Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Bear With Me

Recently, the Brutalism family hiked Old Rag Mountain. In preparation for this excursion, I visited the National Park Service web site to research the hike and learned that the Shenandoah Valley has the densest population of black bears anywhere in the country.

Those are some really dumb bears.

Actually, I mean the Shenandoah is densely populated with black bears. And that is all I had to learn to become completely neurotic about hiking with our perfectly delicious nine-year-old.

Yes, I know that black bears do not generally attack people, particularly on a well-traveled trail like Old Rag. However, I also know that one can never be too careful.

Particularly one who is totally ridiculous.

While packing for the trip, I included a cowbell, jingle bells and claves that I unearthed from my daughter's preschool musical instrument cache because making noise while you hike minimizes the chance of surprising a bear. I also purchased a canister of bear repellent spray, which the young REI employee good-humoredly assured me was really unnecessary in non-grizzly country. Finally, I briefed the family on what to do if we came across a bear: 1) stand still and do not run 2) try to look large to intimidate the bear and 3) poop pants.

And not necessarily in that order.

The day before the hike, we drove to the Shenandoah Valley and spent the night in a yurt:

Mr. Brutalism sent me the reservation confirmation for the yurt when
we were planning this getaway, along with a list of rules, such as
"Don't be curt in the yurt. Don't bring dirt into the yurt. Must use Pert in the yurt." 

And as lovely as this sounds (and as lovely as it was), the yurt was in the middle of nowhere. There was no phone or Internet connection, the nearest neighbor was half a mile away, and the only thing protecting us from ax-wielding maniacs, zombies or wayward Yetis was a thin pane of glass on the front door.

Which of course means that when it was time to go to bed, I tucked the canister of bear repellent into bed next to me so that I could protect my family in case of a yurt invasion. It also means that even after I took a Motrin PM, I woke up at 2:00am and never got back to sleep.

Thankfully, we survived the night and got to Old Rag Mountain early the next day. I carried the bear repellent the entire time, except during the rock scramble. At that point, I probably would have welcomed a bear attack as it would have surely been less painful.

Laugh if you will -- we did not see one bear during our six-hour hike. We also didn't make friends with the many normal hikers who were there who did not look like deranged, paranoid one-man bands. (A small price to pay, in my humble, non-bear-attacked opinion).
Pictured here with bear repellent.
And delicious nine-year-old.
When we returned home after our adventure, we unpacked the car and brought all of our gear into the house. And that is when we discovered that after all of our planning and safety preparation for the weekend, we had simply left the house with the back door completely unlocked. And that is how it remained for the two entire days we were out of town.

Speaking of dense populations...


Sarah said...

OLD RAG MOUNTAIN! SO MANY JOKES!!! Glad you didn't get eaten or robbed on your yurt-cation.

Sloangroup said...

I went hiking alone a few years back in Skyline Drive area. After an hour I saw two bb cubs up ahead on the trail. Scared the bejeezus outta me...I did NOT want to see the mama. I sat down for what seemed an eternity until they moved along. No more solo hiking for me........PS - nice yurt!