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Re: What about Bears?

>I am planning a thru hike in April, there has been some chater about snakes
>and bears, it just accured to me, what is the protocol for dealing with a
>bear?  Wide birth would been the first order I would imagine.  How about
>banging on a pot?  Anyone with some first hand or bear experience(sorry)? Rich

I think the key thing is to obey all the "bear rules" which I'm sure you
already know (hanging all food, cosmetics, etc; talk or make noise while
walking in thick forests, don't run if you see one, stand tall and talk
firmly if you do see one on the trail, etc., etc.). I've seen several
during the day on the trail and never had a bad encounter, but the night
can bring a scarier reaction. My only bad encounter occured several years
ago in November in the Shenandoah in Virginia. My niece and I had just
settled down for the night (which begins early in November) and we heard
huge footsteps outside of the tent, along with loud snorting and grunting.
I looked out and a huge black bear was sniffing at our backpacks. Okey, no
big deal yet. After smelling no food in the packs he proceeded to sniff the
tent, so at that point we decided to talk in a calm but firm voice so he
would know we were humans but not threatening him. He circled the tent,
sniffing and snorting and digging with his feet. We thought it was time for
him to leave now. Wrong. He stayed and stayed and stayed, and we realized
we were at his mercy.....no other people for at least 10 miles (not many
backpackers in Nov) and we certainly couldn't leave the tent. We knew we
had no food or smells in the tent, but still this was getting a little
scary. Finally he decided to leave.....for a while.

After an hour, we heard him thudding towards the tent again, and he again
did his circling of the tent and sniffing....at times making an indentation
on the tent wall. Again we talked about nothing and we shook and we felt
sick. Then the night-time entertainment began: he suddenly jumped and it
seemed he shook the whole earth when he landed and then we heard a horrible
blood-curdling high-pitched scream of a small animal, most probably a
rabbit. I dared to peek out the window and there he was, right in front of
the tent and this little animal was screaming its head off. The bear then
decided to take the rabbit up the hill, still screaming, until finally it
stopped. Silence. Then we heard his footsteps come back towards us again.
We thought we would puke, and we were convinced we would die that night.
Resignation even set in. We didn't even talk to show him we were human. We
just lay there, listening to his footsteps and his loud snorting and our
own heartbeats. Again he circled and circled and circled the tent. Again he
went away and again he came back. Finally dawn broke and we realized we
were still alive and had actually made it through the night.

We were so shaken by this event that we aborted our trip and went home
early. It took a long time before I would go backpacking with only one
other person, never mind by myself. But I'm finally over it (I think!) and
can only say that if you meet a bear under these circumstances, and you
know you have done everything right, all you can do it hope for the best.
Out there, we play by their rules, not ours, and thats one of the risks we
take when we decide to go. Most of the time a bear will run from you, but
there's always that "other time." Needless to say, I love backpacking and I
love the AT, and though very aware of these negatives, there is no way I
could stay away from it.

Happy hiking!