All three are Black Bear stories...lifted directly from our website, so forgive the odd references to M & P. M is my wife. And I am P~!
The Easy Opening Volvo--ca. 1998
There was a time when we spent a week at Lassen Volcanic National Park every summer. We love the place, and compared to some of the other parks in California, Lassen really is undiscovered.
This was in the days when we car-camped with the kids, and we usually stayed at Manzanita Lake Campgound. This was before bear boxes.
The first day we arrived, we set up our camp and had a lovely visit to the lake. At dinner, we grilled some sausages on the BBQ, opened a bottle of wine, and had a delicious dinner on the picnic table.
Manzanita Lake is over 5,000 feet in elevation, and we always feel quite sleepy that first night. We tidied up our campsite, put all the food carefully into our Volvo stationg wagon, and tumbled into bed by about 9:20, and were fast asleep in minutes.
As we slept, we kept hearing odd noises outside. Our older daughter actually expressed some concern about them, but to P they just sounded like someone trying to break up firewood by leveraging it between two trees. Creaking and breaking noises.
After a while, the noises stopped, and we all fell into a deeper slumber.
That's when our neighbors from Sweden woke us up.
"Excuse me," they said. "I think you have a problem with your car."
Hmmm. That didn't sound good.
It turns out that a large mother bear had climbed onto the top of our car, and had pulled open the sunroof. With one paw on the roof, she had used the other paw to peel back the sunroof like a tin of sardines.
She was too big to climb into the car through the opening, and so had finally given up. But the car was now wide open to raccoons or any other animal who wanted to visit, and so we knew we had to come up with a plan.
With our youngest daughter still asleep in the tent, we threw everything else into the car. At the last moment, we woke her up and tossed her sleeping bag in, and the tent on top. And we drove down to Redding to find a motel for the night.
The next morning we visited a rental car company, where we rented a nice Ford Explorer and headed back up into the park. After all, we only had one week of vacation, and we weren't about to kiss it goodbye.
As we entered the park, the ranger at the entrance station warned us about bear activity. "You know," she said, "last night a bear peeled open a Volvo station wagon to get at the food inside!"
"We know," we replied. "That was our Volvo!"
At the end of the week, we returned our rental car and picked up our Volvo to drive it home. P got on top of the sunroof and jumped up and down with all his might and weight. He couldn't budge it a millimeter. We drove home with the roof peeled back--by a bear using only one paw.
The next year, Lassen installed bear boxes in its campgrounds. We'd like to think we are responsible for that.
Packs and People
In the good old days (ca. 1971), before they had installed bear boxes in the backcountry, P and his sister once did a pack trip into the Little Yosemite Valley, then camping at Merced Lake. This was an active bear area, but they were prepared, and not worried.
In the evening, they were cooking dinner, sharing a capmsite with a group of three other people and a dog. They began to hear the traditional sounds of a bear in the campground---people yelling, banging on pots, etc.
But they were not worried. There were five people in their group around the campfire, and a dog! Surely the bear would not dare to attack them.
Imagine their surprise when a bear arrived and walked calmly up to the campfire and helped himself to all of the food. The bear walked right through the group, and we scattered as he did so. The bear calmly ate the dinner, including some of the food in the pack on the ground. And then ambled off to the next campsite.
And at that campsite, the bear coolly surveyed the backpacks hanging in the tree, and followed the rope down to where it was tied off. The bear took one swipe with its paw, and cut the rope in two.
The packs fell to the ground, and the bear ate the second course of his dinner.
There are now bear boxes in the popular backcountry campsites of Yosemite, and bear canisters are required for all backcountry trips in the park.
Bear Raid at Glacier Point ca. 1973
In the early 1970's P was working at a camp near Yosemite, leading kids on pack trips and exploring this wonderful park. At the end of the summer, he and a colleague decided that they were going on a grand adventure---hiking from Yosemite to Sequoia without the convenience of the John Muir Trail. They were young, they were strong, and they had no idea what they were getting into.
Their route started at Glacier Point, and from there they were going to ascend the Illilouette Canyon, cross over Red Peak Pass, and then keep moving south, sometimes on lesser known trails, sometimes cross country.
So they started in Yosemite Valley, and managed to hitch-hike up to Glacier Point by the end of the day. Not wanting to start out on the trail late in the day, they decided to camp (perhaps illegally?) around Glacier Point so that they could get an early start the next day.
And the weather was perfect. They simply put down a sheet of plastic, and laid their sleeping bags on top, sleeping under the stars. With a long night ahead, they were asleep soon after dark.
And were soon awake again, hearing loud noises in the area. As they looked around, they realized that they were in the middle of a bear attack. The bears, six or more of them, were racing each other to the garbage cans, knocking over the cans, and then wrestling and fighting each other over what they found inside.
In the moonlight it looked for all the world like a huge bear football game...and the players were not from Chicago. They were huge, they were feisty, and they were racing from one spot to the next. A scene from a horror movie, to be sure.
The boys didn't think twice. They leapt to their feet, grabbed their bags and packs, and raced for the only safe haven in the area--the restrooms. It was a hard sprint, but P was faster and made it first. He is a nice person, and did not slam the door in his friend's face. Once inside, they were both relieved to see that it was possible to lock the door from the inside.
What luck that the rangers had not locked the door the night before!
They spent the night in the restroom, resting. And got a very early start the next day.
(In the end, they never made it outside of Yosemite National Park. P's friend really, really didn't feel good on their second night, at about 10,000 feet at Lower Ottaway Lake. And the next morning, he announced that he really thought he needed to turn back. They hiked out that day, then spent a night in Yosemite Valley before hitch-hiking home to the Bay Area, where his friend found out that he was suffering from bronchitis. No mean thing at 10,000 feet, with sixteen miles to hike home.)
Strangers in the Night--about 1965
Now we are going even further back in time--when P travelled with his parents and younger sister on an epic road journey through the Canadian Rockies. We camped our way through Banff and Jasper, and then down the Frazier River, all the time reading endless Tolkein books as entertainment. That's him in the photo below left...
But P was about thirteen years old, and not about to give up his mountain man image. While the rest of the family slept in a small 15-foot travel trailer, P slept like a real man, nestled in his mummy bag, lying out under the stars.
It was a great feeling, until one night in Jasper National Park, when he awoke to find a bear standing on top of him, sniffing his face.
You might wonder what he did.
Did we mention that he was in a mummy bag, and the bear was on top of it?
He couldn't move, even if he wanted to. And somehow, in his sleepy mind, he knew that. So he closed his eyes and pretended to sleep. He smelled the bear's breath, which reminded him very strongly of garbage.
(Not surprising, considering what the bear had been eating!)
About twenty seconds later, he judged that the bear was no longer near him. He opened his eyes and looked around, to see the bear rumbling off to another campsite.
P leapt to his feet and carried his bag into the trailer, explaining to his family that there was a bear outside.
Not knowing the full story, they were not excited.
Then P stuck his head out of the trailer to check on the bear. And that's when he saw a small black animal scampering along the campground road, wailing for its mother.
"maaaaa!" said the animal.
P reported to his family that there was also a little black lamb out there.
His family was mightily amused.
But the next day, the story was verified by bear and cub tracks in the dirt.
That evening, P and his sister were BOTH out under the stars, surrounded by folding aluminum chairs and rope--hoping to catch a photo of the bear when it got near.
(This is a true story. really. )
The bear never arrived. Although it did find another campsite further along, where a mother and her daughter had gone to sleep with some food inside the tent. The bear opened up the tent and ate the food, sending both women to the hospital as a result.