We get in to North Pines and set up as usual. It's busier than when we normally come before the Memorial Day weekend . Rain and overcast skies had been hanging around all the previous week, due to the very unusual weather systems off in the Pacific. It was still pretty much overcast and dull. Later on we checked in at the back country office and got a general report on conditions. Unpredictable weather to continue, lots of water for pumping , no new rockslides, and the usual amount of bear activity. The ranger added that there was an old sow that likes to hang around the area of our hiking start point, but that was about it.
I'm adjusting my pack and keeping an eye on the trees in the sunshine off in front of me where the ground slopes away a bit. It's quiet, and then I gaze a bit to the left and see more trees....
Our first small challenge is how to get started on our hike. The jump off point is near milepost 19 , a long way from nearest parking. Dave likes to run marathons so he volunteered to drop me and all the stuff off, then get rid of the car back at camp, take the shuttle as far as poss, and then walk the rest. We set off at 7 a.m. to coordinate with the first shuttle runs of the day.
We drive up the short two rut path up to the big talus boulder with a ledge just right for mounting backpacks and sitting down. I've got about an hour to kill, waiting and maybe taking a photo or two.
First off, I get out my hiking poles, water,bear spray and map. Then my camera stuff. The first ten or fifteen minutes all I do is sit and listen carefully to familiarize myself with the sounds of the forest. Then I quietly work on my pack a little bit.
They may be looking at me, but of course what they really see is "Room Service" with two Big Bright Bulging Backpack Breakfasts. Mmmmm Mmmm.
and then I see I'm being watched. It was just like Velma Melmac and the three bears in the Farley cartoons. Aw Jeez. Not 100 feet away. Just two of them pretty much hidden by a big tree, each one peering around the trunk, not moving.
If I have to leave I will....though I can't carry two packs, so if I do it will mean the end of a backpack and our hiking plans.
Pepper spray and sharp hiking poles if needed. Leave the packs if needed. First things first. Stand up on the rock ledge to look big and start making lots of noise.
Nuthin. It's like they're watching a movie. Just looking round the tree at me.
A few seconds of this and I throw the first rock at them. It bounces and hits a tree with a thump. Bruin #1 (evidently the Trainee) has had enough and turns tail as fast as his bulk will allow. Ever seen a bear kicking up pine needles and dirt as it bolts away? Making a bee-line back towards the campgrounds no doubt.
But the other one? Still just peering round the tree at me. Great.
But it's looking a bit better. Past the point of closest approach (maybe 75 feet) she's slowly getting further away on my left. A slight course correction and she's still heading away but more slowly.
A couple of seconds then she snuffles about, dinks around with some roots, walks behind another tree, then ambles out and saunters directly towards me. Looks a bit to the left, inspects a tuft of grass to the side, still moving. No rush, just a steady pace. A real pro. Great.
The tiller moves slightly and the bear angles off a bit. More rocks and shouting and she lists off her course by 45 degrees to her right. Does this look like a bear with a plan?
A rock in my hand, a pile of good sized rocks at the ready and spray ready to go. The room sized talus block 20 feet behind me. Shouting and waving my arms. Camera round my neck. Take a split second picture. Heave the first rock. Heave the second rock. Really heave the third rock.
Getting harder to see behind some bushes, she continues and then I realize she's going out of sight *behind* my talus boulder. Wonderful. Not only can't I see her but I have to move away from the rock to have more than ten feet notice if she comes round either side.
I've no time to move the packs but I still have rocks. So I start heaving them up and over the boulder. Some of them don't loft over so they bounce off the top to the back. There's lots of rocks so I just keep going. Toss. Thump. Toss, bounce, drop to the back, thump.
"Maybe there was nuthin' in those backpacks after all.."
Can't go round to have a look. Just keep trying.... and then I see a wonderful sight off to the left about 100 yards away up the slope- the back end of a bear waddling away with the same slow and measured pace.