Tuesday, November 15, 2011

our epic road trip, part 3

Sunday afternoon, we made our way to the General Sherman Tree. It's not the tallest, but still the largest tree (by volume).
A moment after I snapped this photo, my mom (I think) said something along the lines of "IS THAT A BEAR?!!" and... sure enough, it was:
He slowly made his way down the hill, across the paved walkway, under the fence, and toward the tree. He got really close to people:
And then he suddenly started running (and I snapped out of my initial "THIS CANNOT BE REAL" trance) toward a bench where some visitors had just unwrapped a nice picnic (looked like subway sandwiches). The guy turned white as a sheet (understandably so), dropped his food, and backed away.
I scooped up Noah and we all started walking rather briskly back up the hill, away from the bear picnic, just as most of the other people who were around started walking TOWARD THE BEAR.
Further up the hill, we saw a lady who had a little white dog with her (perhaps a Maltese or a Bichon?), off leash. When we told her about the bear, she picked up and carried her dog. You know, for safety? Or... something? (Seems like a little dog like that would be a perfect snack for a hungry bear, and carrying it would not be the most effective way to keep the dog safe, but maybe that's just me, overthinking things?)

Now... I was pretty upset. I'd done some reading about bear safety (all of which suggested that bears wouldn't approach a loud group of people because they're afraid of humans), and I'd glanced over the guide we'd been given when we entered the National Park, where they describe the rules. So I knew that you're not supposed to eat anywhere except for designated picnic areas. On our way back to the car, I saw the - admittedly rather small - NO DOGS sign at the trail head. My faith in humanity took a serious beating that afternoon. My righteous indignity was off the charts, and I needed to tell Someone Who Would Make A Difference. Like, I don't know, Barack Obama or something. I'd have settled for a NP ranger, but there was no ranger to be found. NOWHERE.

When we got home from our vacation, I sent an email about the whole thing to the general info email address for Sequoia NP, saying that I had a photo I could send if they were interested. They asked for the photo and forwarded my emails to their bear specialist, who sent me an email asking for my phone number so he could get more info. He told me he was really happy to have a confirmed report with a photo. I guess now they can go ahead and try to capture and tag that bear so it can hopefully be re-educated so it won't be a danger to people. I also told him about the lady with the dog, and his response was "Well, we haven't had any reports of dogs being snatched by bears. [pause] The mountain lions usually do that." Hee, hee.
That phone call at least made me feel like I'd been a responsible National Park visitor and steward of the environment. Or something. It did restore some of my faith in humanity.

After the bear incident, we regrouped, I took some deep breaths (though I won't lie to you - I was REALLY upset and shaken), and we moved on. The above photo shows three of the four guardsmen. The lanes of the road are split up so you drive right in between those huge trees.

3 comments:

Carrie said...

Holy cats. I would have been totally freaking out. I can't believe those people are just calmly standing there as a bear approaches.

Yara said...

1. Oh my God! That was a bear!
2. I have small dogs. We took Tink hiking that one time we went, and if there'd been a bear, she would outrun us all to get away. Unless she was an idiot & ran toward the bear, in which case I wouldn't hesitate to scoop her up like a baby & get away from the bear. Dodger, Ev's dog, would probably need to be carried. He is mostly bichon. So, yeah- we'd pick him up. We would (okay, me) never take him on a trail that said NO DOGS, though. I'm not an idiot ; )
3. Is that one lady posing in front of the ~bear that could eat her~ laughing?
4. I'm glad you called. You're pure awesome.

Sonja said...

The people in the second bear photo were posing in front of the tree and the bear walked into their photo (photobomb bear!). They had no idea it was there! (Can you imagine turning around and seeing a bear run past?!!)

Yara, I guess I'd have picked my dog up, too - seems logical enough. But just like you, I'd have been more responsible in the first place and wouldn't have brought my dog to a place where it wasn't welcome/allowed/safe.