I’m currently recovering from a near death experience. Well, to be honest it’s more like a close call that brought me near death adjacent or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I was in the vicinity where something horrible might happen. Yeah, let’s go with that.
My story begins at 6,224 feet in Lake Tahoe. It’s one of my family’s favorite places that we visit as much as we can. Because of our frequent Tahoe sojourns, we’re well acquainted with things like being “bear aware” and other assorted mountain guidelines.
But on my vacation earlier this month there was a huge newsflash – the bears have gotten brazen or as one long-time resident explained to me “really comfortable chilling in a human habitat.”
One of the reasons is the September forest fires that burned more 200,000 acres in the Lake Tahoe region and forced a lot of wildlife into areas they normally don’t, umm, usually visit. To be fair the bears were here first. We’re the interlopers which only accelerates my fear/respect of the black bear .
That’s not to say I don’t love bears. I really do, especially from a distance or in books. Winnie the Pooh – best bear ever. Paddington Bear – such a cutie. Heck, I even went to college with a bear mascot. I’m a Bayor bear. But bears have always really scared me.
This is why when I saw all the signs warning of “heavy bear activity” I was on high alert. Then when I heard all the bear stories, I went to DefCon 1.
There was a woman who had a bear just saunter right into her home in the middle of the night and that’s not the scary part – this is. The woman said her only “bear defense” was to throw her robe and blanket over the bear’s head. Holy hell.
Then we were warned that there’s a bear who likes to “nap” in a tree right by our parking space at our Tahoe timeshare. So, we were urged to “always be looking up.”
I’m in total bear freak out mode at this point yet my husband still wants to go hiking because “we’re going to be careful.”
Mother Nature had a much different game plan. Before we even stepped foot on a trail a “plague warning” sign greeted us.
Yep, nothing says have a great hike like a welcome to the plague sign right next to a bear alert. As you can imagine I vacated the area immediately. I had so far survived a pandemic and was in no mood to mess with a freaking plague.
I decided the key to survival was to stay off the trails and go to paved hiking paths (that didn’t have plague signs) in more suburban areas thus perhaps decreasing the chances of bears being around.
The huge clue that this might have been a mistake was when I spotted a ginormous deposit of bear scat that was so fresh steam was rising off of it. This could mean one thing and one thing only – a bear was very close by.
My husband, because he apparently has a death wish, felt the need to confirm via his phone that the plentiful pile of poo we were looking at was indeed bear scat before he would panic. Spoiler alert – it was.
We then started to briskly remove ourselves from the scat area. I, when trying not to pee my pants, was also silently praying for survival while giving thanks that we had just updated our wills.
My story ends with my husband and I being behind a Nevada Department of Wildlife bear trailer. (They take bears “a bit back up the mountain.”) Surprisingly, I’m getting my bear fear under control but that plague sign – it’s still haunting me.