Monday, August 10, 2009

Oso greedy, oso quiet...

You may have noticed the photo in the top left part of the last post.

Here, let me make that a little bigger.

Dude. A bear.

Now, I was all cool with this. Big ol' bear in the mid summer when there are a million raspberries covering the hillside and who is used to getting careless camp-side droppings is not going to mess with a couple of humans, right? And we had a cabin with a big locking door and, really, why would he bother, right?

And then I read this list of fatal bear attacks and kids being dragged out of tents and eaten and now? Thanks Dr. Wikipedia, now I'll never. sleep. again. For real.

Last time we camped at this park we didn't specify anything about our site and were assigned one we thought was somewhat impractical for kids. The ground sloped away from the cabin and at the bottom of the hill was the fire pit and just beyond that a five foot drop onto another rocky slope which, after a somewhat steep ten feet of slope, dropped off another 4-5' to a wooded area.

This time when we reserved our site we specified that we were bringing two preschoolers and would prefer a kid-friendly site.

This was our site:

Seems friendly, right? Nice and flat. Sunny, sandy, and dry. A very short walk to the large clean restroom facility and a playground.

Oh, what's that on the other side of the camp, you ask? That would be an approximately 100 foot drop down a steep hillside full of prickly bushes and trees. And while you're thinking about what a treacherous hill that would be to slip down after splitting the bottle of wine you brought for your 9th anniversary, you may notice the four well worn trails that lead down the hillside and think "hmm...maybe I'm just a wimp."

And then your neighbors will tell you they are bear trails. And you will smile through a wide-eyed panic.

Walking home from the water park the first night, Rob split off to buy firewood at the camp store. I had Jorge on my back and Katie on my hip as we trudged uphill toward our campsite when a pack of tenters ran out of the trees shouting about a bear getting into their food again. I stood back and watched as the bear--easily 200 pounds--moved through the wooded area to my right, then ran across the road right in front of me and trotted off into the woods on my left as they chased behind shouting. And then I started breathing again. Heh. Bears.

That night we packed the cabin up tight, stored our garbage and food in the locked minivan and cabin, and picked the site clean. I left out two fat citronella candles in their metal buckets.

Guess who mauled a candle that night. Go on. Guess.

We woke to find a chunk of wax at the head of the trail and a dented up candle bucket on the ground. The red checkered table cloth had gashes across it. Ha ha, silly bear.

That night as we toasted marshmallows (after cooking hotdogs, steaks, fried potatoes, roasted veggies, and green beans over the open fire) I looked up to see the bear less than 10 feet from us. He had padded right up the hill and to our picnic table without a sound. We all dashed to the cabin, skirting around the picnic table. Katie was inside pressed against the back wall before I had even finished saying "Bear!" The kids stayed inside on their bunks; Rob and I stood at the doorway ready to dart-and-slam if he turned but watching and taking photos from a safe distance and separated by a picnic table and porch railing.

He milled around, sniffed at our firewood and the empty cardboard boxes we were using for kindling, chewed on the wax for a minute, and eyed the candle bucket thoughtfully before he trundled off again. A few minutes later he reappeared just as quietly, snagged the empty bucket, and disappeared back down the hillside.

And in case you were wondering if the kids were traumatized, at one point in the afternoon a neighboring cabin's child was crying loudly, upset about a nap or other childhood injustice. Katie was lying on her bunk reading a book when I walked in to check on her.

"Gosh" I said, "Someone nearby is really upset, huh?"

"Yep." Katie said, matter of factly without looking up. "She's probably being eaten by the bear."

And so to ward off bad dreams we introduced these two to our house full of friends

Meet Oso, snuggly bear friend to all.

(Ignore the dead black eyes of a heartless killer. Ignore.)

And Princess Coato, catcher of bad dreams.

Here's hoping retail therapy is cheaper than real therapy.

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