A Close Encounter of the Fuzzy Kind

So there I was, just driving down the road, minding my own business.

All of a sudden there were these two awesome black bears hanging out in this tree. So I stopped to say, “What’s up?” And they were all, “Hey dude, we’re just hanging out.”

This photo represents the moment at which I knew my life was complete.

I can die happy. I’ve seen a fuzzy. Two, actually.

I have lived in Montana (with brief stints in a few other places) practically my entire life. I hike and camp at every possible opportunity, and have spent a great deal of time in the middle of nowhere (which isn’t hard in this state). But until today I had never seen a real, live, in-the-flesh, in-the-wild bear. Ever.

It was starting to get downright ridiculous.

All my friends and family see them all the time. Even out-of-town visitors usually see them when they come out here.

But not me.

I’ve seen all kinds of other critters, many of them up close and personal. I even saw a wolverine on a hike in Glacier National Park last year, and that’s extremely rare.

But never a fuzzy. Until today.

I am glad the bears were in a tree, and I’m even more glad there were wildlife officials and law officers at the scene today. If not for the very real possibility of being arrested, I totally would have backed my truck right up to that tree and waited patiently to shake paws with my new furry friends, ala John Candy in The Great Outdoors.

Yeah, I’m that guy.

Now you’re thinking to yourself one of two things. Either, “You’re an insane nut-job – Don’t you know getting too close to wildlife can be dangerous!?!” or “Dude, I’d be right there with you.”

I’m betting 95% of you are in the first group.

And the smart part of me knows that wild animals are dangerous and that no one should get too close. But there’s just something that happens when I encounter wild critters that I can’t explain.

Actually, it’s more like nothing happens. No fear, no fight or flight response.

Wolverine! This fuzzy friend is blurry because one of my hiking pals was dragging me up the trail while I was trying to take the photo.

Now I’ve seen photos and videos of people just being dumb … Standing a few feet from a bear with their young kids in tow, for example. If I had kids, I can’t imagine I would allow them to come as close to the critters as I have been.

But I guess the silver lining is this: If I’m out hiking with a group and we encounter a dangerous animal, no one will have to trip me as we all run. (There’s a saying out here: You don’t have to run faster than the animal, just faster than one other person in your group). I’ll gladly take one for the team. Two reasons: 1) I know where I’m going; and 2) If I go home by getting eaten by something, I am completely at peace with that. There are lots of worse ways to go. In fact, if I die in order to provide a fuzzy with a meal, it would be like a gift from God. It’s like He’d be saying, “Job well done.”

Maybe that’s just the “I just saw a bear!” euphoria talking … Or maybe not. Maybe I romanticize too much. Or maybe we just aren’t meant to be afraid.

“Bears are not companions of men, but children of God, and His charity is broad enough for both … We seek to establish a narrow line between ourselves and the feathery zeros we dare to call angels, but ask a partition barrier of infinite width to show the rest of creation its proper place. Yet bears are made of the same dust as we, and breathe the same winds and drink of the same waters. A bear’s days are warmed by the same sun, his dwellings are overdomed by the same blue sky, and his life turns and ebbs with heart-pulsings like ours and was poured from the same fountain …” –John Muir

Mama moose with a yearling, hiding in the underbrush in the Cabinet Wilderness.

Mountain goat buddy in Glacier National Park. He followed us on the trail for awhile. We named him George.

3 thoughts on “A Close Encounter of the Fuzzy Kind

  1. Pingback: Right? (Write?) « Faith and Stage Fright

  2. I love fuzzies….of all kinds…sometimes they make you crazy and risk your own child’s life or you risk your own…great story. 🙂

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