Monday, May 25, 2009

Vacation Journal: Bear in the Woods, Part 3

We scrambled for our shelters. It was nine-twenty at night, and the sky was black. Lightning allowed us brief and shimmering silhouettes of whatever was outside of our thin tent walls. Thankfully, all we saw were branches and pine needles, and the leaves on surrounding brush.

And through the miracles of crashing thunder, and the loud pattering of rain, there was no way to listen for breaking twigs or other sounds indicating the presence of a killer bear.

That night passed in complete safety. And that night passed exceedingly slowly. The first time I recognized anything like sleep overcoming me was right after Paul called my name quietly, and when I answered, he asked the time. "11:30." He had hoped it was later. I--the one with the watch on my arm--knew it was not. 12:30, 1:15, 1:45, 3:00, 3:25 were all duly noted. And then 4:45...not long now.

At 5:45 AM, an hour before sunrise, the sky had lightened and the rain was no more. I crawled past Paul and out of the one-man tent. I sat on a log bench outside the tent and prayed, and took an alcohol swab bath. (When backpacking, I carry a very small bottle of rubbing alcohol and some cotton disks to use for makeshift bathing. You'd be surprised how effective twice a day alcohol swab baths can be.)

How Paul had endured the odors of the night, I'll never know. We had hiked a hard, fast, mountainous five miles to get in last night, and I had known nothing better than back-woods alcohol swab baths since five mornings earlier. And both of us--in our hurry to escape the rain and the dread of being alone--had fit ourselves into my one-man-tent. My head tucked into the narrow foot end--right next to his feet, and visa-versa. During the scramble for cover the night before, I had not been interested in passing the night alone, and I don't think he had either.

There is a lesson to be learned here. In the midst of fear and danger, there is no substitute for camaraderie. And any friend you have or any spouse you've chosen, is sure to "stink" in one way or another. But stink and all, there is no substitute for a good partner when old "Otis" is circling the camp.

1 comment:

G-man said...

In all our trips to the Boundary Waters, we never saw a bear. But one night, while Zolt and I were sleeping, a moose sneaked up outside and pooped right by the tent. We had no idea until the next morning.
Of course, we were pretty focused on surviving the massive thunderstorm that rolled in on us that night.