Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

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My encounter with a bear in Harriman State Park

Posted by Frum Hiker on August 7, 2008

At about 6pm last evening I had the sudden urge to be hiking along a quiet trail in the woods, so I headed to Harriman State Park which is essentially my backyard- merely 15-20 minutes away depending on how many people are blocking traffic at the intersection of route 306 and maple ave.

I decided for the first time ever to hike the trails accessible from the first parking lot, I haven’t hiked up these trails since I was a kid, mostly because being the first trail head its always crowded- and the last thing I want to see in the woods are people, or mountain lions.

I headed in and hiked for a little over an hour until I reached a flattened area with some wild blueberries- Harriman has the most wild blueberries I have ever seen and I know of some great raspberry patches as well. I davened mincha and headed back down the way I came, rather then making it into a loop. I had forgot my headlamp and didn’t feel like navigating a down mountain trail in the dark.

The sun was giving off its brilliance as I ran and walked down the trail, I trail run uphill and walk downhill, to raise my heart rate. After dropping below the mountain line where I could see the sun it began to get pretty dark, it was already 8pm.

I have this fascination with the bracha asher yatzar, its one of my favorite things to say in the woods- I just like it. So I decided to take a piss even though I didn’t “really” need to. I finished draining the lizard and said the bracha. As I looked up at the trail I saw a medium sized black bear turn around about 50 feet up the trail from me and run away.

Oh man did that freak me out, I did let out a big “THANK THE LORD” but I stood there stunned for a several seconds and then looked where the bear ran, I thought I could see it standing behind a tree looking at me. The last thing in the world I wanted in the woods was a bear stalking me.

So I debated, I figured that I shouldn’t go down the trail I was headed, but it was getting dark and I needed to be away from that bear. I decided to bushwhack downhill to this creek I could hear and follow it out of the woods- I knew where it would take me.

I quickened my step and screamed out Mr. Bear every 10 seconds or so. How could this happen in Harriman of all places, this was the first time I ever met a bear on the trail. I have hiked all over in some of the most rural places on the continent and had never come in contact with a bear this close.

I saw bears on the trail in Alaska, but they were over a hundred yards away busy gathering berries for the coming winter, plus, I had a shotgun loaded with six 3inch slugs- way more then enough to take down a bear. I have seen Grizzlies in Montana, but also from several hundred yards away and that was from the road. The only other close call I have had with dangerous animals was when I was riding some ridge trail near Jackson , Wyoming when my buddy Jason and I came across several huge moose, moose are dumb and will charge and you don’t want a moose charging you.

So obviously I made it out, but I was scared- mainly because bears in such a crowded park are probably not as scared of people as they are in places like Alaska and Montana. In fact, its so unlikely to see a bear in these places because they smell you from miles away- depending on wind direction of course.

Anyway if I wouldn’t have decided to pee at that time or immediately said ahser yatzar which I sometimes forget to do, I would have walked right into the bear- which was obviously watching me- but I didn’t notice nor could I see that far in the fading light.

I find it good to document situations where Gods hand is present so we shouldn’t forget who is boss.

Posted in Harriman State Park, hashgacha prutus, Hiking | 23 Comments »