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A Bear Encounter in the North Country

Lower Gentian Pond, Mahoosuc Trail

I had a benign bear encounter this weekend at Lower Gentian Pond on the Mahoosuc Trail, way up in the northern part of New Hampshire, near the Maine state line. I stupidly left some beef jerky in my rain jacket which was hanging inside my tent vestibule overnight. At about 4am, I felt a big nose poke me in the back through the vestibule wall and the inner tent. I made some noises, thrashed about in my sleeping bag, and then heard a big animal trot away.

At first I thought it was a moose, but when I woke up in the morning, I didn't see any moose tracks around my tent. We had a lot of rain the previous night and I'd have expected to see some sign of such a big animal. So now I'm convinced that it was a bear.

I guess I was lucky. I had thought that most bears would be asleep by November 15th, but upon further research I've found that bears start to hibernate as late as December 1st in New England. I'll take that as a lesson to be more careful this late in the season, especially when I'm hiking solo.

Under the circumstances, it was good that I was using an Ursack, lined with an odor-proof OPsack, to protect the rest of my food from other critters. With sunset arriving so early in the evening at 4:15 pm, it's a pain to hang a bear bag and risk beaning myself with a rock in the dark.

The last time a bear got this close to me was in the Catskills a few years ago.  A bunch of us were camping at a state campground outside of Phoenicia, NY and a bear tripped over my tent guylines at night. I remember being so paralyzed with fear that I couldn't even make a sound.

This time I wasn't as much afraid, as annoyed. Maybe that's the benefit of experience with these sorts of things. I promptly fell asleep afterwards, until dawn, when my alarm went off. Mysteriously, the jerky had come out of the plastic bag it had been tucked into, so maybe the bear had some, afterall.

6 comments

  1. scary but very exciting at the same time!

  2. These are the kinds of things that keep me coming back to the woods time and again.

  3. That's a pretty good pucker factor. My last test of my man card was when I made an attempt to get too close to a bear and her two cubs which were up a tree that I was standing under. It took one charge from the mama to make me turn around and run like a little girl. People like to say, "stand your ground" and otherwise try to one up the bear by being loud and human. From experience, when you have a 600-800 pound muscle-bound animal of pissed off proportions threating to use your head as a Pez dispenser, you'll wear a dress and run too. Screaming optional.

  4. Indeed. I got an email today from a guy who said that a bear climbed into the shelter he was sleeping at to get his food, but he scared it off by yelling at it, while clutching a knife and bear spray. Can you imagine struggling with a pissed off bear in a shelter? Very bad idea.

    I usually hang my food even when I'm in a shelter on the AT although I know a lot of people who don't.

  5. Owwww! Can you imagine spraying Bear Spray inside a shelter? That's gotta be way worse for the human than for the bear. Of couse, it's preferable to being mauled…probably.

  6. I love bears – they make the trip memorable every-time.

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