Chapter 4 – The Bear
We continued on our hike noting the magnificent scenery and watching the wildlife. There is something about spending time out in the open away from city life that helps us best to commune with Nature. Hard to imagine there are some people who don’t like the great outdoors. I was very pleased that both of the two I was with were really at home out here.
We thought we heard the sound of an off-road vehicle, either a bike or a four-wheeler in the distance and Angela commented that they should not be allowed on the trails or even in the Parks. I tended to agree with her but each to their own as long as they didn’t mess it up for the rest of us. Then it went quiet so we assumed that it was out of hearing range.
Evelyn who had gone on ahead was the first to see it. She turned and with one finger against her lips for silence, pointed to the lower side of the hill below the footpath. We stayed quiet as we approached Evelyn and following her pointing finger, down on the hillside below was a bear cub. We looked around but could not see the mother anywhere which is never a good sign either for the bear cub or for us. I had the camera working away as I filmed the scene below and was not aware of any danger until Angela hissed a warning and there not thirty yards in front of me down the hillside was the biggest bloody bear I had ever seen. This thing was enormous or at least, that is how it appeared to us.
The bear hadn’t seen us as we were spread out along the path. Evelyn was still in front, Angela and I were following along behind. We all froze and crouched down. Luckily, we were downwind of the bears so they probably shouldn’t smell us but we couldn’t move without attracting attention and had no idea what the mother might do to protect her baby. Angela suddenly straightened up and with finger to lips for silence pointed to the bear who hadn’t moved since we had been standing there. Then we saw what Angela was pointing at. Off to the side of the bear was yet another cub and some distance away was a body.
The bear still hadn’t moved and the two cubs were nuzzling her in an attempt to get her to move. I motioned for the two girls to stay where they were and I walked slowly towards the bear. As I got closer, it appeared the bear was unconscious as I could see her breathing and I could see that the four-wheeler was on top of her. I could also see that there was a rope tangled around both the bear and the four-wheeler. I walked on past her to the body on the ground who turned out to be a young boy of about eighteen or so. He was alive but had a nasty cut that was oozing blood. I don’t know what other damages he may have had but he too was unconscious. I took a chance and dragged him some distance away from the bear.
The girls walked around the bear to the driver who was still bleeding badly from the gash and Evelyn who had some first aid training immediately applied pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding.
“Damn, do you see the size of that things”? said Angela “It is huge”.
“I don’t know how badly it is hurt” I said, “we need to keep our eyes open”.
We walked back to Evelyn who had managed to stop the bleeding and who was checking him over for other wounds. The young lad was still unconscious from the blow he had received and wasn’t about to be walking anywhere. None of our cell phones worked in these woods so we couldn’t call for help. We knew the Mother bear would probably wake up soon and we needed a plan.
We dragged the boy back to the trail so that at least there was some distance between us and the bear. The two cubs were standing by their mother who was laying on her side and they kept nudging her as if to say,”Get up and walk”. The four-wheeler was on its side on top of the mother and looked pretty smashed up. So, even if we got out of this alive, the four-wheeler was not going to be of any use to us. I decided to go back and get a closer look at the bears predicament spurred on by the plaintive cries of the babies.
I crept closer ever aware that the bear could wake up any minute and I would be in serious trouble. From where I was, the bear was still breathing and appeared to be unconscious and I could see that the four-wheeler had a rope entangled both around it and the bear. The momentum must have caught the bear off-balance causing her to smash headlong into a tree and whether it was the tree contact or that of the four-wheeler that knocked her out, we would never know. As I watched, the Mother Bear began to stir and was quickly regaining consciousness. She lay there for a while and then stumbled to her feet with the four-wheeler still attached. I wondered what she would do when she realized her predicament but really didn’t want to hang around to find out but curiosity got the better of me. The bear tried to stagger off and then realized that somehow, she and the four-wheeler were still attached to each other.
I hissed at Angela and she came down to where I was. “How’s the kid” I asked
“He’ll survive” was her response “What do we have here”?
I pointed to the bear with the two cubs doing their best to move her along and said “The four-wheeler is attached by the rope and wrapped around the tree stump the bear hasn’t figured it out yet”. I knew that we probably could not get away from the bear as we had the injured kid who was still unconscious and couldn’t walk.
“If I get around the back of her, I can probably loosen the rope without her reaching me”. I said.
“Are you nuts” was Angela’s response. “If it see’s you when you are moving, she will probably kill you”.
“Yeah, I had thought of that” I said “But I can’t just let the bear suffer. She might die and then what happens to the cubs. They will probably die too or the wolves will get them”. The bear meanwhile, was getting more and more agitated in her efforts to free herself, pulling and biting at the rope but at least this was taking all of her attention.
“OK, this is the way we’ll play this” I said “I want you to stay here so that she will see you first which will give me time to get away. You will need to run like hell as they can move pretty quickly. Don’t head towards the other two as the boy will be a sitting duck if you do”. So I snuck around behind the bear and tried to ignore the babies as they repeatedly nuzzled her to get her moving. I looked at Angela up on the trail who was crouching down wide-eyed with her mouth open with fear hoping that she would remember to run. “Be ready to run” I mouthed. She smiled back weakly and nodded.
I got as close as I could around the back of the bear and crawled on my belly and then slid behind the tree that had the rope looped around it so that I could just reach the rope. Hardly daring to breathe, I started to cut away and the bear turned around to look in my direction. I stopped immediately until she turned back and then I started to cut again. To say that I was scared was an understatement as I was absolutely terrified. This time she turned and looked right at me and let out a roar and I jumped back ready to make a hasty exit. The bear stumbled to her feet and then realized she was still attached to the four-wheeler. She dragged it a few steps which gave Angela time to start running.
With Angela running in one direction and me in the other, the bear turned her attention back to getting free We both ran for a safe distance and watched over our shoulders as the bear lumbered to her feet. She pulled and tugged and her immense weight was enough to break the rope where I had been sawing at it. After disentangling from the rest of the rope, she gave a sniff of contempt for the four-wheeler and then looked me directly in the eye. I have never seen so much fear and hatred as I saw in that look. She stood on her hind legs and let out a roar as though she was going to attack us but instead dropped down to all fours. With one backward look and with her babies frolicking along behind her, the bear moved off into the woods.
Angela looked at me and we hung tightly together as we realized just how close a call it had been for both of us.
Back on the track, the boy was still out but the bleeding had slowed. “You OK” said Evelyn.
Angela related what had happened and Evelyn came over and gave me a big kiss.
“Brave boy” she said
“Or stupid” I added. “We need to get back to the Ranger Office and get help. We could try to carry him but I don’t think we would get very far as he probably weighs 180 pounds and we might make his injuries worse. I suggest that the two of you hike back the way we came as we are only at the three-mile sign and it’s almost eight and a half miles around this loop. If you can jog, so much the better but if not just get help as fast as you can. If the Ranger is not there, there is a phone that you can call 911 to get help. I will light a fire so that they will spot the smoke. There is no room for a helicopter rescue so it is going to have to be done on foot. Just in case, take my flashlight with you”. With that, he turned back to his backpack and produced one more of his magic items.
They both set off at a fast pace and I shook my head knowing that they would not be able to keep it up for long. Crazy broads, I thought. I busied myself gathering firewood and lit a small fire. I made sure to burn some green stuff when it was well and truly alight to make lot of smoke.
Every so often I checked on the kid. He seemed OK but was still either unconscious or sleeping. I covered him with one of the blankets and then prepared to settle down to await their return with the help. I figured that it would take at least 2 hours for them to get out and about the same to get back in unless they rescue mission used four-wheeler in which case maybe thirty to forty-five minutes. All I could do was wait.
It began to grow colder so I heaped wood on the fire and wrapped the blanket around me. My injured buddy seemed OK but I kept a close eye on him just in case. The light was beginning to fade and soon it would be dark. As long as the bear didn’t come back, I didn’t think the wolves would be a problem just as long as I kept the fire burning bright.
I walked back into the woods and found more firewood enough to last all night if needed and brought it back to the fire. The boy was beginning to stir and was coming to life. I moved closer to him so he could see me when he woke up. It took him a while but he finally came to.
“Where am I and what happened” were the first words. To be expected really waking up after being out for several hours.
“How do you feel’ I said “My name is Bob and you had an accident with your four-wheeler and a big old bear”
“Is that what it was. I can remember turning a corner and then running into something big and black” he said
“What’s your name” I asked
“Tim Bailey” he replied “And that’s the first bear I have seen. They usually stay away as the noise frightens them”
“Well this one has two babies and she was looking to defend them from your noisy contraption” I said. I went on to explain what had happened but didn’t bother to tell him the details. I figured that if we had to spend some time together waiting for help, he didn’t want to spend it with a crazy man that cuts ropes on wild bears.
The time wore on and my watch was showing it getting close to midnight. I figured that probably, they had decided that it was too risky fo try to get back to us in the dark and had decided to do it in the morning at first light. What I didn’t know about was the events that were happening at the other end of the trail as the girls were making their way back to the Ranger station.