Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bare? No, BEAR

Today was my day "off" since I finished the book. I drove toward Knoxville to meet my brother, whom I hadn't seen in years. Work, and other obligations, living in different states, it's tough getting together. It was great seeing him. We sat and talked and talked. Then he had to leave to drive up north to work.

Got back to the cabin, then decided to drive to Smoky Mtn. National Park. A couple from Ohio I met here at the B&B said the Laurel Falls hike was a good one. Lots of people on the paved path, and since I'm alone and little wary of hiking by myself, I decided to try it.

Got there mid-afternoon, started up. And up. The "easy" hike was not so easy for me. I met a couple, Karen and Bernie, from Wisconsin. I passed them, they easily passed me.

Then about halfway I saw them heading back. "What's wrong, the falls are closed?" I asked.

"No," Karen said. "There's a bear cub up ahead in the trees, and we didnt' want to get between it and the mama."

So we hung out for a few minutes, talking. Then all three of us decided "safety in numbers" and ventured forth. No bear.

Got to the falls, nice water. Bernie and Karen left, I soon followed. Then I saw them standing in the path. Bernie told me they decided to wait for me because the bear was back.

And he brought friends. Three bears. Cubs, but fairly big. No sign of Mama Bear.

We cautiously made our way down the path, talking about wildlife. I prefer mine on TV or at a distance. A great distance. Like say, Seattle.

Then we rounded a corner and there was a couple standing looking up the hill. The woman said, "Shh, there's a bear up there!"

All three of us, Bernie, Karen and myself look at each other. Then at the bear, which was about 10 yards from the path. Then the woman's husband, in his shorts and his plaid shirt, snaps a photo of the bear.

The flash goes off. The bear charges.

My heart went still.

Fortunately it was a false charge and the bear remained on the hill, and didn't jump down to attack the guy. The three of us walked quickly past the three bears (just call me Goldilocks) and muttered, "dumb tourists."

It was all told, a 2.6 mile hike. Great exercise.

But next time, I'll take my walks without bears. It was a little too hairy (furry) of a close encounter for me.

Thanks Bernie and Karen, for escorting me down the mountain. I think I might have camped up at the falls rather than face a bear on my own.

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