04 July 2004

I coulda been a contender

Last night I get the bright idea of going to the Elkmont area of the Smokies to investigate the whole synchronized lightning bug phenomenon. I think Scott and I were a few weeks late. It's hard to say; they're weren't many of the flashy insects around, but we also didn't travel far along our chosen trail. Oh, and we left the flashlight in the car; there was a full moon to light the way...

About 75 yards from our car, in a particularly shadowy, moonless stretch of woods we hear leaves being rustled a few yards ahead on the trail. We stop and Scott asks if I heard the noise. I say it sounds like something small scurrying along the ground. While allaying his fears he kindles mine with something resembling 'oh good, as long as it's not something bigger.' I suddenly remember that we're in bear country. So I freeze and Scott takes five short steps foward before I ask him what exactly he thought he heard. He answers some rustling and a quiet growl. I didn't hear a growl. I tell him such. He freezes but goes on to half-heartedly say that it couldn't have come from something very big. Blind for but a two yard bubble around me, I approach Scott slowly, intending to more quietly deliberate our latest predicament: our fear of moving in any direction. So, of course as soon as we're side-by-side he takes five more short steps foward. My quiet curse for him was cut short by a rather loud, rather deep, barrel-chested, baritone growl. Scott freezes as he asks where that came from. I'm already walking backwards as I tell him about 2 or 3 yards at his 2 o'clock. He doesn't move as he replies I'm pretty sure it's something bigger than a rabbit or deer. I whole-heartedly agree with him, accepting that I was indeed very wrong at first, as he finally begins moving backwards. Once he reaches me, we both turn and begin to run back down the trail. One of us always has a head looking over a shoulder. Neither of us hear anything following on the return trip to the car. I fumble out my keys, unlock the doors, and get in before I stop running.

After we caught our respective breaths, I started the car, the adrenaline eventually wore off, and we continued discussing how awesome Doc Oc is in Spiderman 2. I'm just disappointed that I didn't actually see a bear in what other senses tell me was definitely my first bear encounter.
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