Friday, June 26, 2009

Bear... bear... Big Bear... big bear chase meeeeeeee...!

One of my all time favorite movies, The Great Outdoors...I could watch it over and over and never tire of it. Well, now I can really identify with the characters in the movie with my encounter with a bear recently. OK...not too bad, but it was enough to make my heart skip a beat or two or three! My husband and I were on our way back from a wonderful week's vacation at Hilton Head with the family and stopped in Gatlinburg, which is one of our most favorite places to visit. (Not so much the town, but the Smokey Mountains). We thought about taking in the Dixie Stampede but GH wasn't interested in seeing a horse fight (even if it was to Dolly Parton music!), so we considered seeing The Temptations Review with one of the last of the original group. I called for tickets, found we could get front row seats (hmmm....not a good sign?) and the show was 2 hours long. Because of a sciatic nerve problem, I didn't think sitting through two hours of a concert would be the best thing after being on the road all day. So we decided to take the Roaring Forks motorway trip which we always do when in the area. We've never seen a bear on that route, but I had my camera...just in case.

It was about 5 pm and the shadows in the park were playing tricks with me because it seemed like there were bears everywhere. That was wishful thinking. As we rounded a sharp turn heading up the mountain, a van stopped in front of us and a lady stepped out of the passenger's side with her hand up. I took that as, "I've seen a bear and I'm parking it," signal. I grabbed my camera, jumped out of the car and ran around the parked van only to stop dead in my tracks. There in front of me about 15 yards was the biggest black bear! The lady put her fingers to her lips and mouthed, "3 cubs!" OK, I'll be careful.

As soon as I could bring the camera up to my eye from shaking so badly, I started shooting pictures. Most of them are very blurry because of how I was trembling. The feeling was one of exreme fear from being so close to the bear and raw excitement. By then several cars had stopped and before I knew it around 20 people had gathered to observe the mama bear and her cubs. She was very patient with us and went about searching for food and making sure her cubs were behind her. She paced back and forth but hissed and snorted occassionally. At one point she bounded out and that's when I took a running dash for the car. Thank you GH for having that door open!

Many people travel to the area in hopes of spotting a bear and even though one might be spotted, it's rare to get a decent picture. If I had a tripod and had set the shot up waiting for the perfect moment, then that would have been great. However those opporunities don't always happen, so I was thrilled to get the pictures I did. By the way, the cubs were just too cute!

postscript: When I was developing the bear pictures at a do-it-yourself machine at the local drug store, the pharmacist told me a black bear had been spotted around Roundwood, which is on the north side of Indian Lake. That is pretty far from their normal territory! Another black bear has been spotted between Dayton and Cincinnati.


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