Tuesday, January 4, 2011

That One Time When I Was Almost Eaten By A Bear

We were camping near the Carcross Desert in the Yukon Territory, Canada. I was -oh, probably ten or eleven. It was a beautiful day, the kind of day that makes me want to run around and dance in the sunshine under a cloudless blue sky.
my mum, in the middle of the Carcross Desert. not entirely sure what she's doing. wondering what those damn clouds are doing the in the sky, maybe.
And now don't get me wrong, I adore my family. But sometimes, when you've spent the last ten days trapped in a big black truck with all 4 of them (Mom, Dad, Cacky, and Bonnie) you can go a little stir-crazy. So I went for a walk off down this dirt road that ran parallel to the campground, perpendicular to the real road, by myself. I was probably talking to myself, too. But you already knew I did that.
and this is me, practicing my awesome cartwheel skills. also in the Carcross Desert. it was a pretty awesome place.
Picture this: it was a long, blank dirt road, scattered with bits of road debris but in relatively good shape. On one side of the road is a gentle roll of hill, covered with pine trees and scrub. Tucked into this bit of hill and trees is a smallish campground that at this point in time is fairly empty. On the other side of the road is a strip of fairly thick carigana-like brush hedge thing that separates it from the Carcross Airport, which is essentially another dirt road. But all official like. And then there's me, meandering along down the road, chatting to myself.
this is the "airport". so obviously the term is used with some artistic license.
Suddenly, I hear the noise of a car engine behind me, and I stopped and turned, a little wary. A purple station wagon of some sort putt-putts up along beside me, and slowed to a stop. The car looks packed full of smaller road-weary kids, and a friendly lady poked her head out the passenger window. "Hey!" she said distinctly. "Hey, are you camping back there?"
however, it may just be my imagination that has her wearing terrifying clown makeup.
All that ingrained stuff about not talking to strangers and saying no if they offered you a ride or candy or a Kleenex jumped to the forefront of my brain, and I squinted at her, then nodded slowly. She looked safe enough, what with all the kids in the back. Though maybe she stole them, too. I shuffled back a step, and then said, a touch defiantly "Yeah. But my mom and dad and sister and big dog are back there. I'm not far."

She gave me an understanding smile, and then said one of the most terrifying sentences I've ever heard anyone utter. "Ok, honey, that's fine. But maybe you should head back soon, because we just saw a bear down the road a little ways."
"...and it's probably rabid. You might want to just shoot yourself now and save yourself from the pain of being mauled, then dragged off somewhere to be eaten slowly. You did know bears enjoy your pain, right?"
And then she and her jalopy full of rugrats drove off and fucking left me there! On the side of the road with a goddamn bear somewhere nearby! I was petrified.

For those of you city-slicker folk out there, bears are nothing to be messed with. This part of the country, it was likely to be a grizzly bear. And grizzlies are even scarier than black bears. Bigger, too. My rather abundant knowledge of back-country lore and camping experience had me fairly well versed in what to do if I did see a bear, but most of my plans for actually seeing one while all by myself on a lonesome dirt road revolved around pepper spray (which I didn't have) or large semi-automatic weaponry (which I also didn't have).
too bad I forgot my handy-dandy anti-aircraft gun.
So I gathered my courage, and started heading back down the road toward the campground. I can only imagine the way I was walking probably called to mind someone who had to go the bathroom really, really badly. I sort of sidled along the hedge side of the road, jumping at every tiny noise and rustle. And then I crested a slight blip of a hill, and I saw the bear.

It was dark brown, and not as huge as I thought it would be (though it still was probably as tall as me at the shoulder). The less-pronounced hump on its back suggested it was a black bear. It was probably around 20 yards from where I stood, absolutely frozen with terror on the top of a ridge, and it was on the same side of the road as me. I stood there, immobile with fear, and watched it as it meandered along down the road, towards me and my pants-wetting fear (no, I didn't actually wet my pants). After maybe five loping bear-steps, it stopped and raised its heavy head and looked directly at me. Then it swung into the carigana hedge and disappeared from my sight.
but before it did that, it taunted me with its freakishly long bear tongue.
I'm not entirely sure how long I stood there, absolutely immobile with fear and adrenaline. I do know that I somehow found myself on the opposite side of the road, without any clear memory of sprinting across the stretch of gravel. I probably would have started muttering Hail Marys to myself if I wasn't such a failure of a third-generation Catholic. And then I heard my mother's cheerful whistling, and I saw her come around a slight bend in the road, with our dog Bonnie trotting next to her.

"Mom!" I screeched. "Mom, stop! There was a bear! Bear! In the bushes! A enormous bear! Bushes! Danger! Halt!" (or something to that effect).
"OHMYFUCKINGGOD I'm so not kidding right now! It might even have been a goddamn orc! I mean, few people know this, but the Uruk-hai are also native to this area!"
To which her response was "Call your dog!"
"Bears? What bears? What nonsense are you speaking, child?"
Clearly, I was not getting my message across. There was major fucking danger, possibly lurking in that hedge that my mother was now pretty much abreast of. What if she was eaten? I pretty much flew down that slight rise of hill, and launched myself at my surprised mom. The whole story came out in gasping pants as I tried to impress upon her how very close I had come to a terrible bloody death at the teeth of the great beast. I dragged her and the dog back to the campsite, babbling the entire way and stealing nervous glances at the foliage surrounding us, certain the bear was just lying in wait.

We didn't see the bear again, and my parents, though sympathetic, were slightly less impressed than I was hoping for. I did manage to tell and re-tell the story however, milking every last drip of drama I could possibly hope for out of the telling.
this is basically me. by the end of the story I'd probably been mauled like 8 times, and fought the bear off with my bare fists and saucy dialogue.
And so that's how I almost got eaten by a bear.


  1. Was that the time our truck broke down and I hitch-hiked with a semi-professional dream interpreter? Talk about a creeper van and scary clown makeup...