|Back to Mountaineer
| In the late 70s Barry Ford, my first wife Patty and I went to Yosemite and climbed from Happy Isles up the Merced River to Little Yosemite Valley camping area. Patty lagged often and we tried motivating her by joking there was a seven eleven up the trail. After we finally reached our goal Barry and I had wandered off while she relaxed. We found a camp a little off the beaten track where people had strung a rope between two trees to hang a pack with their food in it. The main camping area had steel cables to hang your food on. In latter years they replaced the cables with bear boxes. While we watched a mother and bear cub came out of the forest into the camp. The mother black bear climbed one of the trees and broke the rope with one swing of her paw. She then climbed back down to the ground and started going through the pack. Someone had actually climbed to Little Yosemite Valley with a large can of
vegetable juice. The mother punched her front claws through the top of the can and held it up so the juice would run down into her mouth.
At about that time Barry and I decided it might be a good idea to get out of the area. As we were retreating away from the camp we ran into a petite female ranger. We told her what we had witnessed and she asked us to accompany her back to the camp and help her chase the bears off. We tried to convince her it wasn't in our job description but she claimed she needed our help to be successful. We picked up sticks and began banging them on trees and yelling as we approached the camp. The mother bear ran off and the cub climbed a tree. After a while when the mother didn't return the cub climbed down and ran off in the direction she had taken. So much for not getting between a mother and her cub. Latter that night in camp a bear walked through the middle of a pup tent with two girls in it, collapsing the tent and causing some late night commotion. Several times in the evening the campers had to chase bears out of the camp, they knew about people and their food which is the trouble with heavily used areas such as Yosemite.
On one of our Half Dome climbs we were awakened in the middle of the night by a bear in the Little Yosemite Valley camp area. Turns out some idiots had left food out on a log hoping to attract a bear so they could get a picture. No wonder there are bear problems in Yosemite.
In the late 90s a co-worker and friend Jake Martins and I hiked across the Sierra from Onion Valley on the east side to and out through Kings Canyon on the west. When we reached Kearsarge Pass there were two rangers sitting there, one from each side of the Sierra. We were asked to provide a permit and when they found out we had lost ours one of them used a radio to contact the Lone Pine office and verify that we had gotten one. He then wrote a note for us to show if we were asked again for the permit. While we we transacting our business a guy and a woman came up from the west side of the pass. He was obvious injured which you could tell from some bloody bandages.
They told the rangers that they had hung their food from a tree and had heard something in the tree after their food while they were in their tent. They had come out and determined that there was a bear cub in the tree. While they were paying attention to the cub he had been attacked by the mother bear who was lurking nearby. The first thing one of the rangers asked after hearing the account was "Can I see your permit"
On one of my attempts on Mt Sill via the North Fork of Big Pine Creek with my climbing buddy Mike Stanwood we camped at a spot that a bear had evidently dug up trying to get something out of the ground. Besides the dirt around the hole there large rocks thrown a dozen feet or more from the digging. Some of the rocks weighted more than ten pounds and the bear had thrown them a considerable distance. There wasn't anyway to secure our food so we just put it all on a big flat boulder for the bear to help itself. The food was untouched in the morning.
Once Mike and I decided to try and climb Owens Peak near our home by a different route then we had used before. Instead of coming from the south on the Pacific Crest Trail or climbing out of Indian Wells Canyon we came from the north. In those days before the Owens Peak Wilderness you could still drive to Rodecker Flats through Sand Canyon. From there we climbed over the ridge into upper Grapevine Canyon. The only flat piece of ground to camp for the night was in the middle of grapevines and covered with bear scat. We cleared off dozens of piles of feces and camped under the stars. In the middle of the night you could hear a bear in the bushes. I joked that rabbits were doing gymnastics all night. I guess the bear didn't like we were sleeping on its favorite latrine.
Ron Mitchell, a coworker at the time and I hiked to the first Cottonwood Lake. He was brown nosing a little because I was his supervisor. On the way we stopped at Golden Trout Camp. There was a sign telling you if you were an eco-green tree hugging group you could reserve the camp by calling a phone number in Ojai. I am in favor of low impact in the wilderness but am not fanatical about it. There was a large box made from sheets of 3/4 inch plywood where they had left all there trash from the previous season. A bear had ripped the box open and scattered trash all over the place. Maybe the city slickers should learn something about the actual wilderness.
Mike, Jake and I were cutting firewood up near Granite Knob Meadows in the Sequoia National Forest when Jake came running towards us shouting bear. We told him that you are not supposed to run from a bear because they will think you are prey. We didn't see a bear chasing him so went back to wood cutting with chain saws. When we were done cutting we happened to look up and there was a black bear on the lowest branch of a large pine tree about 5o feet off the ground. Evidently it was afraid of the chain saws and had been up there for hours. It was still there when we left. California Grizzlies have been extinct for many years and the only bears are black bears, even if some of them look brown.
Over the years I have seen a bear wandering Granite Knob Meadows as well as three at one time in Powell Meadows. The three were widely spaced and not in each others area. I was camping on a cot with my dog and as night set in I was hoping they would not come down to our end of the meadow. They didn't. Bears will usually avoid you if they know you are there. The greatest danger is surprising one or getting between a cub and it's mother. In Alaska they tell you to sing or talk to yourself so the bear knows you are there.
While I was in Alaska in 1992 two people had been killed by bears and it was only June. It is unusual for bears to kill people. In Alaska more people are killed or injured by getting between a cow moose and it's calf. One death was attributed to a black bear. An Air Force office and his wife were camping at a cabin when a bear broke in through a window. They climbed up on the roof to escape it. After a while he climbed down and took a canoe across the lake to seek help. By the time they got back the wife had been killed. Sounded kind of fishy but the fellow drinker at the Comet Club in Fairbanks assured me it was a true story. The difference between a fairy tale and a sea story is a fairy tale starts "Once upon a time" and a sea story starts "This is a no shitter". The other death was a child who was mauled by a grizzly after getting off a school bus.
I had brought a Marlin 30/30 carbine with me to Alaska. They locals insisted anything less then a 44 magnum would just piss a bear off. I told them the riffle wasn't to shoot the bear it was to shoot me if it looked like it was going to go badly. I tried carrying it on a hike and decided it was to much hassle. I used the, make sure the bears knew I was there approach, and never saw one. Many of the locals refused to go into Denali National Park because it was a large grizzly bear preserve and they were not supposed to bring a gun. You can't drive in you have to take a bus. I never heard of any bear problems with the tourists. I never went in and the only time I saw Mt McKinley (now officially Denali) was from fifty miles away after waiting three days for the clouds to lift. They tell you up there to play dead with a grizzly because it may stash you to eat latter. Don't play dead with a black bear because it is probably going to eat you right away.
Over all I have never had a confrontation with a bear nor had problems with them trying to get my food. I generally didn't frequent the areas where bears were use to people and rarely protected my food. I used to sleep with it in my tent or pack and have no problems. In some places I was forced to carry a bear canister or use the provided bear box. Often I was above the tree line and on snow fields where the bears usually didn't go. While I was in Alaska I heard the bears would go up on the glaciers to get away from the insects but I never saw one on the snow fields or glaciers in the lower 48.
|Back to Mountaineer