Hello, and welcome to my first ever blogging series called, “This one time”. In this series, I plan to write a collection of posts full of different travel related stories. I promise you these will all be real accounts of my adventures, however, what I can not promise you is that they will be published once a week. It’s me. As extremely sarcastic and annoying I am, I do not hold the talent of being organised, and so, this time next week I’ll probably be munching away at some popcorn at the cinema forgetting I had even starting this series. I promise you I’m a good blogger sometimes.
Anyway, this weeks story is all about this one time I was at Yosemite National Park and I had a close encounter with a bear. That’s right, a bear! My inner Bear Grylls was summoned and if you would like to find out just how much I embarrassed myself then read on…
A bead of sweat ran across my lip and my legs shook as my muscles struggled to keep a pace up the steep terrain of the hike to the North Dome. This was my third hike of this week and it was for sure the hardest. At the Grand Canyon, the hikes are tough but you have the advantage of hiking downwards and so you don’t feel the change in altitude as you do hiking in Yosemite.
Three hours into the hike, I began to feel light headed. My face was on fire and my whole body was throbbing. I took a rest overlooking the most spectacular of waterfalls I had ever seen. Everything in sight was a perfect grey, and as I sat admiring the view, I was unbelievably happy. Happy to be alive and happy to be able see such great wonders of the world.
My friend passed me a cereal bar for energy. I ate it slowly, savouring every bit of sugar. I gathered the rest of my strength and began to continue the journey up the mountain. With only thirty minutes from reaching the top; the closer I got, the slower the ascend felt.
I began the hike with four other people. Now, I was finishing alone; with two of them trailing a few minutes behind me and the other one racing ahead. I found myself quite relieved, because I was in no state fit enough to be able to chat along the way. To keep me company were the distant songs of birds and the occasional squirrel wandering past.
Mentally having to remind myself to put one foot in front of the other, I was now a red, puffing shell of myself. I felt exhilarated but at the same time hoped that this would be my last hike for a while. I knew I shouldn’t have eaten too many Cheetos the night before.
The path now zig zagged upwards and there was now no one below me, the others must’ve taken a break. Everything seemed hazy and as I struggled to remain standing, a middle-aged man and women approached me as they were heading back down.
“You’re not on your own are you?”
“… sorry… yes, I am… Why?”
With his hiking stick, he pointed to an area at the top of the mountain, where the path was headed. It wasn’t too far away, perhaps another 10 minutes till I would reach the top. “Just at the top there we just saw a bear. It looked like he was headed this way. Try not to take a picture of him with the flash, you wouldn’t want to irritate him”, the man exclaimed with a glee in his voice.
The man seemed to be from California from his voice so I assumed he was used to seeing bears and mountain lions around. Me, a 19 year old girl from Essex, England, began to imagine a 10 ft black grizzly bear with razor sharp teeth and knives for claws.
“Oh, uh… thanks for letting me know”, was the most British way of letting them know that I was terrified and utterly clueless as to what I should do next. I considered heading back down, after spending five hours climbing up the mountain – but I wouldn’t know the way and I would get lost. I also, considered whether or not launching myself into the waterfall would be a more humane death than being eaten. However, I think I was being slightly dramatic.
After reassuring myself that, lets call them Anne and Ben, were behind myself, I braced myself for what I imagined to be the fight of my life. Now, our tour guide had talked about bear safety earlier that day. We were told that you can not out run a bear, they are faster, and your best bet is to fight them. When I first heard this piece of advice, my jaw dropped. How am I going to fight of a bear? I laughed and just assumed that it must be a rare occurrence to come face to face with one and so I put it to the back of my mind.
I realised that I was walking slower and slower the closer I got to the alleged sighting. My heart was racing and my hands were clenched by my sides when suddenly… I rationally thought through how I was going to win the biggest battle of my life. Whilst in deep thought, I suddenly tripped. There was a large rock protruding from the gravel below my feet. It was at this moment in time that my brilliant idea came to light. An idea that will haunt me forever.
I am now only 15 feet away from the last known sighting of the bear. I look round the area extensively and try and hear for any sign of movement. Hearing nothing, I slowly creep forward an inch at a time carrying this heavy rock in my right hand, awaiting an attack. A few more steps forward and my arm begins to raise the rock to head level in preparation.
I approach a bunch of trees and cannot see round the corner, I wait before the edge.
Suddenly, I hear heavy quick footsteps heading in my direction and I froze out of fear. I thought this is the moment I am prepared for. I will not die today.
This was in fact one of single most humiliating moments of my life.
The creature turns the corner and immediately I am surprised by its height, much taller than myself. I scream the loudest I’ve ever screamed and cowardly covered my head in my arms as I crouched to the floor.
After a second of silence and no attack, I look up and to my humiliation, the bear was in fact not a bear.
It was a person.
This may sound like a common mishap but you will never understand the humiliation I felt in that moment; and I often think about the terror and confusion that man must’ve felt. He turned a corner heading back downhill after a successful hike to see a crazy, red-faced, panting girl with a large rock in her hand screaming with all of her lungs.
I would’ve preferred if he had said something. Asked if I were okay or at least inquired as to what I was doing. Instead, he looked at me in complete shock and confusion and continued his hike. Until now, the most embarrassing moment of my life was a secret. Only myself and that young man knew of my great humiliation.
However, I thought I would share this story because I now think back to that moment and I always laugh. It’s the little things that make big adventures great. It’s the little stories that are sometimes the ones that are worth sharing. Anyway, I did finish my hike and I made it back down the mountain to safety after enjoying a packed lunch overlooking the beautiful national park. It was so peaceful up there, watching the water fall over the edge of the cliff. I never did see a bear.
Everything was perfect and no one was to know what I just did. I often think about that man and wonder how he tells this story. Lets face it, he’s probably told his whole family, his friends from high school and even the barista at Starbucks about me. Oh well, it was a good hike, and although I didn’t see any bears at least a strange girl didn’t hold up a rock to my head and scream in my face.