I Saw a Bear · 2 August 2018

I saw a bear in Olympic National Park! I did! I did taw a bear in Olympic National Park!

I was walking along by myself back to Sol Duc Hot Springs after a hike to Sol Duc Falls when I saw a black bear. He was going to cross my path about 50 to 60 feet in front of me. When I actually saw him, I stopped and held my breath. And after a moment or two of wondering what I was supposed to do when meeting a bear (Do I try to look big and wave things around so it will leave? No, that is for cougars. Do I run like crazy and make sure I am faster than the person next to me? No, that is for brown bears and nobody is with me. Do I just take a picture with this camera that is hanging around my neck and actually in my hand? Yes. Yes, that is what you are supposed to do with a bear that is as afraid of you as you are of him.), I breathed again. I suppose you are supposed to know what to do in cougar and bear country. I know there are no brown bears or grizzly bears there, and I figured there were not any cougars so near to all the people around where we were staying, but even though I knew there were black bears around, and even though I was hoping to see one, I was not really prepared when it happened. Even though I was prepared. Sorta.

The long and the short of it is that I got my camera ready just as the bear was going out of view. You see, during that miniscule time when I was trying to figure out what to do when I saw that little bear, I thought about mama bears and judged whether that bear was big enough not to need his mama around anymore and decided that yes indeed it was big enough to not need his mama but that is was plenty big enough to do me serious damage if he wanted to do so, and so with all those other thoughts (in the parentheses above) I was not ready to take any pictures. Let alone one.

While I was thinking about what I was supposed to do when I saw a black bear, I watched as the bear decided what it was supposed to do. He turned around slowly and kept his eyes on me. Then, he walked back the way he had come. I had finally figured out that when seeing a black bear you are supposed to get your camera up and pointed to take a bunch of pictures so people would believe you. But by that time the bear was heading toward denser forest and the river. I actually had my camera ready for a shot as that little bear (probably heavier than me, and he will probably gain weight and height the more I tell the story) was going to go around a tree. I should have taken a shot before the tree, but I wanted to get his head and face. Alas, he never went past the tree. He turned and I did not see him again.

Naturally, I told the story to my family. They believed me even though I had no picture. Then, I told it to some people we met while basking in the hot springs the next morning. The lady said, “No picture, no bear. Simple.” Of course, she was right. Not many people would believe I saw the bear without having a picture to prove it. (It was then that I thought to ask her if we should take a selfie with her and her husband. After all, they could be Danish royalty and nobody would believe us if we said we met royalty but did not have any pictures. “No picture. No royals. Simple.”)

Even though I will have skeptics and people who tease me (I really need to get rid of that target that says pick on me), I really did see a bear. Really. Sure, I took many pictures along the path in Olympic National Park, but unfortunately, not one of the bear I met. Still, I did see a bear. And regardless of whether I have a picture or not, I will always have the story to tell.

© 2018 Michael T. Miyoshi

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