Bear Encounter On Mt. Marcy, New York

A friend of mine lived near Mt. Marcy in New York. It is the highest point in the state at 5344’. I thought that while I was visiting, my dog, Kink, and I, would do an overnight camping trip to the summit, camp for the night at a campground on another trail going down the backside, and pick up yet another trail looping back to the trailhead where we had started. We would be back at John’s place late morning.  

It was a typical mid-summer day with showers expected in the afternoon. Clouds were already gathered at the top of the mountain as we began the hike. It was an easy climb. Nearing the summit, within a hundred feet or so, we entered the clouds and it began to snow.  

Big snowflakes circled down but didn’t stick upon hitting the ground. It was a bit cold though. With no view at the top, we didn’t stay long, and soon enough we were below the cloud level. Such a well-defined line between cloud, and clear. We caught the trail down to the campground and could see that more clouds filled the sky. It would rain.   

We made it to the campground late afternoon. It was really nice with a raised log cabin in the middle of several campsites. It turned out to be a private campground and the caretaker said we couldn’t stay. This put a hitch in the plan. I was upset that my map had not indicated the camp was private, and that the caretaker was set on us not staying over. I was not a happy camper.  

It would be raining soon. Already a foggy mist was thick in the air. We would not be able to get back to the trailhead until well after dark. I had half a mind to wait until dark and slip back under the cabin for the night. But that would be a waste of time, and I wasn’t sure I could keep Kink quiet, so we moved on thinking surely, I could find a good spot for my tent.  

This trail had seen much less traffic. It was narrowing and becoming overgrown. Rain began to fall and it would be dark within the hour. The trail widened a bit and I was thinking this might be the place to setup, when suddenly, a bear crossed the path not five yards ahead. “What the --?”, I exclaimed!  

“Kink, come here!!” He hadn’t seen the bear. We backed up the trail a ways. I picked up a tree branch, about baseball bat size, thinking it might offer some measure of protection. I didn’t even think I might come across a bear. I’m not sure I’d even heard of bear spray.  

A moment after I raised my club to ready position, it broke off just above my hands, and there I was holding the stub. It didn’t seem funny at the time.  

It was quiet but for the pattering of the rain. Where’s the bear?? It looked right at me as it crossed the path. Did it continue on, or circle around? I thought about heading back, but we were much closer to the trailhead.   

I looked at Kink. He was sniffing the air and knew something was up. He looked at me. “What now, Kemosabe? It’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into!”  

My heart was pounding! What to do!? My head was swimming – then clarity, - It was “Go time!!” We took off down the trail for all we were worth, running as fast as we could in an adrenalin rush. As we passed where the bear crossed the trail, I looked off to my right and the bear was right there, a few yards away, urging two cubs up a tree.   

Kink quickly took the lead putting me between him and the bear.  

I was relieved somewhat knowing she was momentarily preoccupied with her cubs, but at the same time, she was a mother bear. Putting distance between us was all I could think about. It was true flight, and it was exhilarating!   

We covered quite a distance, slowing to a jog, and then to a fast walk, looking back repeatedly. I knew we had left the bear behind; she wouldn’t go this distance away from her cubs. We may be near another bear for all I knew. The rain increased. I became uncertain of the trail as darkness closed in around us. I looked for any likely place to setup the tent.  

I pitched the tent under the low hanging boughs of a large spruce, or fir tree, and slipped inside as it began to rain in earnest.  

It wasn’t the best night’s sleep but it passed without incident. It had rained hard but had stopped by morning. The rain heavy tree boughs pressed down and in on the tent and the condensation inside the tent left the fabric soaked.   

We had curled up into a ball, and was dry, but in getting out of the tent, and from under the boughs of the tree, I got soaked. I rolled up the tent, squeezing out what water I could, stuffed it in my pack, and we were off down the trail.  

The sun, just above the horizon, shined through the trees, on rain beaded leaves. All was clean, and clear, and bright. A bejeweled wonderland.   

An hour later, we were at the trailhead, and my car. Shortly thereafter, a cafe's coffee, and a steak and eggs breakfast, with a side order of bacon for Kink, brought the overnighter to an end.  

bear cubs