“Shauna, stop!” I yelled.
“Shauna!” Brianna echoed.
We hadn’t been hiking more than 5 minutes after finishing lunch before the meadows we had been walking through tunneled into a dark forest. Shauna lead the way, Brianna took the middle while I trailed the pack. As the only one of the three with their head up, it was my responsibility to notify the group that a large black bear mama and her two cubs were on the trail in front of us, about 20 yards away.
“Is there a tick on my butt?” Shauna asked as she finally looked up.
Mama bear looked in our direction and stood on her hind legs as the babies climbed up trees. All of this is well and good. Encountering a pissed off mama bear and scaring her cubs up a tree right next to the trail. What could we do? Make noise and not advance any further. So we waited. It was only a few minutes before the babies came down and ran off into the forest. We breathed a sigh of relief, but were not out of the woods yet (get it? ha ha).
“Hey Bear, Bear!” we sang down the trail that seemed to be winding back down the direction they had all just run away to. Sure enough, a fourth Bear popped up and climbed a tree further down the trail. This bear was an adolescent, maybe just a year old, bigger than the cubs but significantly smaller than the mama. It too would eventually climb down the tree and run away.
The other part of the story that has been left out up until this point is that we had a fourth member of our party, Curt. He did not want to stop for lunch with us and carried on solo. Curt had texted me about the bugs being bad but did not see the bears even though he had passed by this same spot just 15-20 minutes prior. Go ahead and roll those possibilities around in your head for a while.
Today’s trail had a lot of extraordinary parts before the bears. Milk weed pastures with monarch butterflies in flight. A chained gate that lead to three horses feeding next to an old barn house on a large chunk of pasture land. We expected to see horses, but to be given permission to walk with them on the trail, that’s pretty cool. All days have been good, this one leads the pack as best. The hiking was so good, I don’t even mind the dozens of ticks we picked off ourselves.
Tomorrow, day 5, will be a longer mile day with a mostly full pack day. We will be carrying all of our gear, just 1 day of food and 2 liters of water.
Wish us luck in our first hike without the family.