Monday, August 24, 2009

Bearbag FAIL

My second night in Yosemite, I camped 6 1/2 miles from the valley in a place called Clouds Rest Junction. I found a nice campsite away from the trail nestled under some beautiful pine trees. I thought I was going to be alone for the evening, but later in the afternoon, several small groups of hikers set up camp for the night in nearby sites. Among them were a couple named Linda and Milo. I met them later in the evening when I heard a ruckus coming from their campsite. "Get out of here bear!!" I heard Linda screaming, followed by the banging of pots and pans. Excited to catch another glimpse of a bear, I followed the commotion. It turned out to be a mother bear and her small cub. Linda, a former Yosemite Search and Rescue member, showed no fear making sure the mother bear was far from camp before calling off pursuit. As the excitement of the chase wore down a bit, I told Linda I had some food hanging from a tree near my site. "These are not east coast bears," Linda told me. "You cannot hang your food, the bear will get it," she said. I tried to argue my case, explaining I was using an Ursack, a bullet proof bearbag, and that I had a good hang. "It doesn't matter, the bear will get your food," Linda forcefully responded.
At this point, Linda intuitively said, "Let me go see your bear hang." No sooner had I walked through my campsite and over a large boulder to the tree where my food was hanging from, that I saw the Ursack swinging back and forth in glow of the Yosemite summer sky. "Shit! The bear is in the tree!!" I yelled.

Milo started yelling at the bear and throwing sticks and rocks in an attempt to scare off the unwanted intruder. The bear was unfazed, and continued to bite at the rope while her cub watched and learned from the safety of a nearby tree. After about a minute of chaos, the bear successfully bit through the rope and my food bag came crashing to the ground. Milo and I continued to yell and throw things at the bear while she shimmied her way down the tree. At one point, she stopped about halfway, and started snapping her jaws at Milo and I. (I couldn't help thinking we must have looked like a couple of Neanderthals.) Anyways, while the bear hesitated, I heard Linda yell, "Grab the food!" I quickly ran in and grabbed the bag of food from the ground while the bear continued to snap away. "Damn it! She got the hotsauce!!" I yelled. My Ursack and my shirt were now covered with hotsauce. Milo and Linda continued to scare off the bear once she returned to the ground, and her cub followed down the tree into the woods after her mother. "I had a feeling she was getting your food!" Linda said. She also explained to me how generation after generation of Yosemite bears learn how to target food hanging from trees, and pass the information on to their young. For the most part, they will leave food canisters alone.

Thankfully, Linda, Milo, and some other campers had some extra space in their bear canisters where I could store the remainder of my food for the night. Linda and Milo also let me use their canister for the next couple of days while I hiked towards Tuolumne since they had finished their trip.
Note to hikers in Yosemite: Do not hang your food from a tree! Bears will get it and it will continue the cycle of bad bear behavior. Please learn from my mistake and store your food in the canisters.

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