Monday, September 9, 2013

betsy vs "the Grizzly"...

 you will notice none of these are photo's of said grizzly.  there are no photo's of the grizzly bear.  a few reasons...mostly 1. it never occurred to me to pick up a camera as i was battling off a potentially lethal animal 2. people always look stupid when they've been killed by a grizzly and then are found to have pictures of the bear on their cameras when they should have been avoiding the attack and 3. i find that when i'm scared shitless the camera is not steady enough for a decent picture so why bother.  this seems to be the most asked question after are you ok.
 so as is usual for me i planned very little of my trek to the denali highway.  i packed for the various possibilities.  i had a tent and knew that i could always sleep in my element if it came to that.  the element isn't the most comfy but it is doable.  it was a bit rainy, but that didn't hinder me.  it's a bit of a drive but i was shooting for paxson lake campground. i've stayed there before and it was nice.
 i noticed another campground a bit before that one called sourdough creek  campground.  another state campground so cheap $12 for the night.  seemed okay.  i did notice a sign that said no tent camping was allowed due to a grizzly bear that had been, well i can't remember the exact wording, but basically mucking with tents.  no biggie...i'd sleep in the car.
 took me some time to get the right sleeping position for me and both dogs and i eventually slammed a benedryl as i wasn't getting to sleep.  by about 2 am i was out.  stretched out in the laid down back seat with my legs stretched out on rio catalina, the mastiff.  blossom had the front seats and was stretched between the drivers and passengers. i had loads of extra blankets...i was most worried that i would be cold.
i purposely parked fairly close to the campground hosts in slot #3.  i also selected a site right across from bathroom.  i got in rain gear, grabbed my bear spray and took the dogs for a loop around the campground before settling in for the night.  no problems noted.
 i'm not sure what woke me, the car must have shaken pretty good what with a grizzly bouncing off of it or it could have been the sounds of his teeth and claws attempting to get at the passenger side window. it was kinda like when my dogs want to get into something...they bite at it and then rapidly scratch at it.  but woke i did.  it takes you a second when you are looking at this big bear clawing at your window to really get that a bear is trying to get into your car.  that is a's trying to get in here.  oh my god!!
 i stood up in the back and started screaming at the bear.  he wasn't put off by that.  then i reached over the front seat and began honking the horn scare the bear and alert other campers that i was in distress.  i was pretty freaked as i had left the side windows down an inch to let fresh air in.  it can actually get stuffy and hot in a closed up car with two dogs...and rio farts so all that methane could be lethal...i'm sure of it!!
 i knew that if the bear got his nails in just the right place and pulled that whole window would pop out and then the real mess would begin.  it's not like the bear would kindly ask for the bag of dorito's that he had smelled and leave.  the dogs and i would be taken to bits in the process.  i could jump out but he could follow me.  would he rather eat dog, human or dorito's...i have no idea...
 anyway, the yelling and honking were doing nothing.  it seemed like forever but i doubt it really was.  i jumped over the seats to the drivers seat and grabbed the keys...which i had thankfully set in a specific easy to get to spot. i don't know how, but thanks to god, that i got the key right in and started up the car.  this caused the bear to jump off the car...hallelujah!!
 no time to celebrate though as that bear decided that wasn't going to stop him and he jumped right back on the car and back to getting that window out.  i began honking the horn again as i tried to hit the car in reverse.  the bear jumped off again.
 he started around the car and then turned back and started back. i started honking the horn again.  he slowly walked away and turned back yet again.  i knew that bear was not going to stay gone and i pulled out and drove around the campground, warning people that the bear was determined.  one couple had seen the bear trying to get into trashcans and had taken photo's.  the host came out and apparently this bear seems to make rounds about 8 am.  he was recently attempting to get into a truck.
 i looped back around to a more distant toilet to pee and get myself together and get out of there.
 there was food in the car, mostly in sealed containers.  i have car camped many times and done the same.  i'm sure i'll be more careful.  it's not like there aren't bears here, but i don't find too many bears rip into cars on any sort of regular basis.  bears do get desperate this time of year.  they have to fill up and fatten up before winter hits.  she seemed to think the fact i had the food in the car was reason enough for this bear to come after my car.  add to that the fact that i had my window open.  open and shut, humans fault.
 i'm willing to take my share of the blame, but i also think this bear has been working up to this or worse.  it was almost like this camp host enjoyed that this bear made it's rounds in her campground.  when i told her i didn't get any pictures, as she had made some comment about the other campers getting pictures,  she said it would have been the first thing she thought of.  i wanted to spread salmon juice on her door and see if getting a snap shot was really the first thing she thought of when a bear was working it's way into her rv.  if you don't actively try to discourage bears from entering campgrounds they will make it a habit...a bear with a habit like that is a dead bear. eventually, they become a threat to person or property and get shot.
 i was fairly calm initially, which is how stuff works sometimes. at least for me.  the anxiety and panic don't set in until later after i'm in a safer place.  so maybe i just looked too chill with the host for her to really think i was freaking out inside.  i'm sure my nursing has trained me well to look chill when i'm not.  as i drove across the denali highway it was just me and my thoughts.  how many times did that grizzly circle my car before he decided to go for it?  did he come by in the middle of the night a few times?  what if this had happened when it was pitch dark out instead of at 8 am where i had the light?  what would have happened if he'd gotten that window off?
 so my drive across, while absolutely and ridiculously stunning was not my most relaxing.  i needed to talk about what had happened to me but there was nobody i knew out there and i was out of cell phone range.
 i shook off and on through the day and just felt general anxiety.  i decided to just drive on back to anchorage tonight.
 i have no idea what the dogs thought of the whole thing.  a few people have asked if blossom barked.  i have no memory of her barking. i think the bear woke her up as well and i think it scared the crap out of her.  i could see her visibly shaking after i was in a safe place and able to look about.  poor rio.  i'm sure i scared her screaming like i was.  did she smell the bear.  did she sense from blossom and i's reaction that something bad was up.  she is blind so no way of knowing how she interpreted it all.  i think they are both happy to be home as well.  blossom was sleeping right where the bear would have jumped up on the car.
 the host asked me if it was the smaller bear...i just said it looked pretty damn large to me.  she later told me it was the younger and smaller bear.  curious i'm sure, but that bear wasn't taking no.  i'm thinking i'll make a few calls tomorrow and let someone know of my concerns of that bear and the campground.
 i am showered and home and safe and thankful.  so many things went right that could have gone wrong. i'm grateful for that.  that the window stayed in place, that this happened in daylight, that the keys were in the right place and that i wasn't fumbling through various pockets in search of them and that the bear spray was also located close though spraying it in a car that i'm in would be pointless really.
i feel sad for this bear as i know he will not be living a full life.  he is habituated to humans that that kills bears.  headed to bed...that is my tale.  i'm sure there is more thoughts on it all but that is the basics.  good night.


  1. I agree with your plan of action. I would take photos of any car damage and start making calls to the dept of fish and game or parks that oversee the campground. I would bet the host is not reporting the bear issue properly. It's not all that far of a jump for a bear to make from cars to rv's then onto people.
    I know I shook for days after the dogs and I got charged by that sow at mchugh. It will fade but you'll be hyped up for a while.

  2. Glorious photos, looks an incredible spot but please do take care of yourself, from someone who doesn't live in bear country, that sounds quite terrifying. Am I the only person thinking I'd of been peeing in my car, not getting out of it - LOL!!

  3. Holy moley! So glad that a lot went right for you! I'm sure Rio smelled the bear with her superior sense of smell, 'cause I can recall a black bear trying to break into my Westfalia in the Trinity Alps and that thing stunk to high heaven! Alex