Our Bear Encounter!

Running into a bear in the Sierra Nevada Parks is not that common, except if you’ve left food out in your camp. To prevent this from happening, each camp is equipped with heavy-duty ‘anti-bear’ containers that you must store all your food and hygiene products (?) in, which can be quite tedious when you change camps every night. So many precautions are taken  to avoid attracting bears and ‘bear danger’ is mentioned so often, that we ended up just thinking it was all hype. So the last thing we expected was running into, not 1, but 2 bears on our hike back from Mist Falls in the King’s Canyon NP.

We were walking at a fast pace, aiming to get back to camp before the looming rainclouds set in, and I (Steph) was in front. I see/hear rustling of leaves just a few meters ahead and an animal move. I thought it was some kind of badger or something, but as I look up I recognize a bear cub. He is very cute, and ‘only’ about half my height, but then I immediately wonder where Mama Bear is. On cue, I hear a low growl just to my right: she’s standing at my height on a ledge at the edge of the path, so close that I could reach out and touch her. She’s double bear cub’s size (and probably my weight), and has darker almost thick black fur even though she is unmistakeably a Brown Bear. I turn around, as slow and fast as possible so as not to startle the bears, or Renaud, standing behind me, almost running into him in the process. He has seen all this too and we don’t even talk, just slowly turn around and walk away. We keep a safe distance and observe the bears. Mama bear decides to climb up a tree on the other side of the path (I didn’t know bears could be so agile), to munch on some prime leaves at the very top. She leaves Baby Bear on his own on the other side of the path that is supposed to lead us back to camp. We nervously joke about her neglecting her child and calling up Bear Cub Services. Baby Bear is quite obviously scared by us, maybe he hasn’t seen humans before. Mama Bear is carefree up in her tree. As we know never to walk between a Mama and her cub, we check for alternative routes to walk around them, but there are none, short of swimming in the river! So slowly and carefully we inch our way closer to the bears, Renaud watching Mama, and me the cub. We managed to get a quick blurry photo of Baby Bear as we passed. We make it through unscathed, almost wondering what all the fuss is about 😉 but especially feeling so lucky to have witnessed these endearing animals in their natural habitat, so close up!

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