Friday, January 07, 2011

Flashback Friday: A close encounter with a bear

Refried Flashback Friday: A close encounter with a bear, originally published 29 November 2008. The associated photo was lost in The Incident so I stole one from Kristen's blog to fill the gap.

Ah, Girls' Camp. For as much as I didn't enjoy my time there, it sure is a good source of Flashback Friday stories. (I'm not the only one who thinks so, either - my friend Kristen wrote about Girls' Camp and the Cootie Ghetto a few weeks ago.)

Today I'm going to tell you about the time I was at Girls' Camp and got chased by a bear. It was the summer of 1997, and it was the year my friends and I had all been waiting for - we were finally counselors. No more mandatory craft activities, classes, or scheduled time for showering. Instead, we were paired up and put in charge of half a dozen 12- and 13-year-old girls, and they had to do all the required stuff. My fellow counselors and I spent our time decorating our cabins, sleeping when the girls were gone, and raiding the cafeteria kitchen for snacks after the girls were in bed.

Ready to rule camp as counselors, at last!

The week of camp progressed with little incident (other than the Cootie Ghetto affair linked to above), except that something - I forget what - happened to the bathrooms, and we all had to hike up the hill to a row of Andy Gumps (port-a-potties) whenever the need arose.

The other thing that happened during the week to put a little excitement in the air was that one morning, the adult camp leaders discovered evidence of a bear having come down to camp in the middle of the night. Apparently, it had disturbed the trash cans outside the cafeteria. From then on, we weren't supposed to go anywhere at any time by ourselves - we always had to be with at least one other person, though really, I think that was a rule anyway.

Still, we lived it up as much as we could as counselors. The highlight really was that we could go to the kitchen whenever we wanted and help ourselves to leftovers from that day's meals. All the cafeteria staff asked was that we turn off the lights when we were done.

One night, after all our young charges were asleep in our cabins, a group of us counselors headed up in the dark to the cafeteria for some late-night snacking. The lights were off, as expected, but we turned them on and helped ourselves to some leftover desserts. The mood was light, the food was good, and we were having a great time laughing and joking with each other.

Then we heard a loud noise. It sounded like something very large was rustling around just outside the kitchen. And then we realized that it was coming from just about where the kitchen trash cans were. Then we remembered the warning about the bear.

I don't remember if we made a conscious, communal decision to flee, or if we all reached the same conclusion at the same time. Either way, it took just a few moments for all of us counselors to high-tail it out of that cafeteria. The banging and rustling coming from the dumpster continued as we ran as fast as we could down the path back to the cabins.

By the time we got there, I think we were all laughing a little bit, but it was that nervous, terrified laughter that sometimes strikes at a moment like the one we had just experienced. If I recall correctly, we reported what had happened to the people in charge and from then on, nobody was allowed to go up to the kitchens at night. It seems to me that would have been a sensible prohibition to make before we had such a close call, especially considering that that's exactly where the bear had appeared the first time, but there it is.

Maybe they made that rule just because they were mad that we counselors, in all our collective terror, had - gasp! - forgotten to turn off the kitchen light when we were running from the bear. Who knows?


Melody said...

My close encounter with a bear happened while I was sleeping in a tent with Cameron and Eli (who was then 4 months old). We heard it banging around and grunting in our campsite. NOT FUN.

But Cameron had an even better one (oh the joys of being married to a wildlife biologist). Back when he was getting his masters, he was doing a study on Great Gray Owls. Specifically the ones in Yosemite. He was photographing one when he heard banging in the bushes next to him. He turned around in time to see a baby bear shoot up a tree and momma bear stood up on its hind legs and growled fiercely. He thought seriously about taking a few photographs (after all, his camera was out already) but decided on the wise course of action and backed away slowly.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

I remember you and Kristin buying all that insect fabric at JoAnns and laughing and snickering all during your preparations for camp. You gals were having too much fun.


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