Character Comes Out

bear Still 1
Photo by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife

As a Trails Coordinator with Bear Yuba Land Trust, I get the opportunity to go out in nature and explore our county quite a bit. I organize and host volunteer work parties that cover a range of activities. We do everything from trail layout, to building trails, to hanging up signs, or even cleaning up a cartel grow site. The activities are as diverse as the people that join me on theses adventures. I want to tell you a story of one recent adventure that brought out some characters’ true colors.

Earlier this month we were out at the Yuba Rim Trail working on building the last segment near the outlook, about two miles in from the nearest road.  This is a 2,700 acre parcel that is truly wild. It was a hot day and we had just had lunch. We were heading back down the trail to pick up where we left off and we heard a loud disturbance. It was like a giant creature was rolling rocks around and playing a game of marbles on a large scale. It was a black bear. There is no doubt about it. The noises were loud and it started out as a pretty cool experience. It sounded like it was moving farther and farther away so we
thought nothing of it. We continued to proceed down the trail thinking the bear had moved on to find another bear to play his fun game with. Then we started to hear this grunting sound coming from below us. It was like nothing I heard before. The first grunt in the series of five or six was drawn out. I noticed this because it was not moving on. Every couple of minutes or so it would go into its’ series of grunting noises. It also started to come from behind us now, like it was circling. It was a bit unnerving because it could definitely hear us and did not seem to care. We continued to work for a bit making as much noise as possible. Sure enough, every so often it would continue its unintelligible way of communicating. We don’t know what it was saying, none of us spoke bear. Maybe it had babies or a rival nearby. We never did see it. I didn’t need to see it or want to see it. After some time we all came together to discuss what we should do. This is when our true colors came out. One gentlemen said he was going to fight the bear with his Pulaski and that we should keep working and not be concerned. Another guy said he was going to blow his whistle. I said. “If that thing comes near, you won’t have any air in your lungs to blow a whistle.” I was honest and said that if it came near me I would promptly destroy my underpants and most likely pass out. I thought it was so interesting that in this moment of crisis our true colors and honesty came out. It was also interesting that everybody interpreted the threat and situation differently.

bear still 4
Photo by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife

I realized that the bear probably used the trail. If I lived there in peace and quiet and then someone started to make noise, I would probably grunt at them too. I decided that we should all leave at this point, while my underwear was clean. The volunteers agreed and we quit while we were ahead.  Let this serve as a reminder to never hike alone and always bring a change of clothes.

– Trails Coordinator, Shaun Clarke