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Oh bear!

Michael Giacopassi

Posted on April 04 2017

I have never had a problem with bears.  We had a mutual understand, or so I thought.  Prior to this weekend my interaction with bears was limited.  

I saw a few from the comfort and safety of my car as I was driving the roads up north in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.  And once, while hiking the backside of Hunter MT, NY in the rain I ran into one.  Man on bear.  Mano a Mano.

That particular day was a rainy mess.  No one was hiking but me,  I didn't even borrow my friends dog which I typically did on longer solo day hikes but I didn't want to return a muddy mess of a pup.  The day started off uneventful enough, a three hour drive to the mountain, followed by a half hour of searching for the trail head.  Eventually I picked up a hitch hiker along the road and offered him a ride in return for some directions as to the trail head.  

Once I dropped him off and got to the trail head I knew it was going to be a long slow day.  The rain was coming in waves, the leaves all had fallen which made things even more treacherous.  Wet leaves on top of slick rocks make for unsteady footing. I eventually made it to the top, climbed halfway up the closed fire look out tower - it didn't matter that the gate was locked as we were fogged in with nothing to see anyways.

I sat down for a quick snack and then started on my way down. Coming down a mountain is always slower than going up.  You are a bit more tired and bit more anxious to get home.  Fatigue can be a dangerous element at the end of your hike as you get careless and carelessness leads to injury.

As I carefully picked my way down the backside of Hunter Mountain, keeping my head down and eyes on footing, something caught my peripheral vision and I looked up.

bear on hunter mountain

Right, smack dab in the middle of the trail was the bear.  We both gave each other a good startle as he got off of his front paws and let out a nice little growl to let me know he was there.

After grabbing my knife off my belt, I grabbed my camera to sneak off a few shots.  After his initial growl there was no movement forward or any other threatening actions so I stood my ground.  I looked around and found a big stick near the trail that I slowly bent over and grabbed - then remembering the zero training I had I started yelling and waving it around.  All of this action is supposed to scare the bear off and make yourself look bigger than you really are.

Didn't work.

This guy just stood and stared at me like I had some serious mental issues - which is obvious to anyone that spends any time with me anyways so I wouldn't credit the bear with being Freud.

Typically when I hike with a friend we see zero nature, no squirrels, no birds, no deer , no bear.  Mainly because we are talking, joking and laughing - scaring away wildlife for miles, this time I was all alone.

What felt like a half hour but was probably five seconds he decided whatever I was, I wasn't worth it - so he ambled off the trail a bit, but then turned around and stood there.  He wasn't far enough off the of the trail for me to make a move by him, so I stood and waited as he stood and pondered his next move.

Again, what felt like hours was probably seconds and he turned once again and moved along - at that point I started hauling.  I am pretty sure I ran all the way down the rest of the mountain.  It was a combination of adrenaline, nerves, excitement and everything else.  I had never been that exposed, that alone face to face with the power of a bear and it thrilled me.

That was a long way to get to my point - the bears and I did have an understanding, not anymore.  On Sunday morning I woke up and looked out the window only to discover my beehive had been smashed off it's stand and upon closer inspection the remaining honey clawed away.

beehive destroyed by bears

After a year of caring for, feeding and watching over my hive of loyal bees I found myself in shock that a bear would ruin all of my hard work.  So there we have it - trust broken, a bond forged on the trails of Hunter Mountain destroyed by a quick snack of delicious honey.

No longer will I treat the bear with the honor and respect I thought it deserved.

Next time I find myself alone and cold, hiking down a mountain and run in to a bear there will be words said and fists thrown.  Should I condemn an entire species for the brazen act of one?  Probably not, and maybe my anger will subside in due time , but my bees were my friends, pets and pollinators and at least for the time being I am looking for revenge.


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