So it appears every vacation I take must be fraught with peril. Peril in the form of large mammal danger. Some of you may remember that a couple of months ago I shared my near-death experience with a gray whale. Now I can add surviving a black bear to that list.
Let’s start with a big ole “what the heck” on bears in March? Shouldn’t they still be hibernating? The answer is no, because apparently hibernation is a myth. That’s right, we were all sold a great big pack of lies in elementary school. According to the Lake Tahoe, Calif., branch of the U.S. Forest Service, bears don’t go stuff themselves silly in the fall and then pass out until April. Instead they take long naps and then wake up for an occasional “snack and stroll.”
All this is why when my family and I checked into our Lake Tahoe accommodations, we were greeted with a sign that began with “Due to recent bear break-ins...” Say what? I immediately checked in with the caretaker and she shared that there wasn’t “a lot to worry about” because the bears were being “very polite.”
In fact, she added, “Just the other day a bear opened my kitchen window, got an ox tail out my freezer, unwrapped it, not making a mess at all, and then left through the front door. I think the bear may have even gotten into my recliner because when I got home I noticed the seat seemed a little greasy and after that I could never find my TV clicker.”
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There’s so much to process from that statement. First, bear. Second, oxtail (gag). Third, the visual image of a bear in a La-Z-Boy kicking back and eating a frozen snack while possibly watching ESPN. And lastly, B-E-A-R!
Getting up close and personal with a 500-plus pound bear comes in at number eight on my top 10 list of things that freak me out. Snakes, sinkholes, crocodiles and alligators comprise my top four, which is why I never ever go to Florida. All you Florida spring breakers out there watch your back, because Florida is the only place in the world where both crocs and gators coexist and a sinkhole is the state symbol.
Of course, I wanted to change accommodations ASAP, but alas I was told the bears are everywhere. My family tried to calm me down by making fun of me and shouting, “bear” every few minutes because they’re nice like that. (Jerks.) I decided I had no choice but to be “bear aware” and suck it up.
All was well until I found myself alone in the wilderness, on top of a snow-covered mountain with only the swirling winds and a smattering of Jeffrey pine trees to keep my company. I had gone with the rest of my family to go skiing and, as so often happens, after a few runs I was dumped.
Here’s the deal. I believe in skiing very cautiously because I don’t want to risk an injury that would require me asking my husband or kids to help get me on and off the toilet for six months. Can you even imagine?
This all led to me being solo on a mountain with a bear. I only saw a brownish image moving quickly, but that’s all it took for me to be peed-my-ski-pants scared as I tried to remember if the bear protocol was play dead or flee for your life. I quickly went with fleeing.
I skied like I’ve never skied before. (Winter Olympics 2018. I’m coming for you.)
When I finally got to an area with other humans (i.e. more bear lunch options), I allowed myself to look back and there was nothing. Did I even see a bear or was it an extra large pine cone flapping in the wind?
Whatever, in the version of this story to my family, it will always and forever more be a bear. A really big bear.
Reach Sherry Kuehl at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs and snarkyinthesuburbs.com.