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Halloween weekend trip to the Chisos with 3 good scares

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Offline miatarchy04

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Halloween weekend trip to the Chisos with 3 good scares
« on: November 05, 2019, 01:58:34 PM »
My son and I went to BBNP and backpacked and camped from November 1 to November 3. I had originally planned on doing a solo OML during these three days, after I was able to reserve a cabin for halloween night and a room at the Gage Hotel for the night of November 3. The last time I did the OML I learned the importance of a good night’s sleep before and after the hike, so I timed my visit around the ability to get a room before and after the three-day hike.  When I realized that this included the weekend, I invited my son, who works weekdays to join me. He agreed but because he’s a novice backpacker I agreed to modify the hike into something that would allow us to take easier hikes in the Chisos.
On November the first we took a morning hike without packs on the Windows trail and back. Then with full packs we went up Laguna Meadows to Colima Trail to the campsite CO 1. We’d been warned by the ranger at Persimmon Gap that a sow with two cubs was hanging around Boot Springs and we shouldn’t depend on it for water. But we went to the spring, found water flowing at one liter per 50 seconds out of the pipe and filtered enough water to fill a six-liter hydration pack. There were no bears to be seen.  I told my son a scary story about the Colima campsite, remembering the Reddit story linked on this site of a camper and his girlfriend that were chased by a bigfoot type creature.
I told this story as a kind of Halloween joke but when I bedded down that night and heard noises in the bushes, I was a little scared. I shined my flashlight into the bushes (my more powerful headlamp having chosen this time to “give up the ghost”) and saw a reflection of two eyes that looked too far apart and too high to be one of the does we’d seen grazing around us. I I couldn’t see the remainder of the body but whatever it was appeared to be about seven feet high.  Suddenly I saw something else moving much nearer: this was a doe grazing about twenty feet away where I’d urinated earlier (lending credence to the rumor they are attracted to human urine). I remembered then that this was the rut and does were likely to be accompanied by a buck. When my 7-foot high animal in the bush moved, it occurred to me that this was probably the buck. Later, in daylight, I could see that the ground elevated behind the campsite, giving the illusion of height to the buck. Anyway, I exhaled and went to sleep.
My son and I woke up a little before 7 and hadn’t been up more than half an hour in the dark when he heard movement on the trail coming into the camp. He could see advancing eyes coming up the trail. Soon a large adult bear was walking up the trail toward us.  As per NPS instructions, we yelled and threw rocks at the creature. It stopped about 20 yards away (we later walked it off to measure), and stared at us. Eventually it moved off the trail, not to retreat, but rather to flank us. It moved up to a big tree and raised its paws on the tree as if to climb it but neither climbed nor scratched the tree. We were yelling and throwing rocks the whole time. After a minute or two the bear retreated. We were faced with a dilemma. The ranger had warned us we needed to put everything with our scent on it into the bear box, but the CO1 box was too small to fit all our stuff. We got all of our food into it. Collapsed our tent (I was camping cowboy style), and hung everything else as high as we could.
Our plan this day was to hike up Boot Canyon Trail to the NE, SE, and SW rims then back to Colima Trail. We stopped at the Boot Canyon toilet. While my son used the facility, I struck up a conversation with the campers at BC1. They had an illegal campfire going. I told them they would be heavily fined if they were caught, though I really didn’t know if that’s true. But there were signs warning of “extreme” fire danger everywhere and I thought they were being irresponsible. I also told them about our bear encounter and they told a story that was remarkably similar, including the bear’s interaction with the tree. Their encounter occurred the previous evening and they had both video and still photos on their phones to document it. (it happened before sunset).  Probably the same animal.
We hiked the rims and got back to our unmolested camp later that afternoon. The next day we filtered a little more water, from a pool this time rather than a spring, hiked back to the basin, with a side trip up Emory Peak.  We finished with a meal at the restaurant.
After our meal we told the ranger there in the Basin about our encounter. She filled out a form and was very nice, said we did exactly what we were supposed to do and that this was very unusual behavior for a bear. It was spooky that this bear just didn’t seem very scared of us, though it didn’t molest or threaten us other than coming closer than was comfortable.
We spent that evening (Sunday Nov. 3) at the Gage Hotel in Marathon, enjoyed and excellent but expensive meal at the 12 Gage restaurant and returned to our room. I had read a small blurb in the Halloween issue of [/i]Texas Highways[/i] that there is a ghost in the upper story of the Gage, where our small room was, and casually mentioned it to my son.  My night passed without anything more eventful that a trip to the bathroom, though the room was small, pitch dark, and I had to grope my way around my son’s bed to get to my own. I know I woke him up because he stopped snoring, but no words passed between us as I climbed back in under the covers.
The next morning, as we were driving back to Austin, he asked me again about the Gage ghost. When I asked why, he said “Something touched my foot during the night, and I don’t know what it was. I heard you turning in your bed when I woke up.” I smiled to myself and wondered if I should play along but this being my own flesh and blood, I confessed.  He said he was really scared and couldn’t get back to sleep for a long time.
Other than these scary events it was a wonderful trip. I think my son and I will be returning for future adventures in BBNP. Hopefully they won’t be quite as scary.

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Offline Flash

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Re: Halloween weekend trip to the Chisos with 3 good scares
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2019, 03:51:16 PM »
Thanks for the amusing report. From your account and that of bkrier roadtrip, it sounds like a pesky bear has been making the rounds of the Colima and Boot Canyon campsites. 
« Last Edit: November 06, 2019, 02:55:44 PM by Flash »

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Offline miatarchy04

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Re: Halloween weekend trip to the Chisos with 3 good scares
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2019, 07:14:38 PM »
Looks like Roadtrip is the one who had the encounter with the bear. Yes, if my encounter is any indication at least one of those bears is losing its fear of humans and getting frisky.

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Offline dprather

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Re: Halloween weekend trip to the Chisos with 3 good scares
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2019, 09:34:15 PM »
I wonder how long it will be before the powers that be tee-up the bear-proof container requirement?
Leave "quit" at the car.  Embrace the trail as your friend.  Expect to enjoy yourself, and to be amazed.

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Offline Hang10er

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Re: Halloween weekend trip to the Chisos with 3 good scares
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2019, 06:57:26 AM »
I am jealous cause I have yet to see a bear in BiBE.  Although, I want a specific siting.  I need to see the bear as I'm on my way back to my truck.  I need to see it plainly, within camera shot but not too close.  I want the bear to look at me so I can snap a picture and then quickly walk away. 

What about this fire though?  When you mentioned it to them, did they react?  Did they put it out?  Was it on just on the ground???   I really have an issue with people that think they can just ignore the rules.

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Offline miatarchy04

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Re: Halloween weekend trip to the Chisos with 3 good scares
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2019, 08:50:28 AM »
Bear sightings are unpredictable. Before I started going to BiBe regularly, I talked to a coworker who'd been 15 times and never seen a bear. Another considered herself lucky that she saw a bear on her first trip, but it was very distant and ran away as soon as it saw her. These conversations occurred about 12 years ago. My son has been with me on two trips to BBNP in the past 5 years and he saw a bear on each trip even though the first trip was only for 24 hours. He probably thinks they're as common as birds. I've never seen a bear on my 5 solo trips, so maybe my son attracts them.  In all seriousness my experience and the anecdotal experience of others suggests that there are now more bears than in the past, and they are becoming less afraid of humans.

The only reaction of the campers to my statement on their fire was "it's well tended."  Yes it bothers me too when people feel the rules don't apply to them, though quite a few people seem to have that feeling, and I've been accused of being a fascist when I invoke the rules, so I tend not to. In fact, the day before we saw a fire in the Basin campground. Both of these fires were on the ground.  In fairness to the offenders, It was cold both mornings (lower 40s) and the BC1 campers had actually brought a full-sized shovel with them which was next to the small fire. I suppose it may've been for digging catholes but they were only a few yards away from the BC composting toilet.

Despite seeing two fire offenders, it appears that most campers follow the rules on fires. I saw no ashes or evidence that anyone had built one in our CO3 campsite.  There was plenty of deadwood around, and it would've been easy to build one if we'd wanted to, but that's exactly the reason a fire is dangerous and if a fire was ever started in this area the results would be devastating.

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Halloween weekend trip to the Chisos with 3 good scares
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2019, 09:07:45 AM »
I wonder how long it will be before the powers that be tee-up the bear-proof container requirement?

Shhh!!!  :eusa_shhh:  In any event, there was a bear box there so in theory no need for a bear can.

What about this fire though?  When you mentioned it to them, did they react?  Did they put it out?  Was it on just on the ground???   I really have an issue with people that think they can just ignore the rules.

Same here, if they were camped legally with a permit then the NPS will track them down once they find the remains of the fire.  miatarchy04 did you report the fire too or just the bear?
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Offline miatarchy04

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Re: Halloween weekend trip to the Chisos with 3 good scares
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2019, 09:53:27 AM »
No, I didn't report the fire. I'm not sure the NPS will find them out unless they have infrared satellites that can detect fires. As I said they had a full-sized shovel with which they could bury the evidence. And what will happen to the guilty parties? I told them they'd be fined heavily but that was bluff on my part. As I said, I've an aversion to being called a fascist, so I usually couch my warnings in a way that makes it seem I'm trying to do the offender a favor.

Technically, I didn't report the bear: my son did. In fact the ranger said the wildlife biologist might call him and he gave his cell phone number.

The bear box was inadequate to follow the instructions of the Panther Junction Ranger: "Put everything that you don't take with you on your day hike into the bear box."   Maybe most campers don't camp two nights in the same site so this situation doesn't come up that often?
« Last Edit: November 06, 2019, 10:04:59 AM by miatarchy04 »

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Offline roadtrip

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Re: Halloween weekend trip to the Chisos with 3 good scares
« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2019, 01:54:59 PM »
Miatarchy, your bear scare sounds very similar to ours. Ours was on the morning of the 31st. About 7am. We were at Boot canyon 4 which fortunately for us had one of the new giant bear boxes that fit both of our back packs with ease. The next night we were at NE-3, which had the older tiny bear boxes, I guess for food only. We definitely slept with one eye open.
 On my solo OML a few days earlier, I noticed the campsite just west of Fresno Creek had the remains of a campfire.

 


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