Jim's Camping / Bear Encounter Story

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Submitted Sat, 8 May 1999
by; Jim Becker jbecker@2xtreme.net
Trip took place September, 1998

I have a story I would like to submit for your bear encounter or camping story page.
Let me start by saying "always take the proper precautions" no matter what anyone else tells you.
Last year, I found a great camping area in the Sierra wilderness, not too far from Truckee, California. If you know Northern California, you know how beautiful it is there. There is a small lake called "Saw Mill Lake" created and operated by PG&E. This lake is in a fairly remote area and boat trailers cannot make the rough drive up there, so it is very peaceful, with only the occasional canoe to break the water's still surface. The camp areas are primitive, with no running water or facilities, perfect for me and my wife.
We went up to this wonderful lake and found a very secluded and picturest camping site. I thought bears may inhabit the area, so I took all the precautions, I hung our food from a tree and kept all food and toothpaste out of the tent, etc. At one point during the trip we met a man who claimed to have been coming up to this lake every year since 1969. He told us also, that he had never once seen a bear. We relaxed and had a great trip.
A month later I wanted to introduce my friend Ken to the area. He had never camped in a primitive campsite before and was nervous, but enjoyed himself. Remembering what the man had told me just the month before, I didn't hang the food up (although I had brought along all my robes and pulleys). In the morning we went for a hike up the mountainside leaving a large cooler filled with ketchup, mustard, soda pop, etc and a dry food storage bin (filled with cookies, donuts and redvines - all essential camping food). When we returned from the hiking trip at around 11:00am, we found the dry food bin tipped over and the food pulled out. But none of it was eaten! It was obvious it was done by a bear, because of the bite marks on the redvine container. Strange, I thought. Why wouldn't he eat the food? Then we heard some rustling behind the trees, and sure enough, there was the bear. A brown bear strolling along slowly. He kept looking back over his shoulder at us and made his way into the brush. We had interrupted him before he could really start eating.
The site of a wild bear only a few yards away was so exciting, Ken had to talk me out of following the bear! We scooped up the food and put the dry food container in my Jeep. We decided to go for another hike. We left the cooler out since a bear couldn't get into a cooler (ha!), besides there wasn't anything in there he would want. Well....when we returned a couple of hours later we found out differently. The bear had in fact returned (he probably never left to begin with). He tipped the cooler over, ripped open every pop can and drank the contents, squeezed the ketchup and mustard out of the containers and ate it up. He also stood on the side of my tent and left some nice muddy/soda pop bear prints on the side (near the top!). He also took down the trash bag I hung on the side of the tree. I hung it at about 6 feet. On his hind legs, the bear easily reached the bag and littered the area with our trash. He also left a nice present in the middle of the camp site for us, to indicate his displeasure at us taking the dry food bin away.
Next time I go up there, whether I see a bear or not, I will from now on always hang my food from a tree and take all precautions, no matter what any else tells me about the possibility of seeing a bear.


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