Lone woman camper, deep in the mountains of California and one very unwelcome late night visitor!
The Labs wake me up barking. I tell them to quiet down, don’t fuss about the coyotes, go back to sleep. But my female, Vige, standing on my bed where she usually sleeps, is glued to the window and changes her bark to an unearthly sound that could possibly preclude a tornado. I am instantly awake, eyes wide open. I switch on the big Maglite® and there, directly below my bedroom window in front of me, is the biggest bear I have ever seen. In a previous life I was a backpacking guide. I have seen a lot of bears; this guy is huge. I flash the light around and yell at it to take off. Meanwhile the two dogs are doing cartwheels off the walls. It has been 102 degrees for the past week and every window is open, and the fragrance of eau de bear wafting in is whipping them into a manic frenzy. This bear isn’t even flinching, he just silently stares me down. After a bit of this to set me a little on edge, he wanders slowly around toward the back of the trailer.
I sidestep fast from the bed to the bathroom, and there he is again, but this time so close even I can smell him. My entreaties for him to leave my landscape are now in earnest. I grab my cell phone to hit the number of a friend camping a few canyons beyond me; more company is what I really would like at this moment. Cell service up here is quite ephemeral, I hear my friend say “hello” and then the line goes dead. I am redialing just as fast as I can, over and over with the same result. The back of my mind is thinking, remember, you have planned for an encounter like this, more noise would be better.
I grab the car keys to hit the panic button and set off the car alarm right as the bear stands up to his full height, quite emphatically eyeball to eyeball with me. I push the button and nothing happens. Push, push, push, PUSH; nothing happens. BOOM! The bathroom screen comes flying towards me with a flick of his wrist. (I know by now some of you are wondering why I haven’t shut the windows. This is an old 1965 model with rickety, cranky, tiny cranks that take me fifteen minutes per window even under much more pleasant circumstances.) I drop the phone in surprise, but grab my pepper spray and aim point blank at his nose three feet away. Flick off the safety and push the button. Nothing happens. The aerosol has evaporated. I hear my voice going octaves higher than it has ever gone before.
My male lab, Mike, is trying to climb the toilet past me and hurl himself through the window. That does not sit well with me and I am trying to hold him back despite the fact that he weighs 80 pounds and I weigh 110 and for once my stubbornness has found an appropriate outlet. With the other hand, I am beating the large Maglite® back and forth very fast and very loudly against the metal frames of the window and wondering where on earth I put the marine air horn. Unbelievably, the bear goes back down on the ground. Unfortunately, it is what I believe is called a feint. Revised reality is the appearance of those very large front legs coming, oh my God, right in through the window, head following a close second.
This is pretty much where I at last throw in the towel, one hand switches firmly back to the car keys while every last ounce of my energy is segued into removing the three prior owners swiftly off the property.
However, my dogs, as I open the front door, are apparently having hearing problems. “In the car! In the car!” is somehow misconstrued as “Get the bear! Get the bear!”, perhaps due to my high decibel level. I however, choose to head for the car, parked in front of the trailer. As a final offering, I throw open two car doors for the dogs, which then finally sets off the car alarm. There is intense barking going on at the back of the trailer, and then Vige comes flying into the car. Just then, like in the movies, or that last hand that slaps down all the aces, here comes the cavalry. Car lights appear on the horizon. My heart stops though, when I realize I hear no more barking, no noise except the car alarm. I am too afraid to go see around the corner. I call and call for Mike. The truck pulls up behind the trailer with headlights blazing. Mike `shows up out of the blue from a totally different direction. I sneak a look and the bear is gone.
Apparently when the phone hit the floor, cell service suddenly improved even though all my friend heard was “Get out of here, get out of here!” That sounded a bit fishy from me at 3A.M, so off he went.
I need a little respite, lock up all the windows and leave the Airstream to fend for herself, then follow along to the other campsite to watch the sun come up.
Carol’s Trailer Chick Tips:
- Bring the right Equipment
- Test and retest your equipment!
- ALWAYS know where you stowed your equipment
- Always tell someone where you are going
- Know and prepare for your surroundings
After the day had gotten a firm start and my heart was more calm, I went back to investigate for any further repercussions. On one side of the trailer the bear left his indelible signature of claw marks from both paws reaching up, as if to attempt to climb on top the trailer. I am five-feet, seven-inches and standing on tiptoe, could barely reach the top of the marks. Windows were intact, but on both sides of each one, I found giant bear prints where he stood up to make his own inquiry into possible salivary satisfaction while we lay sleeping. Vige must have made a sudden nose to nose acquaintance as our window was being checked and induced her hitherto unknown voice which, thank God, brought me to my senses. She can from now on sleep perpendicular to me whenever she pleases, hogging most all the bed, without any interference on my part. Mike, as always, due to his big heart, big body, and valor in battle, remains in complete control of the entire front sofa. (Both came out totally unscathed.)
I offer up this story to all of you, revealing my shortcomings in testing my equipment, in hopes that it will give that extra jab to recheck yours and hopefully reduce the number of heart pounding moments that I am ever so happy to have behind me.
I would love to hear what other campers have been through and how they dealt with it.
I’m one of the lucky ones. So many people search forever to find their perfect trailer and one day I went to Starbucks for coffee and came home with an Airstream. It was sitting out front with a For Sale sign and it was love at first sight. It is a 1966 Airstream Tradewind, perfect size for the dogs and I to travel in. I have had it now for several years and thanks to all the people on the AirForums, have learned to do basic maintenance and even some repairs.
My first trip from Santa Barbara, CA was to Montana and I couldn’t believe what a wonderful traveling machine it is. You never know where the road will lead you. I had planned to go to a rally and instead ended up on a 1200 acre ranch in the middle of a wildlife preserve for a month. I love just being on the road, making up the trip as I go and having my home with me wherever I want to settle in for the night.
Though my episode with the bear was scary to say the least, it hasn’t stopped me from camping out. The one thing I have learned is to always check my equipment regularly. I now keep bear spray and a marine air horn when I am going into bear habitats. The whole experience gave me a healthy respect for wildlife and due to the size of that one bear; I decided to let him keep that campsite to himself. Right now I am making plans on moving into the trailer to begin full timing for the next year.