Close Encounter

The art of Jeanne F Goodman perfectly illustrates my story…

My husband and I recently started camping again. It’s something we both did as kids because our parents liked to fish, so it feels like coming home. We love to hike in the woods with our dog. I prefer a trail along a creek to a waterfall, my husband prefers a trail to see the vistas, and our dog prefers whatever trail she’s on at the moment. We love the sounds of the wind in the trees, the water flowing downstream, the sights of the sun rising, the movement of the clouds, and the dancing flames of the campfire at night. We have a healthy respect for nature, because there are mountain lions and grizzly bears where we grew up in Montana.

On a recent hike in the Shenandoah National Park, we saw a black bear. It was good-sized so we guessed it was a male. The signs did say that it was an active bear area and that they are usually not aggressive, but we still gave him his space. He was getting a drink in the middle of the stream next to the trail, and I saw him as I came around a bend. He looked up and as the water dripped from his chin we looked each other in the eye. Then, out of respect, I backed away. He emerged from the water, and gave us one last over-the-shoulder look before heading up the mountain crossways to the trail, leaving nothing but a wet footprint on a rock. I don’t know about him, but I was surely grateful for our moment of connection.