Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bona Fide "Nature Girl"

You will often hear me talk about the bears. A year ago, I went on my first true camping trip with my then fiance, JFent. We went up to the Blue Ridge mountains on two different weekends. I was pretty excited about the opportunity to prove to myself and my future husband that I was indeed one of those outdoorsy types. I did a lot of things like this early on in our relationship... rock climbing, hiking, I bought a bicycle and rode it to the grocery store. I was one with the earth and nature.

But no matter how "one with nature" I tell myself I am, all of that courage comes to a standstill when I run into a bear. Now, you may be asking yourself... who runs into a bear? Well my friends, in the two weekends that I went camping, I came face to face with not one, not two, but EIGHT bears.

Folks come from hundreds of miles around for a chance to spot the rare black bear. Many of them never see one. Oh to be so lucky...

The first encounter happened during an early morning hike. Jason and I were about 2 miles from the campsite, completely alone in the wilderness, when all of a sudden out of the corner of my eye I see these two black bears take off. I expected myself to freak out, but I actually stayed pretty calm, probably because I was in total shock and completely convinced that this was the end for me. Instead of screaming (which is never smart) or dropping to the ground and playing dead, I quickly turned around and began walking ever so quickly in the opposite direction. Jason followed. Eventually we turned around and headed back towards camp but we would have to cross the same spot where we saw the bears. I was so scared that I cried uncontrollably but never said a word.

Obviously I survived, but that would not be the end of the bears for me. During that trip we saw more bears... one roaming around our campsite and the other while we were in the car.

After the "encounter" I had some pretty bad dreams about being dragged to my death by a group of hungry black bears (which is silly, because black bears are really not that dangerous).
I was done with camping... until Jason came home one day with a shiny bell "a bear bell" that you wear on your belt loop to let the bears know you are coming. This way, you won't startle them and they won't eat you. I was less than thrilled, but put on a brave face. I love this man, and if camping is what he loves, than camping is what I will do. So we went on another camping weekend, and another long hike, where we came within feet of even more bears. This time, I had the safety of the bell and I was frantically ringing it.

For all of you first time campers out there... bears are not afraid of bells. In fact, the bears looked at me like I was the dumbest person in the world. Who is this girl, and isn't her arm tired of ringing that bell? Hence another sleepless night in the wilderness... but at least camping season was over. Over the past year, I have prayed and prayed for God to make me a good camper and to keep the bears away.

This was a year ago, and this past weekend the Fentons embarked on their first camping trip as a married couple. And guess what... there were no bears. I even asked a park ranger if they had seen bears lately, and she told me there had been none in sight since August. I was even bell free by the end of the trip. It has taken a year, and although I gave up rock climbing after the first shot, I will say that I am indeed a camper... which makes me a bona fide "nature girl".

And the best news of all... there are no bears in Texas.

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