Last Monday, we decided to visit an area behind a familiar trailhead. Sandy had noticed the unlocked gate before, so we decided to check it out.
The gate led us to a slightly worn path and then an old sugar sand road. Walking along I noticed small bear prints in the white sand. They were perfect prints, and much smaller than the prints Sandy was looking at. It looked as if momma and baby bear had been strolling along this path not long before us.
The road turned back into a narrow trail as we noticed that it had begun to descend towards the Wekiva River. On both sides of the trail there was standing water or very wet ground.
Then Sandy froze and said “BEAR!” She pointed straight down the trail. Less than fifty yards away, a sizable bear was slowly making his was up the trail toward us.
We stared at each other for a second. Neither of us had ever really ran into a bear coming towards us while hiking. And if it, or we, didn’t move, “run into” would happen quickly.
We began waving our arms and shouting “BEAR!” It kept coming! Sandy and I stood side by side, looking as large as we could. We yelled “BEAR!” with a little more authority.
Finally, the bear listened! Stopping in the trail, it looked into the woods to the left and then to the right. Then it just sat down in the middle of the trail.
Our conversation went something like this: “He was here first!”
“It’s not good when he’s not afraid of us!”
We decided that we would turn around and go back up the path where we came from. We kept looking over our shoulders. Our new friend was back on the move, following us up the trail, moving at the same speed. We just kept walking and so did he.
I was thinking that maybe he’s like me and didn’t want to step off the nice dry trail and get his feet wet. What’s wrong with a little humor when there’s a bear following you down the trail?
We came to a side trail leading into one of those big fancy gated neighborhoods. There was a piece of heavy equipment running within earshot, so we walked by it, figuring the bear would want nothing to do with that unnatural racket. And we we right. We lost him.
Finding a fence line, we came to an opening and squeezed through. We returned to the more traveled path and made our way down to the river. There wasn’t much of a view, but it was still nice to find we could get to the river without running into the bear again.
Back at the car, we breathed a sign of relief. We had survived our first true bear encounter.