Chasing a Black Bear

Day 137

After breakfast, I rode the 55 bus to Barton Urgent Care, which was across the state line in Nevada. The South Lake Tahoe bus system is fare free so it is inexpensive to get around town. At the urgent care, the doctor said I had a tibialis anterior muscle strain in my right calf.

I felt relief at having a diagnosis, though the swelling on my ankle’s outer side concerned me. Due to staffing, the urgent care did not have an x-ray tech on site, but the receptionist said I could come back tomorrow. Not having much experience with body pain, I worried about a stress fracture.

My next stop was Grocery Outlet. I hadn’t been to one before, though I saw why hikers like it. Back at the campground, I elevated my leg on one of the charging area’s picnic tables. Guy Strider had hiked out and been replaced by several new arrivals. I chatted with a nice Canadian guy named Clutch.

Day 138

What an eventful night! Around 1 am there was yelling from another campsite in response to a bear. Then ~4 am I woke to an odd sound, which I eventually realized was claws scraping a tree. I peered out and saw a giant black bear pummeling my Ursack. Yelling “that’s my food”, I jumped out of the tent and grabbed my trekking poles. Waving a trekking pole in each hand to make myself look bigger, I charged the black bear. It ran off.

I untied the Ursack from the tree, which took awhile as the knot had been pulled very tight. Then I put it under my tent fly, where I could thwap the bear in the nose if it pursued it further. Unable to go to sleep, I watched a couple shows on my phone. Around 6 am, I heard noise near the bear canisters. This time a couple guys, emboldened by my earlier effort, clapped their hands to scare off the bear. I climbed out of my tent and watched with them as the big bear and a smaller adult one circled around the periphery of the camping area before disappearing into the woods.

My Ursack worked as intended; it prevented the bear from getting a taste of my food. Once I opened it (the knot around the top was also tight), I surveyed the damage. About half the food inside survived, several homemade meals were punctured by bear claws, their contents wet from either saliva or exploded oil packets. The M&Ms were all a loss. The sack itself had a dozen or more claw-sized holes, but no rips. Clutch had a cool set of claw marks in the top of his bear canister.

In the aftermath, two ladies recognized me from the AT. One was a gal named Clutch, who I met at the Hostel of Maine. The other was Disco, who I met at the blueberry farm and who was a tramily member of Come Along, with whom Hobble-it and I hiked through Shenandoah and Pennsylvania. What a coincidence! The two of them and another gal named Sprite were doing the Tahoe Rim Trail.

There was an Italian guy named Iron, who was in one of the tents closest to my Ursack. He, guy Clutch, and I spent awhile re-living the morning’s events. Then we went to McDonalds and got coffee, joined by another thru hiker named Patchy. Back at camp after errands, I spent much of the afternoon hanging out with Iron and Clutch, who were both cool guys.

Also, Iron had the same injury as I have, yet with even more swelling. His healed after five days of rest and with the use of KT tape to support the injured area. Iron gave me a couple tape strips. He said he’s met seven or so other hikers with the injury. With this knowledge, I felt no need to pursue an x-ray.

Day 139

To keep expenses low, I’ve been finishing off trail meals and eating grocery store food. However, I was curious about Sprouts Café so I took the bus there for breakfast. I got the Huevos Verduras Rancheros, which were good and full of yummy veggies.

Last night, the bear did not find my Ursack, which I put in a different spot. Unfortunately condiments ended up in one of the hiker tubs and the bear spilled the contents all over. Someone threw everything back in, but the bottom was a mess of spilled shampoo & condiments, plus damp tea bags. I threw away the food and scented bath products. Then I thoroughly cleaned the tub and refilled it with undamaged items.

At the camp headquarters, I borrowed tape, paper, and a marker and labeled both hiker tubs, emphasizing NO FOOD. It was a way to give back for the goodies I’ve gotten from hiker tubs.

Day 140

Each day my tibialis muscle strain gets better! This morning I applied KT tape to the injured area and was amazed at how much it helped. After passing several hours at a coffee shop, I rambled over to CVS to purchase more of the athletic tape.

Day 141

A brisk walk brought me to the Crazy Good Bakery & Cafe. Online it said they had gluten free treats! Sigh, only muffins, which were fine, however I had hoped for something more exotic like a scone or pecan roll. The chocolate pumpkin muffin was tasty, but there was no charging or WiFi! I saved my coffee purchase for McDonalds, which has crazy fast WiFi.

My resupply box was due to arrive at some point and I contemplated getting back on trail afterwards. At 11:30 am, it started to rain. I happily chilled in my tent and watched a movie. After finishing, I noticed water pooled beside my tent and a bubble underneath one end… it began to seep in. I packed everything except my foam pad into my pack and fled to the sheltered hiker picnic tables.

Mid-afternoon my package arrived and I incorporated the contents into my pack. Back at the hiker site, I dumped the water from my tent and moved it under an un-inhabited awning to dry out. I hung my foam pad and tent fly. Then I laughed at how I’d chosen the exact worst spot in the PCT area to pitch my tent; it was a mini lake. Luckily, the other hikers were on dry ground, though the British couple dug a moat around their tent as water had seeped in one corner.

Since rain was predicted until early morning, I decided not to hike out. I chatted for awhile with Yoshi, who was drying his soaked bivy under the hiker area awning. He is from Japan and in his fourth year of travel, currently hiking PCT sections and bagging peaks. Eventually I returned to my tent and created a dry nest inside. It was a noisy night as people arrived late to set up camp for the coming holiday weekend. In the wee morning hours several car alarms went off, marauding bears?

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Comments 3

  • thetentman : Sep 6th

    Nice post.

    Good luck.

  • Detour : Sep 7th

    Great post! My only $0.02 would be that I would disagree that the bear did not get a taste. The bear may not have gotten many calories but if the food was saliva soaked that means that the bear still got the taste of food which further reinforces the food conditioning response. Same as feeding a bear. Sadly this bear will probably be killed. 🙁

    • Emily Rahn : Sep 12th

      Good point about the saliva. The bear does raid the campground most nights so my Ursack was not its first taste of human food. I hope it does not get put down. The campground had no bear boxes, which surprised me.


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