Bear in Camp!

The crash of splintering wood pierces my dreams and rouses me from a sound sleep. Instantly, I am wide awake. Nothing speeds up the circulatory system like a dose of adrenaline. My fingers search for the flashlight. The beam of light cuts through the dark like a knife. 12:30 A.M. As if knowledge of the time mattered and would help me in the least.

I hear a loud crashing, as if a door is being ripped from its hinges and thrown to the ground. I sit in my tent, desperately pondering my options. It is early October and I ma the only person still staying in Brooks Camp near the river. I can yell until I’m blue in the face; nobody will hear me. The pontoon bridge is broken down into segments and pulled ashore, and I don’t have a canoe. I open the tent door and glance outside. The futility of any attempt to assess the situation visually is instantly apparent. I might as well stare at a black velvet cloth. I cannot see a thing. The source of the racket appears to be but a few steps away, yet it must be a least twenty yards. That’s how far away it is to the food cache.

The racket in front of my tent continues unabated. If the noise is any indication, there cannot be much left of the food cache. Occasionally, wildlife photography is blessed with unforgettable moments. This one certainly qualifies as such as well, although not in a positive sense. Finally, at about two o’clock in the morning, the din starts to abate. Yet, sleep is slow in coming. I abstain from counting sheep as they would only turn into bears, leaving me more wakeful than before.

Finally, around eight o’clock in the morning I step out of the tent to inspect the destruction. To my surprise, the food cache is still standing. Even the door is in place. At eye level, two large paw prints smile at me. More cover the backside of the building. Upon rounding the cache, I find the source of last nights pandemonium. Several one-gallon canisters of white gas and a few propane bottles are strewn about on the ground. All show teeth marks. My tattered nerves need a rest – one night like the last is enough.

A true tale from Matthias’s travels. Read more in his book Bears of Katmai.