The 2012 drought increased the number of bear sightings in our area. I saw four black bears during the late summer/fall season. My first sighting was the one to leave the largest impression. I have thoughts and images of the day that will not soon be forgotten. I was able to put the day to words and the following article appeared in the Aspen Times. Since then, it has provided the springboard for other writings. I still find living so close to nature an enchanting aspect of living in the west.
Oh my! Another Bear Sighting….
“Did you see that,” I exclaimed! “There was a bear in the tree. We have to turn around.”
Tom turned and parked carefully under the overhanging branches at the very edge of the road. He opened the sunroof and turned on our hazard lights. It was late afternoon and sunlight was dancing on the leaves in the tree. Right there above us was a young bear, firmly seated within the fork of a branch, intently focused on snatching acorns from nearby branches. He was wasting no time in gobbling them up. At that moment, he reminded me of an oversized snuggly teddy bear. He was oblivious to us and any other passing vehicles. He had no idea he was the focus of multiple photos and a short video clip. The four of us in the vehicle were captivated watching this scene. He would snatch a mouthful from a limb, and use his paws to pick out the unwanted leaves or branches, which were quickly thrown to the ground. The pile of leaves and small branches accumulating on the road were evidence of how long he must have been in the tree. There was no sign of other bears in the area. I was surprised to one this close to a town and at this elevation. I heard bears were frequently seen at higher elevations.
Other approaching vehicles slowed to see what we were looking at. Some snapped photos as they drove by. The bear was disinterested in all the attention. We were getting ready to leave the site, as it appeared the bear had enjoyed his fill of acorns. His agility in scampering down from the tree was amazing. Tom was watching for traffic in his mirror when he noticed a rental RV parking, and the passengers disembarking with cameras in hand. They may have been the reason the bear came down from the tree. Initially he starting lumbering away in the opposite direction, then looked back over his shoulder at the people standing in the street. Turning, he looked intently at the scene. We were backing up, and the people were walking toward him. He stood on his hind feet taking four or five steps toward them before stopping to evaluate the scene again. It almost appeared he was challenging them. They scrambled back into their vehicle and after several moments the bear ambled away in the opposite direction. My ‘teddy bear’ image was quickly replaced with the reality of how large and powerful these creatures of nature are.
We all thought the experience was amazing. I was excited and thrilled. This was my first bear sighting after moving to the mountains. I was grateful to experience such an up-close and safe nature sighting of such a magnificent animal. I was also grateful for the realization of how powerful and quickly these creatures of nature can move, and that this is their domain. Recognizing it was a small bear, I wondered if there were others nearby. I pondered how far down into the valley they really do wander. I was equally surprised a family was willing to get out of their vehicle and approach this wild and un-caged bear on foot just to get a few photos. How much closer might they have gotten if the bear had not turned away and how would the headlines read?
We were on the Frying Pan. We had been busy chatting and enjoying the rock walls or magnificent drops to the valley below as we were driving. Various pine trees and gambel oaks were the primary trees in the area. We were with friends; they were directing us to one of their favorite spots, Chapman Lake. We planned a late afternoon hike and an evening picnic. We had just driven through Basalt and rounded a curve when we came upon this diversion to our trip.
We continued to our original destination. The wonders and magnitude of the mountains and surrounding countryside continued to amaze me. As beautiful as the hike was and the alluring atmosphere created at the lake as the sun started its decline for the night, the sighting of the bear was the highlight of the day’s adventure.