!
I stopped and stared right back. I couldn’t help it, the bear standing less than 20-30 feet in front of me was absolutely magnificent. It was also the first bear on the west coast that I’d gotten a really good look at (the other one I saw was in brushy woods and took off as soon as it saw me). It definitely didn’t look like the black bears I’d seen on the east coast with its light, golden brown fur. It was also strange that it didn’t immediately run away like almost every other bear I’ve encountered. Perhaps I should have been scared or nervous, but there were no cubs around and both of us had seemingly come to the same conclusions: there would be no sudden movements, and it was way too hot out to run.
The bear had clearly seen me before I’d seen it… I like to imagine it watching my approach and wondering when I was going to figure it out. After cocking it’s head and taking one last look at me the bear slowly lumbered off into the woods.
I should take a picture of him before he gets too far off I thought, but the best photo op had already passed… The moment I saw him, in the middle of the trail, with the sun making his golden fur glow, framing his head almost like a lion’s mane… That is the picture I wish I could share with you and that is the image that will remain in my memory forever. The pictures I actually managed to get are off his sunlit butt sauntering off (probably the most common picture that hikers get of bears) and then a couple more as he paused to look at me from the shade of the woods. At one point it looked like he might head back towards me… It was only then that I fully realized how big he was… He probably outweighed me by double or triple, though it can be hard to gauge… I’d love to get a good picture, but I definitely didn’t want him to intentionally come towards me, not even a little bit. At that point he and I both seemed to come to the same conclusion at the same time again… We decided that the best thing to do was to keep on walking… Me down the trail, and the bear up the mountain.