Bear Cubs.. Not Porcupines
It was late in the day on a trail in the North Cascades of Washington State. I had been a course supervisor for a 22-day Outward Bound mountaineering course in the Paysayten Wilderness on the Canadian border, and was hiking out to the trailhead to meet our logistics person. I had to head out to prepare for the course-end cleanup and ceremonies. One of three groups of students was an hour behind me on the trail, following me to the same destination. I’d last seen them at morning camp in the wilderness about 10 miles ago, and told them I’d see them at the parking lot. I didn’t expect they’d catch me, as I was in a hurry.
As I cruised along the wooded trail which wound around small contours in the Douglas fir forest, I walked fast, using my ski poles for extra propulsion, and kept my head down. As I strode at a good clip I heard a scratching high up in a tree to my right. Some of us get cocky after having been in the mountains for years.
Since I was in a hurry, I didn’t bother looking up, and deduced I’d just heard a porcupine scratching and climbing about. I kept on. But, after a few more steps, I heard the same type of scratching far up in a tree above me, but this time to my left. So I thought, “Oh, must be another porcupine” but this time I decided to look up, and the thought occurred to me, “it’s odd, to have two porcupines in trees like this.”
And to my surprise, when I looked up I discovered it was a baby bear cub. It didn’t take me long to conclude: “If that sound is from a baby cub…then the sound back there could also be a…….baby bear cub.” I looked back and high up, to the first tree, and yep, I was in between two cubs. “Breathe! Look around! Where’s Mama Bear?” My thoughts raced nervously. There was no sign of her. “Not good! Now what?” (more…)