As soon as Reuben saw his car pool friend on Monday, he wanted to tell him about our hike. I thought he’d say something about the caves, or the waterfall, or climbing up steep rocks. None of those things were mentioned. What Reuben remembered from the hike were the bears.
Early on the trail we noticed some bear scat and Reuben was immediately certain there were bears lurking around every corner. We assured him that he was safe with us and that bears were busy eating their normal bear food. We also told him that as long as we made a good amount of noise, the bears would hear us coming and not bother us.
Reuben took this to heart. He told his car pool friend, “When there are bears you have to make LOTS of noise and they will go away, but IF you are quiet they can sneak up on little kids and swipe at you and take you away to EAT you.”
This explained some of Reuben’s behavior on the trail. Even when he was clearly exhausted, even winded from an up hill stretch, I couldn’t believe the constant stream of noise he kept making. He talked, sang, yelled, hummed and chattered. Even when he laid down with his eyes closed he kept up a high volume. I thought being tired had made him manic or he was just so thrilled and excited to be out in the woods.
Nope. He was keeping back the bears.
Maybe it worked. We didn’t actually see any bears on the trail, thank goodness. There were sections of the trail that had very dense underbrush. At one spot, there was clearly something rather large moving around a few feet from the trail. It was making a good amount of noise and I caught the thick scent of animal. (I have a super sense of smell right now.) Aaron sensed it too. We didn’t tell the kids but hustled them along.
Aaron and I have encountered black bears in the Shenandoah on previous hikes. Once we found ourselves on the trail directly between a mother bear and her cub. We moved away as quickly and calmly as we could and were grateful we were not followed.
So while it might have been cosmically just for a bear to walk between us and our little ones, I was relieved we avoided a run in. It’s one thing to encounter bears as full grown adults, but having little kids in bear country feels a lot more vulnerable. Good thing Reuben has such a powerful set of lungs.