Friday, September 16, 2005

Bear encounters of the close kind...

I rolled into Tahoe on a hot July afternoon, hitting Harvey's casino about 3:30 and rolling out of Caesars the next morning about 5:30 minus about $600 in my checking account and decided early on I had better find some cheap accommodation, and after being rousted by security for snoozing in the little red truck I hit the road again, when I got to the Y at 50 & 89 I turned right instead of left and wound up finding Bayview campground in Emerald Bay. I stopped at the Forestry office and found out as one that is disabled I qualified for a Golden Access card granting me half price camping in most Government owned forest. I had enough scratch left for a two week stay and paid in advance for space 2 in Bayview. After getting camp set up I discovered a group of local Tahoe deadheads camped next to me and after hearing a little Jerry blasting from their camp I took a walk over to share a bowl or three of greenbud.
Before heading over there I had cooked up some mac&cheese ate it and left the pan on the table.
Well we sat around getting high and getting to know each other and the conversation turned to bears, I had just been camping in the Sierras my whole life and never encountered one up close and personal, I pretty much know the rules but was schooled about them again by my fellow stoners, the night before I had arrived an English couple out on holiday decided to pack their food in the tent with themselves and were awoken rather rudely by a Mama and her cubs tearing through the front of their tent at 1 am, said couple were on a flight out of Reno the next day. Hearing this I remembered to put all my grub in the cab of the truck (since I slept in the back) except I forgot about the mac and cheese pan on the table.
And off I went to dreamland in a nice haze of ganja....until about 2 in the morning when I heard all kinds of racket happening up next to the Portosan where the 4 chained garbage cans were being tossed around. Remember I am sleeping in the bed of a little truck with a Fiberglas tonneu cover for a roof with a big blue tarp thrown over it for privacy...Not exactly bearproof. And although I had been camping many times never heard something so big so nearby. My eyes were wide open, but I couldn't even lift my head up to look outside I was so scared, and then laying there silently I hear a clank from the damn mac & cheese pot hitting the ground, he was right outside my space...I just laid there for what seemed like 6 hours but more like 3 until dawn started to break and I didn't hear anything else and finally got up to go up and take a pee, when I got to the johns the trash was scattered all over and one of the johns were locked, I just thought to myself what a drag it would be to get up in the middle of the night, go to the bathroom and while inside Mr.Bear decides to nosh on a little garbage, I'da been in that john till noon the next day before that door got re-opened.
When I got up there was a nice bite mark in a brown and the mac pot was very clean, I started shaping up the back of the truck to discover my stoned ass had been sleeping with very beautiful ripe red apples, I almost shit myself again...
You live you learn... The next evening about dusk one of the campers from up the road came past and told us the bear was out early. My new friend Adam and I had just burned a bowl and sorta laughed it off, until we see this 400 lb cinnamon colored big boy just strolling down the road like he owned the place (he does), and then a group of tourists from Wisconsin or somewhere start chasing after this beast that could rip them to shreds with a flash camera. I have never seen 400 lbs disappear before, but he was gone,poof!
Adam and I sat for the next half hour flashlights in hand aiming at any sort of noise, and finding nothing. And then we both hear a splash from the creek right next to my camp and turn around to be face to face with big boy. I kinda got the picnic table between us but it was unnecessary he sniffed around and mosied off, and I had my first two encounters with a bear I became to know very well.
A few days after setting up I had another little surprise and although scary I began learning a little etiquette, coming in late one night from town, sitting by myself by my campfire I heard a rustling sound I thought was just the wind and paid it no mind except the rustling became louder and there wasn't a breeze, it was Yogi lookin under my tarp. Not thinking about it I jumped up and yelled "get the hell out of here" and Yogi got the hint. From then on we developed a little bit of a rapport, I stayed the hell out of his way and he left me alone unless I did something dumb like leave a cooler out. Bears ain't dumb, people are. For example: a few days after that a big OakieBox(rv) pulls in a few spaces down from me and out pops a 40 something lady and comes over to me and asks if there are bears here, yes, I said they are all over... She replies "Gee we haven't seen one, and I left a half a chicken on the table in the space next to us last night." I flipped! Do you really think that bear will stop with that measly half a bird? The bear will go through every campsite here looking for more and tear open anything it can, people can be such dumb asses... She left in a huff as I told her I hope some big momma tears open their RV and does a bit of damage. Although that would mean there is a good chance the bear would be put down for doing what comes natural.
Yogi had a pretty good territory he would come through Bayview and then go backwoods down to Cascade Lake onto Fallen Leaf across to Camp Richardson and then back up through Emerald Bay. He was/is a magnificent cinnamon colored male about 400 pounds with a golden muzzle. After the first couple of nights I wised up and tied my food and hung it in the trees, he would come through and see it, and smell it but couldn't get to it, so he would knock a few things over and go on his way, this was before the government wised up and installed bear boxes and bear proof trash containers.

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