New Bedford

New Bedford

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Four weekends down Part II

I am unfolding the details of the story and the weekend little by little because it was a pretty big one.

July 9: Woke up at 650am. Katie and my mom got ready for their hike to Guyot Campsite. We all ate breakfast together. Everyone just so happened to have apple and cinnamon oatmeal. Weird! But not that weird. I ate almost 4 packets cuz I'm fat. AKA a growing boy with an appetite at all times of the day and night. Mom and Katie started up there journey at 745am by wading the river at the end of my campsite. Kimber and I watched as they made their way across barefoot with their boots tied over their shoulders. We headed back to my tent site to organize and get our daypacks ready. We started up our hike at about 930 because we only had to go to 13 Falls Campsite and back (10+ mile round trip). We started our hike by crossing the river as well. We found some solid branches for poles to help with our balance and stability. Didn't need a wet pack or wet clothes to start off a 5+ hour hike. Since it was Kimber's first hike in the White Mountains, our hike out was relaxing and we stopped for some photo taking (and video) opportunities. We passed through this swampish area with dozens of dragonflies all around us. It was a prime opportunity to take a video to capture the realness of it all. We crossed some streams, which Kimber was hesitate at times (just not confident in crossing). We reached 13 Falls in about 3 hours. We meet the caretaker Scott and asked if I could use some toilet paper for the composting outhouse. He does care taking through the AMC so he is actually paid for his time there (8 hours a day). His schedule is 11 days on, 4 days off, 10 days on, 3 days off. He hikes in his food for the entire span he is at the campsite since it is more backcountry than my campsite. Kimber and I ate lunch at the Falls. I managed to eat a PBJ, a Clif Bar and a thing of applesauce as Kimber just finished her PBJ. I know, it's sick how fast I eat sometimes. I inhale. We explored the area at the Falls, where I soaked my feet and Kimber snapped some pictures and captured the scenery on video. We motored on the way back, making it back in about 2.5 hours with the stream crossing. The 3 hours out did NOT include the 20 minutes for finding walking sticks and the river crossing. On the way there and back, we played the alphabet game where you state "Hi my name is Al, my wife's name is Albatross, we live in Arkansas, and we sell anchors." We got pretty creative with the names, the items we sell, and the accents we made up. Then, I began quoting Mrs. Doubtfire. "My name is Job, my name is Job, my name is Job." Or "Oooo, shake it off like a wet dog." As soon as we got back, we unpacked any food or garbage into the bearbox (again important as I will explain rather soon). We took a dip in the ranger pool, which wasn't right after the hike so we didn't warm up right away. After cuddling in our sleeping bags, we got up to get the blooding moving. I made some rounds while Kimber read "Born to Run" (amazing book, keeps me motivated in my running). I did have to speak with a group of campers that we technically camping in a no camping area (it was a former campsite that was no longer in use because of poor drainage and being too close to the water). Luckily, they were very nice about and moved up to tent site #15. As I was walking back after advising them to move, I chatted with the guys at site #3 and they had hung their food bag. I was the reference to see whether it was high enough (at least 10 feet high, and 4 feet away from the trunk of the tree). Nice campers for the night. Dinner went smoothly. I had the classic refried beans with cheese wraps and Kimber had a box of lentil soup that turned out to not as delicious as she hoped. We cleaned up, had some Oreos with nutella and m&ms. I made one last round through the campsites and to the bathroom before winding down in the tent at about 9:00pm. 

As we begin to doze off in the tent, Kimber sits up from her sleeping bag and says "What was that?!" I sit up and hear the same noise again. It sounds as someone has leaped onto the bearbox that is approximately 70 feet from my tent and sitting on a wooden platform. We immediately realize it's a bear trying to get into the bearbox. We rip out of our sleeping bags and get behind the mattress to crouch down as if that is a safer place. I zip up the tent and hope to God that it does not catch the bear's attention. For the next 15-20 minutes seems almost a blur now that I try to recall the moment. I will do my best to remember. I basically dictate every move we do with a faint whispering voice. Both Kimber and I are now shaking uncontrollably at the legs and hands from the rattling of the bearbox. I cannot explain the noise to anyone. I should have recorded, but that was the least of my worries. The safety and comfort of Kimber was my number one priority. Some of the things that were whispered by Kimber were "Eric, I don't know how to climb a tree" and "Do you think it's okay that my Nalgene bottle is in here?" Some of the statements I had were "I don't think there is a shortage of water for the bear with the river right down there" and "I'm gonna turn the headlamp on now" and for comfort "There's nothing in the tent that the bear wants in here. We have been very careful with cooking and eating away from the tent." These aren't necessarily direct quotes, but pretty darn close. In the back of my mind was just don't be attracted towards the tent for any reason. The bashing of metal against metal seemed to never end and once it did, it was almost more frightening. Where is the bear now? Am I gonna hear starching of canvas and tarp? My tent is made out solely out of those two materials. The decision of staying quiet and still in the tent was an option out of two. The second option that had a .01% chance of happening was me exiting my tent (Ha!) and deterring the bear from my tent site with loud noises and making myself appear bigger with my arms over my head. Since I knew the bear was clearly hungry and wanted my nutella and beef jerky (and I am a 5-8 lengthy 130lb distance runner with minimal body fat), I went with the hiding in complete fear with my girlfriend. Once it seemed to fail to enter the bearbox, we regained our saneness by pushing the bedframe and mattress away from the side of the tent towards the middle of the tent. We crawled into our sleeping bags, now both on the mattress (original plan was Kimber on the floor on a Thermarest, me on the mattress, Kimber wanted to truly rough it in the outdoors). As we laid there for a few seconds, I came to the realization that we will probably be tossing and turning all night. This would lead to us falling off the mattress and come crashing to the wooden planks 2 feet below. We took the mattress off the box spring and placed it between the bed frame and the metal storage box I have in my tent (not for food, for handouts and papers). It was a perfect fit and we felt surrounded by barriers that might slow down the bear if he or she decides to return for human flesh. To top it all off, I took the lock off my other wooden storage box and "locked" us in the tent. I don't think it would stop a bear paw with claws (especially since it might not use the door), but it was reassuring somewhat. All said and done, I actually had the best night sleep since I've been up at the campsite because I had a dream that the bear was actually my friend, Andrew Sears, dressed up in a bear suit. It wasn't comical in my dream (I got mad at him and knocked his bear head off the dam we were chillin at, don't ask, dreams don't make sense most of the time) but made for a soothing night's sleep. 

Summary: The most eventful day yet. A spectacular hike to 13 Falls for the day off of running. The bear mishap will make for a thrilling story for the next few months or years (or until the next bear incident). I'll be ready next time with either some noise makers of some sort. As simple as two sticks or as lethal as a shotgun. Who knows? I don't. What I do know, I am so glad I was with Kimber when it happened. If my mom and sister were there, I might not be here or be writing a completely different story that ends with me fighting the bear to the death or Katie holding her breath until she passed out and us carrying her down to safety. Anything could of happened. It was intense and awesome at the same time.

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