An Unwelcome Dinner Guest

Post by Eric aka Rico Suave

First off, I want to give props to Lookout and all of the thru hikers that find time to post (semi) regularly. This being my first post, I clearly do not fit into this category. Most days out here are jam-packed with breaking camp, putting together meals–more just a series of high calorie snacks–filtering water multiple times, cooking dinner, setting up camp, and sleeping… oh yeah, and hiking. We generally cover about 18-25 miles a day at this point, hiking away the vast majority of our daylight hours. The last thing I want to do as my eyelids droop, laying in my sleeping bag,is pull out my phone and clumsily thumb away paragraph after paragraph of updates from the AT. So thanks to those dedicated souls who are committed to keeping the outside world keyed in on what life is like out here on the trail. I admire your commitment.

Here is my first attempt at adding a story to the Appalachian Trials library:

Memorial Day weekend, my parents met us at Woods Hole Hostel, about 12 (hiking) miles from Pearisburg, VA. They winedand dined us for two full days (thanks sooooooo much mama and papa bears!) before sending us off with some great additions to our resupply. The one I was most excited about was a half-pound of delicious, salty, country-cured ham.

When they dropped us off Monday afternoon, Lookout and I began hiking with the intention of doing a short day and camping just before Pearisburg.  Unfortunately for us, there weren’t any viable camping spots, so as dusk began setting in, we begrudgingly hiked through town, past the cemetery, over the New River and back into the woods about 200 yards from some sort of chemical plant.

As the sun started setting, the only thing keeping me from being thoroughly annoyed at the lack of camping options was the anticipation of our delicious, salty, country ham mixed into a Knorr Alfredo Pasta side aka  hiker heaven.Unfortunately for me, Lookout wasn’t as enthusiastic about our dinner plan and made it known that it did not make up for the fact that our short day was turning into a late normal day.

We finally found a place acceptably “flat,” threw up the tent, and called it a day. Lookout started cooking dinner. I hung our bear bag rope a ways down the trail.  As soon as dinner was done, I could clip the bags with our food and cooking pot to the rope, and hoist them up without fiddling with tossing the rope in the dark. As I made my way back to Lookout, I was struck with the delicious aroma of country-cured ham in Alfredo Pasta. Dinner was served. We both scarfed it down as the day light dwindled. As soon as I was finished eating, while Lookout packed up the food bags, I went to the tent to grab a carabiner with which to hang them, thus safely stored from critters for the night.

Lookout’s voice drifted in my direction.

“Eric, there’s a (something inaudible) here.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Um, there’s a bear here.”


Lookout said it in such a calm matter of fact tone that it took a few seconds before it sank in that THERE WAS A BEAR, right here, right now, at our campsite.

I ran over to Lookout, armed to the teeth with a 1.5ozcanister of pepper spray and one duct-taped trekking pole, ready to do battle. As I approached Lookout, she looked at me and then at the bear no less than 20 feet away. Lookout and the bear were engaged in a staring contest, each sizing the other up. It was at that point that I knew what the bear was there for– the delicious, cured ham that had long since been devoured, but whose sweet scent still filled the air. Wanting to make sure that the bear did not for one minute think that either Lookout or I was the producer of that scent, we followed textbook scare-the-bear tactics.

We yelled, “YOU GET OUT OF HERE BEAR! Hey bear, LEAVE!”

We banged our hiking poles together.

I picked up a couple of branches and threw them in its direction.

If the textbook were to be believed, the bear should haverun off in terror. This bear had apparently missed this lesson, because it was not so easily deterred. With a head tilt reminiscent of a dog curious to know if you had a treat in your hand, he stood his ground, wondering just how threatening we actually were. Finally, he slowly sauntered away, but not without stopping and looking back over his shoulder once or twice.

The next morning we realized there was a dump about a mile up the trail from our encounter. I guess this particular bear is used to trying to get a free meal whenever the opportunity—or smell—arises. Kinda sounds like a thru hiker….

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Comments 3

  • A J MacDonald Jr : Jun 9th

    Whose the guest in the woods? Hint: It’s not the bear.

  • Jason Bourne : Jun 9th

    A lot more sightings lately or at least reported ones. I just read that a teen was pulled out of a hammock in NC. Him and his father were in the backwoods so I can see why. Even though bears love the crowded camp sites where food is in abundance I think that the secluded areas are more dangerous to camp. Less noise and you’re in the bear comfort zone so they are less intimidated by humans. People need to learn where to cook, store food, and always have more than one items for protection against bears.


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