I was walking towards the restrooms when I saw what looked like a medium-size bus pull in. I figured some folks had converted it into their traveling vehicle, but was a little miffed when they drove past my wave.
After I finished my…business…in the restroom, I hopped in the golf cart and drove over to see what the folks were up to.
A man and two little boys (twins, I think) were outside the bus when I pulled up. I said good morning and asked the man if they planned to camp. He said no, they’d hoped to camp in the area the night before, but hadn’t made it far enough. He said he just wanted to get some water and check the motor, that they’d probably be gone in about an hour. I told him they should make themselves at home, but before I left, I asked him if his RV was a converted city bus. He said it had been the shuttle bus at a VA complex (he called it a “putt-putt bus”). He’d bought it at auction for $5,000, and it only had 4,500 miles on it.
The boys (who were probably about six years old) were running around and came up and told me hi. The dad told me one was named for the mountains, (Cody, as in Cody, Wyoming) and the other was named for the ocean (Kai).
I went about my chores dusting and sweeping restrooms, starting in the front and working my way back. As I was just starting on the restrooms right across from where the bus/RV was parked, Cody and Kai ran up to me.
We found bear tracks, one of them told me.
That’s cool, I said. Did you see any bear poop? I thought a mention of poop would get me at least a giggle, but these kids were serious. No, they had not seen any bear poop. They had not seen the bear either, just the tracks.
Then they asked if I wanted to see the bear tracks.
Yes! I said. (I was on my best work behavior, and I did not use any expletives to express my excitement.)
I thought we were going to make some big trek back into the trees, but they took me right around the corner, next to the little building housing the restrooms.
The tracks were right there, in the snow.
There were two prints. They looked just like the prints one sees on those charts of wild animal tracks. They were so perfect; at first I thought maybe those kids were fucking with me. Did they have some sort of bear print outline toy in the bus/RV? Had they made the bear prints in the snow? But I didn’t get the feeling they were trying to mess with me.
The prints went that way, one of the boys told me, as he pointed off to the left.
Where do you think the bear was going? I asked.
One boy shook his head, as if he had no idea, but his brother piped in with He was looking for people to eat!
I didn’t like the sound of that, as I was the only people in that campground the night before. If that bear had been looking for people to eat, that bear had been looking for me.
Do you think bears just go around killing people? I asked, and they both solemnly said yes. I told them bears would only hurt people if they felt threatened, and one of the boys asked what “threatened” meant.
As I was explaining what might happen if one scared a bear, one of the boys asked, What about a wolverine? Then one of them pointed out a chipmunk, and they both took off after it.
I swept two restrooms, all the while wishing I had my camera to take a photo of the bear tracks. I wasn’t sure how long it would take for the snow to melt, so I jumped in the golf cart, zoomed to the van, grabbed my camera, zoomed back to the tracks, and got a few photos.
When the dad walked over to the restroom area to get water from the nearby spigot, I told him his boys had shown me the bear tracks. He said he thought it was just a small bear, and I said I wanted to see one from a distance, not too close. He told me a bear had once jumped on him.
I looked at him like he was crazy, and said, What did you do?
He said, I froze!
He told me that when he was 11 or 12, he tried to hand feed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to a bear. He said he’d grown up in the mountains and had never been taught to fear wild animals. So he tried to feed a sandwich to a bear and the bear jumped him.
Was the whole family fucking with me?
The Bear Tracker website says,
Black bears are the smallest American bears, and the most common. They are the only bears found in the wild in California. Although the grizzly bear is the state mammal, it has been extinct in California since 1922.