Thursday, July 26, 2007


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The day passed into night with little impact. The sky grew cold with darkness and my eyelids became heavy. I had to stay alert as alone in the woods at this time of night, it was best not to sleep. I heard the sound of baying wolves and coyotes in the distance, but it was not them I feared it was the long night, and the bitter cold. I could smell the scent of fresh pine from the trees around me, and the moisture in the air told me I was close to a lake or river. I could hear the sound of rushing water and was careful not to trip or fall off some cliff, or into some waterfall. The thought of badgers, wolverines, and wolves in the woods did not frighten me, as it was the bears. This was Bear country, and they had been known to hunt at night with excellent night vision. I could handle the critters, but bears I run from. I had a friend who studied bears for a living and he didn't survive that career. I heard the trees rustling, and knew I not make a sound, as with the new moon the blackness of the night was haunting and precise. The birds were all asleep save a lone meadowlark whose sound I chose to follow to find some recompense. One thing for sure, is that I didn't want to become a midnight snack for a rogue grizzly. The woods were damp from the thunderstorm that raged all day, and I hadn't time to rub sticks to make a fire. My matches were wet, supplies low, and now the food was gone. My heart drove me to find some berries a clearing, decide on what direction to take and pray for dry weather. The trees behind continued rustling baiting my worst fears that a grizzly might be on my trail. I found a large pointed stick and decided to use it as a walking stick or weapon in case of attack. The long, slow drawl and growl of a grizzly now became familiar, as I sensed he was within 30 or 40 yards of me tracking. The meadowlark suddenly was quiet, and my every move dictated my location. With no light source to judge and chaotic terrain in every direction, I decided to trust my senses and keep moving as quickly as possible seeking any high ground. The grizzlies pace quickened as did his slow hoarse growl and breathing. Fear was my only enemy right now, reminding myself I was still the top of the food chain, unless I die, which was not an option.... I dozed off from total exhaustion only to awake from the gaping shadow of a 1000 lb grizzly jumping from the ledge! It was only due to my adrenaline, and Spiderman type reflexes that allowed me to bolt barely escaping the rake of his razor sharp claws. The sun was rising now, and all I could think of was to make it to the river or wherever I had heard the water running. Making a pace that had to be of Olympic tenure, I could not look behind, as I heard the recent growl and deep drawl breathing of the Grizzly in pursuit. My life seemed to flash before my eyes as the water neared then I noticed I was on a cliff about 20 feet from the river which lied below.... Recalling a scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid movie, I had no choice but to jump, terrified as the grizzly closed within reach and no way to know how deep the river is, that I may plunge to my death or be eaten. With choices abound, I screamed and jumped, as the howl of an eagle could be heard on the way down. I hit the water and thank God it was deep enough and that I had taken a huge breath, believing the bear could not possibly follow. I was wrong as he must have lost footing and above me the water exploded from the over 1000 lb girth of the grizzly as he unwillingly plunged in the river after me. I swam like Johnny Weissmuller fleeing from a quorum of alligators in what may have seemed an eternity, but was really possibly the final chapter of my life. I felt the pull of the water as the bears claws came ever so close to my thorax which pummeled exceeding amounts of adrenaline into my bloodstream, enough so, that I didn't even feel the need to breathe. Had I turned fish I wondered, with gills popping, and a shark in pursuit? I swam and swam and swam which seemed like almost 10 minutes not knowing whether I was bear bait or going to drown. My thoughts raced as I pondered, what the hell was I thinking going camping alone in the middle of the night? I turned suddenly about 15 feet deep with trusty spear in hand, the stick I had found, and struck the bear deeply in theabdomen. Though both underwater I could hear the bemoaning groan, with gallons of redness from the blood gushing as the strike was precise, exact, and fatal. The weight of the bear started to fall on me due to his lack of buoyancy, and I knew I need escape quickly for my air had run out. I gasped deeply as I reached the surface, quickly looking around wondering what might happen next. The bald eagle sat perched on the cliff's edge as audience to an adventure film and seemingly surprised it was I and not the grizzly who survived. The grizzly was dead, the sun had risen, and here I was soaken wet, cold, starving, half naked, with my blood soaked stick that had eventually saved my life. My problem now, being without a compass which I lost in the chase was where exactly in the wilderness was I, and what do I do now? I turned away from the sun as midday approached to be greeted by a pack of wolves. An aged white alpha male, 2 grays, and 3 black wolves. I knew not to lose eye contact with the pack leader as my apache background told me that if I did, I might not last the next breath. I didn't blink for what seemed 5 minutes and the alpha must have sensed I was not going to back down from a fight. I still had my spear and the adrenaline had returned, so I would assume he did not wish to incur any losses. It's typical for a wolf pack to assault a weaker target, but most wise old wolves know not to sacrifice their own for a meal. I felt safe amongst the wolves even though they appeared hungry and ready for their next meal, but the white male sensed a camaraderie in me, so his fierce growl led into dead silence and a shrug as he led the pack off. I figured the fates were on my side, as I learned as a child to never fear an animal or animals smaller than I, but to always run like hell from a hungry bear in pursuit. On second thought, maybe it was more than my eye contact that drove the pack off. Maybe it was the scent of another bear in the woods. Reminding myself that this was bear country and pondering the age and gender of the one I had killed, I figured it might be a young male, with a mama bear possibly in close territory. I highly respected bear consciousness as way beyond anything man could imagine, as a mistake men often make is to underestimate their animal opponents. As the Sun set in the West over a mountain, I realized I was right. Slowly I turned to gaze into the sunset as I spied a large shadow in the Sun. It appeared to be a large female grizzly now upright at about 8 feet standing, and maybe 1200 pounds seemingly gathering direction with focus and intent I had never seen in a wild animal before. Whatever fear I had embraced from the prior encounter was dwarfed by the goose bumps and body tingles I felt now. Was this some kind of test by God, or was it verily my last day on Earth. I grasp at all the energy and stamina I could attain, and like a Zuni warrior I took off heading East in full stride through the brush with spear in hand. I did not have to look back, because I knew full well that mama Grizzly was after me now in a mission of revenge for her dead son. My biggest fear was to run head on into another grizzly while fleeing this one. The fact was that they were all over the place. I mean this was the undiscovered country in the depths of Montana Wilderness where few men had ever gone. Once again that little voice in my head said, "What the hell are you doing here?"