The Cute Bear At Philmont

on March 4, 2008 in High Adventure, Philmont

bearsMy jaw is still painful as the crew arises at 6:00. Surprising, I slept quite well. The skies are clear. It is 51 degrees. A beautiful morning. During breakfast Paul traded his slim jims for my oatmeal. I think we each thought we got the better end of the deal.

Today we will go to Clarks Fork Camp. There are several ways to get there from Harlan. We could go back around Deer Lake Mesa and then take the trail by Cathedral Rock and the Cimarroncito Reservoir. This would long hike and would be difficult. The crew decided not to go this way because too much of it would be backtracking what we did yesterday.

The trail chosen was a four wheel drive ‘road’ that would take us off Deer Lake Mesa, into the Nash Gulch area, and past Webster Lake. I am glad we left camp early, 8:00 a.m., because it was open plains once we got off the mesa. The sun was brightly shining as we headed toward Webster Lake. I would be willing to bet that it would have been a hot hike if we would have taken this route during the afternoon. As we passed the lake the scouts noticed a deer next to a fallen tree getting a drink.

I was relieved when we arrived at the Cimarroncito Turnaround by 9:30 a.m. I am not sure but I think Philmont staff frown upon crews using the roads to get from one camp to another if a trail is available. We could have gotten in trouble if we would have met a vehicle along the way.

It was about 10:15 when we arrived at Clarks Fork Camp. Tracy welcomes us to camp and explains the program that is available to us. One of the things we are really looking forward to is the shower. Corey has gotten so filthy that Tim has started calling him Pig Pen, after the Peanuts comic strip character.

We are given the campsite next to the one we used three years ago. It is near a stream and the Red Roof Inn (latrine). The bear cable is not far away. Even though the ground is a bit inclined it looks as if it will be a nice campsite.

Due to the fact that tomorrow’s camp will be a dry camp we ate a supper for lunch. The crew is pretty quiet as the meal is prepared. In fact, they act as if they are near death. They must be really tired. The turkey noodle supper is good. A peach pie is our desert. Corey, Nathan, and I play a bit of Frisbee afterwards.

The shower house opened for business at one o’clock. At 12:40 I grabbed my towel and clothes and headed out, hoping to beat the rush I was sure would occur. I was not more then a hundred feet from our campsite when I saw it … a short distance to my left in the woods… A bear!

The creature just stood there and looked right at me, and me at it. It was only about thirty feet to the right of the trail that I was on. It stood about three feet tall at the shoulders. The color of its fur was brown. It had a light brown necktie mark down the front of its neck. It looked like a young bear, but was a lot bigger then a cub. We stared at each for about twenty seconds. He (?) never moved but I backed off a few steps. When I got about fifty feet away from it I called back to the crew to grab a camera and bring it to me. “We got a bear,” I yelled.

“I probably should not have said that” I thought to myself as I saw most of the crew headed toward me. Tom and Nathan both had their cameras along. I waved them back as they approached. I did not want them too close in close the bear decided to try something. Slowly they came forward, awed at what they were seeing before them. Tom handed me his camera, the telephoto already set. As I brought the camera up to my eye the bear decided that that was enough. He turned and walked off into the woods.

Some of the scouts wanted to follow it, especially Nathan. That surprised me. Nathan was the one who was so worried at the start of the trek that something was going to happen, that we might get attacked by something. Now he wanted to go chasing after the very creature that caused him so much anxiety only a week ago. I told them not to follow it. That would be a bit too dangerous.

That bear sure was cute, however. And that cuteness made the bruin that much more dangerous. People are not as afraid of cute things. Cute things attract folks, especially kids. I am rather surprised that no one made a comment about trying to get close enough to pet the creature. I think I will need to talk to the crew when we are all back together. Precautions will have to be taken.

I stopped by the staff’s lodge on the way to the showers to report my siting. The staff was not pleased with the way I handled the situation. They explained that we should have made a lot of noise and chased the bear away. They asked me if I had seen a collar or an ear tag. No. Was it aggressive? No. Was it in camp? Yes. Did it get at our food? No. Etc., etc. Once the form was filled out I was free to go.

I was excited that I had finally seen a bear. It took three trips to do it, but I was happy. Now, I only hoped that it would not raid our camp during the middle of the night.

It was finally time to get to the showers and wash off six days of dirt and grime. Several other members of the troop had beaten me to it. It felt great to be clean again. On the way back a couple of us tried our skills at lassoing.

The afternoon became a lazy, laid back one. Several of us took out our sleeping pads, set them on the ground, and laid out under the trees. Pete and Nathan made a game of throwing the Frisbee over Paul, trying to see how close they could get to him without actually hitting him. Then they tried throwing it over me. Every time I was able to get a hold of it I took the thing and threw it as far away as I could. It did not take long before it was being thrown inches above our prone bodies again.

(This article is an except from my 1992 Philmont journal. You can read the whole journal of the trip HERE. And by the way, that is picture is not of the bear that we saw.)

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