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Water and thunder and bears, oh my!

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Offline Hookim

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Re: Water and thunder and bears, oh my!
« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2018, 02:19:25 PM »
Great story Hookim!  I'm not sure I've read a "live on the scene" story from the South Rim before.  Is this a first?!?

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Ha, CG! I guess most people up there are on the Rim, sleeping, or conversing with their people. My situation was the "perfect storm" if you will - great signal, alone (i.e. no one with whom to share the excitement), and stuck in tent mostly due to intermittent thunder. Still can't believe it happened, and that my stuff came out unscathed!

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Offline Casa Grande

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Re: Water and thunder and bears, oh my!
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2018, 02:39:01 PM »
I've been on the South Rim in a nasty thunderstorm with hail. One of the scariest moments of my life out there.  But, I was rewarded with a heck of a sunset afterwards.

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Offline Hookim

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Re: Water and thunder and bears, oh my!
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2018, 06:09:50 PM »
I've been on the South Rim in a nasty thunderstorm with hail. One of the scariest moments of my life out there.  But, I was rewarded with a heck of a sunset afterwards.

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Whew, that would be pretty terrifying. No place to hide. My first overnight alone was in BC4 (interesting story for another time), and I, too, was hailed on. Had just enough time to get the tent set up, boil my water for a scrumptious bean dinner, then jump in on my WET sleeping bag and wait it out. Too deep for the sunset, but dang, that was a cool first night! I'm ready to get back out there!

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Offline Imre

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Re: Water and thunder and bears, oh my!
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2018, 11:36:21 PM »
Quote
worried little whines and murmurs.
I believe the whine is a distress call. Watch out for mama bear when you hear that.
For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious, and wrong.
- H.L. Mencken

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Water and thunder and bears, oh my!
« Reply #19 on: September 13, 2018, 03:21:08 PM »
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worried little whines and murmurs.
I believe the whine is a distress call. Watch out for mama bear when you hear that.

Yep, you're right, Imre. I'm wondering if Hookim's cubs sounded something like this:



This sample is not unlike the sounds I've heard distressed cubs make. A few decades ago, I had a bad, bad encounter with two cubs and a mama in the Santa Fe National Forest just outside the boundaries of Bandelier National Monument.  Shortly after I heard sounds much like in the link above, mama showed up and was none too pleased to see me. The feeling soon turned out to be mutual.

That said, I have to praise Hookim for her reactions to the cubs. If I've said it once on this board, I've said it four or five (maybe even six?) times: almost everyone overreacts to bear encounters. Black Bears, especially those in Big Bend, do NOT want to eat you. Admittedly, it's possible, but generally, they only want to eat what you're carrying, or even more likely, get the heck away from you as fast as possible.  Someday, there may be a violent bear-human encounter in Big Bend, but I suspect that day is a long, long way away, especially if we all keep our smellies locked up in bear boxes when playing up in the Chisos. Hookim played it amazingly cool and everybody walked away fine. Granted, there may have been a bit of luck or grace involved: the one situation where a good bear can go bad fast, is a mama protecting cubs, but Hookim sounds like she's had plenty of first hand experience with bears and probably knows this. The thing I really want to compliment her on is not filing a needlessly alarming bear report with the rangers. THAT'S a pretty rare thing.  :victory:

"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline Hookim

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Re: Water and thunder and bears, oh my!
« Reply #20 on: September 13, 2018, 11:25:41 PM »
Hi, Guys! Thank goodness that was nothing close to the sounds I heard. Cool that you posted that resource, though, as while I was up there I made a note to listen to every BBNP animal sound before next time. Just plain good knowledge to tuck away. Also, as I think back, I do wonder if Mama wasn't the guilty party at my tent... Could be mind exaggeration tricks, though.

HMOD - you can't just leave us hanging with your bear story! Do tell! American Black Bears are a bit of a different story than the Mexican Black Bears in Big Bend. Did y'all see that story from Raton, NM a few weeks back? Yikes!
https://www.kxan.com/news/new-mexico-man-explains-how-he-survived-a-bear-attack/1368735613

Thank you very much for the praise. Honestly, I always feel fortunate to see them. My degree is in bio, passion is animals/nature, and I've tried to educate myself on the ecology out there specifically to be a respectful guest. I hope others do so, too, to keep the prospects of injury at the hands of a host very low. I've seen 7-8 bears up there, including a mother with two cubs near Cattail Falls in June 2014. She was across the ravine on our way out. We stopped to admire her. Suddenly up popped a little head from behind a bush. Oh! Mom and well-behaved babe kept a keen eye on us, but didn't budge. As I wondered aloud to my friend about the location of the "other one", as typically they have twins, we spotted said rebel sibling goofing off in the ravine between us. Uh oh! We skidaddled pretty quickly at that point. She stayed put. They're so docile, and that's another reason BB is one of my favorite places - the mutual ease of the wildlife interactions...

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Water and thunder and bears, oh my!
« Reply #21 on: September 14, 2018, 03:13:16 PM »

HMOD - you can't just leave us hanging with your bear story! Do tell! American Black Bears are a bit of a different story than the Mexican Black Bears in Big Bend.

Hookim, I'm a bio, too. But birds, not bears, so take my bear opinions with a grain of salt.  The Bandelier story goes thusly: about three decades ago, I was on the fist day of a late-summer, 3-day, 36-mile loop trip from the Bandelier visitor center to the pictographs in the Ancestral Puebloan ruins of Painted Cave in the deep backcountry, and from there down along the Rio Grande and finally back up to the visitor center. I was alone and traveling for pleasure, not work. I knew Bandelier and the contiguous national forest very well, having backpacked there many times. I'd just acquired one of the new Sierra Zip Stoves, a lightweight (for those days) forced-air wood burner, and was excited to test it in the field, but NPS forbid the use of non-containerized stoves in the national monument, so my two nighttime camps had to lay outside the monument boundaries. Day one, I headed north upcanyon along the beautiful stream in Frijole Canyon to Upper Frijole Crossing, then south back up onto the plateau, southwest across the log bridge in Upper Alamo Canyon and up to the edge of Upper Capulin Canyon, down the steep, rough trail carved into the canyon wall, and finally from there northwest and west upcanyon along the banks of Capulin Creek as it meandered through the ever-narrowing defile toward the monument boundary.  On the other side of the boundary, my stove was legal. However, Capulin Canyon was, at that point, no mighty gash in the earth, but rather a steeply inclined 30-foot-wide timbered floor, bisected by a 10-foot creek, bordered by very steep, very heavily-timbered slopes. I walked upcanyon a ways more, but as the canyon narrowed, the choices just got worse. Finding a suitable campsite for the night on this side of the boundary was not going to be easy. The choices were pretty thin. And the sun was starting to drop below the tops of the trees. And I was hungry.

I dropped my back in a tiny clearing beside the creek and began searching for a campsite large enough and flat enough to fit my needs, gradually expanding the search farther and farther away from my pack.  After about 15 minutes, I was 25 or 30 yards downcanyon from my pack, moving beside the south canyon wall, when I heard what I thought was a barking sound behind me. I looked upcanyon through the dwindling sunlight and saw...a large brown dog? Nope. A bear cub. It was beside my pack on the drainage floor, near the bank of the creek. Everything I had was in that pack.

Instinctively, I moved toward my pack and the cub. After a few quick steps, I heard another sound - probably very similar to what you heard up on the South Rim - but this sound came from above me, at a higher elevation on the canyon slope, but still upcanyon. It was another cub. I started to shout and wave my arms, alternately at each cub. The second cub retreated away from me up the south canyon wall.  The first cub began to whine. Then I heard a crashing noise behind me, downcanyon. I turned and saw an adult Black Bear loping, not toward me, but toward the cub at my pack. For a second I froze. And then I started backing up the south slope, my eyes locked on the adult. Something, maybe my movement, grabbed the adult's attention and it turned toward me. I backpedaled up slope, vocal cords seized, eyes wide, scared to death. I had nothing to protect myself. For a brief second, I thought about grabbing a downed pine bough...anything... as a weapon, but the adult was nearly on top of me before I could react. 

"Nearly" is the key word. It was a bluff charge. Why did the bear stop? I have absolutely no idea. I was backpedaling upslope, eyes locked on the bear, arms lifted and finally screaming for all I was worth. The bear stopped, huffed, ears lowered. I continued to slowly back up, and yell and wave. The bear turned, and ambled back toward the cubs, both of which were standing together near my pack now.  It turned again, looked at me steadily, as I slowly backed downcanyon along a higher contour, After what seemed like an eternity, the bear spun and ambled to its cubs. In the twilight, I continued to carefully backpedal all the way downcanyon to the monument fence and finally paused there, shaking like a frail leaf in high winds. For a moment, I thought I was going to black out from the adrenaline rush.

I didn't black out, though it took many, many minutes before I stopped shaking. I didn't wait for the shaking to stop. But instead crawled over the fence and took quick stock of my situation. The bears undoubtedly had my pack now and my pack had everything. My on-body resources consisted of light hiking boots, wool hiking socks, wicking inner socks, wicking briefs, and wicking t-shirt, supplex hiking pants, a baseball cap and eyeglasses on my head, a Trails Illustrated map of Bandelier in one thigh pocket, an energy bar in the other thigh pocket, my trail wallet and trail permit in a back pocket, and a keyring on a belt loop, with attached Pulsar microlight, a mini-compass/thermometer, and a whistle.  That was it: no shelter, no extra layers, no rain protection, no firestarter, no knife, no water, no means to purify any, no signaling devices. The weather forecast, as best as I remembered, was favorable, with no mention of rain or cold for several days, though I was at around 7000 feet and daylight was all but gone. What to do?

Having backpacked several times in Bandelier, I knew the trail system almost by heart. I also knew there was a small ranger cabin a couple miles downcanyon from my current point. Even if it was unoccupied right then, it was very likely to be home to a water cistern, and shelter if I could get inside it. I checked my topo map: yep, the cabin was just under two miles away and there were no major trail distractions. I could make it there, even in the dark, as long as I could just keep walking downcanyon. I found the trail on which Id entered and then started toward the cabin at a determined pace: east and then south with plenty of pauses to look and listen over my shoulder, always wondering if Id find a bear following me. Soon it was pitch black in the narrow, timbered canyon. My only light was my tiny Pulsar and more than once I stumbled and tumbled on a root or a rock. After an hour or two, I spied the looming shadow of the ranger cabin, and even better - a shaft of light slicing through the night. It was occupied!!! I stopped short and called out to the occupants, trying not to sound too scary (or crazy) and probably failing at both. Turns out two volunteer rangers both young women were using the cabin as a stopover on their own 4-day ramble through the backcountry. They were off-the-clock and enjoying some free time in the monument. I explained my situation to them. They were impressed by my bear encounter, and quickly shared their hot dinner with me and - even better - all the water I could drink. They even set up a cot and blanket for me outside the cabin. The next morning, they shared their breakfast with me and wished we well as I decided to head back upcanyon to recover whatever was left of my backpack. Trail angels, for sure.

The two miles back to where I abandoned my pack seemed to take forever, but eventually I spied the monument boundary. My nerves were on fire when soon thereafter I spotted a dark lump in the distance. HOLEEEEEE COW, still the bears?!?! Nope, my pack. It was laying on the ground almost exactly where Id left it. And relatively unmolested. Scratches a-plenty, both nalgenes spilled from the pack's side pockets and one shattered. But that was it. I was flaggergasted. As best as I could tell, nothing else was damaged. The only thing I could figure was that, because the pack was abandoned on the very first day of my trip by which point I hadnt pulled a single thing from my pack except my water filter, there were no odors to interest the bears. Id only eaten energy bars stored in my pockets and the empty wrappers had all been stuffed inside my pants pockets. My guess is that if my pack had been abandoned any later in the trip, it would have been covered in odors of food and trash and toilet and probably would have been torn apart. Standing there, jaw agape, I thanked my lucky stars, shouldered my pack, and headed back down canyon toward the Painted Cave and the rest of my trip.

One lesson well-learned from that little brouhaha: never again have I ventured more than thirty feet from my pack without carrying a fanny pack filled with all the supplies I need to survive a permanent separation from my main pack. Generally, the emergency supplies are loaded into the top lid of my main pack, and the lid has been rigged with straps that allow it to double as a fanny pack. So....If I go - even to the latrine - it goes with me, along with its contents including a small water container, chlorine pills, firestarter, tiny headlamp, a tiny compass, tiny knife, large plastic trashbag or disposable plastic poncho for emergency rainwear, an ultralight metallized emergency bivy sack, a large hank of 3mm utility cord, a first-aid kit, PLB, and a couple of tiny red smoke flares. 98% of the time Im traveling solo and I figure I can make it at least a week on that stuff. Additionally, if Im venturing into areas where cold is a serious threat, Ill stuff an ultralight down vest and maybe some microfleece gloves and balaclava in there, too. Ive never regretted these precautions, and more than once some part of them have proved necessary.

Anyway, big kudos to you, Hookim, on your approach to nature and to wildlife. I can't say enough good about it, especially your goal of learning the sounds. Big Bend has played host to more than 450 bird species alone...so you have your work cut out for you.  :icon_lol: Unfortunately, the older I get, the deafer I get. Those days are beyond me now. Here's wishing you many good days and nights in the backcountry.  :great:
« Last Edit: September 14, 2018, 03:31:30 PM by House Made of Dawn »
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline Hookim

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Re: Water and thunder and bears, oh my!
« Reply #22 on: September 15, 2018, 10:25:50 AM »
Omgoooodness! First, your memory is a steel trap! The detail - great recount! I could see the whole thing unfolding like I was right there. You had all the right moves. Some good lessons in this tale for actions when there are no supplied bear boxes and you're staring down a fierce mama.

My pack is neat in that the water bladder stow pocket is actually a removable daypack, so without a box and this story, I may have made the same mistake in the future. Thanks for preventing that.

Funny the girls made you sleep outside the cabin. Safety first!

I think you're right about the smells. I try to keep a good handle on that, but it's damn near impossible. Btw, I read balaclava as baklava and did a double take. Talk about sticky and smelly! 😄

What a lucky fella you are!

Btw, found a site of all kinds of  American bear sounds. Didn't find the initial hello/scream, but did find something similar to the murmuring... It's the first track.
https://www.bear.org/website/bear-pages/black-bear/communication/29-vocalizations-a-body-language.html
"The cub is making the cooing sounds and the mother grunts, which is a common sound mothers make to cubs. ... This explosive behavior looks and sounds very threatening but is harmless bluster from nervous bearsoften mothers with cubs. Bear Center researchers have never had blustery bears approach and make contact."

Thanks for the support, HMOD! Let's keep on keepin' on!

P.s. 450 bird sounds - oh my!!

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Water and thunder and bears, oh my!
« Reply #23 on: September 15, 2018, 12:14:44 PM »
 :icon_lol: I never go anywhere without my baklava....it's my one indispensable emergency supply. :icon_lol:
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline Hookim

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Re: Water and thunder and bears, oh my!
« Reply #24 on: September 15, 2018, 12:41:51 PM »
:icon_lol: I never go anywhere without my baklava....it's my one indispensable emergency supply. :icon_lol:
😂👍 I'll add it to my staples list!

 


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