When I first saw Jumbo on the trail to Logging Lake, he was sunlit and perfectly posed, about 40 yards ahead. I froze in my tracks.
“Bear!” I whisper-shouted to Mr. Raven. “Bear, bear, bear! Up ahead; see it? Get the bear spray!”
The huge black bear didn’t see us, until he heard the riiiip of Velcro as Mr. Raven removed the bear spray from it’s holster, just in case. Jumbo looked right at us.
That was the shot I missed: the perfect bear-in-the-woods photo of my dreams. I suppose it was adrenalin that caused me to fumble the camera, accidentally pressing the button that makes the screen go blank. By the time I’d re-set, Jumbo was nonchalantly ambling into the shadows. We didn’t have to use the bear spray.
We gave him time to move away before we proceeded, talking loudly, whacking the brush with our sticks, trying to sound large. Mr. Raven wanted to put the spray back in it’s holster, but I volunteered to carry it in my hand. Just in case.
“You won’t see another one,” he says.
“Famous last words,” says I.
It’s 4.4 miles to the lake with an elevation gain of 373 feet. Mr. Raven and I were rather proud of ourselves, hiking to the lake on such a hot day, meeting a bear on the trail and not getting dead. Yeah, we’re rugged! For our age.
Then we meet a father and son team at the lake with a canoe. They’d hiked in with a canoe! They carried a canoe above their heads, wearing backpacks packed with sleeping bags, food and cooking gear, fishing gear and toothbrushes. Furthermore, they were planning to paddle to the end of Logging lake and portage to another lake.
Okay, we’re not that rugged. I tried to imagine carrying our canoe on the trail. I might be talked into carrying an inflatable pool toy, but even that would be too cumbersome. And how do you watch for bear with a canoe on your head? I suppose a bear would be too taken aback to be a danger.
We ate our sandwiches, rested and cooled our feet in the lake awhile, bracing ourselves for the hard part; the hot hike back.
It must’ve been alarming for hikers starting out, all fresh and perky, to come upon the two of us, slumped on a log near the trailhead; sweat drenched, dirty, deety, bug-bit, tired old hiker-zombies. Maybe 8.8 miles on a 90 degree day is nothing for them, but we were done in.
“We saw a bear,” we told them, upping our wilderness creds.
On the way home I noticed the expiration date on the bear spray. It expired last summer.
So much for wilderness creds.