Going Potty With a Bear

It was our last day at Corbin Cabin in Shenandoah National Park.  George Corbin built the cabin around 1910.  His family was one of the residents kicked out of his home after Shenandoah became a National Park.  In the 1950s, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), renovated it and now, maintains and rents the cabin.  We already planned a trip in the backcountry and I thought a night in the cabin is a nice break from tent camping.

It has an outhouse/privy about 40-50 yards from the cabin.  Before heading out on the trail, the girls and I went for our last bathroom trip before having to pee in the woods.  I pressed against the door so I could get the master lock off the latch.  The whole time I'm breathing through my mouth to protect my nose from the putrid smells.

Me: Who wants to go first?

My girls were quiet.  The privy reeked.

Me: Fine, I'll go.  Face the other way.

We like to keep the door open while going, in hopes of airing it out.  As I turn and unbutton, my daughter says very calmly:  Mom, there's a bear.

Me:  What? A bear?

She nods.  I'm excited because I only ever seen glimpses of black bears in the wild.  I button up walk out and not 10 feet, there was a bear, staring at us.  I gasp. I didn't expect it so close.  The bear huffs at us.  My youngest turns to run.  I yell, "DON'T RUN"   in the 'what the hell do you think you're doing' mom voice.  My eldest calmly grabs her by the elbow and my youngest stops. 
Bear checking us out during his breakfast.

Me: OK, we'll slowly walk away.  Just walk away.

We start moving.  I'm too afraid of walking backwards.  Because I'm afraid of tripping.  I start rushing through my head, everything else I learned about bears. 

Me: We need to make noise.

Youngest:  What if we sing.  She starts singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

I start singing with her as we walk back to the cabin.  We see the cabin.  My husband is staring at us.  (Later he said,  I thought something was weird when all three of you came back marching to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.)  We told him what happened.  I opened up my hand and showed him the Master Lock. 

Cool, he says.

He cautiously walks to the privy with the camera and lock.  When he came back he said, I don't know what you said but he was up in the treeThen he came down and went on his way.  I'm convinced it was the mom voice.  It's very powerful. 

My only tip for this week:  Take a bear lecture with the local ranger if you are hiking in the wilderness.  And don't be afraid to ask questions.

Comments

  1. Great post, Joanne! You've raised some smart kids. The power of your mom's voice is exceeded only by their cool-headedness in the face of a bear standing ten feet away (that is too damned close for me).

    FYI, I too am big on keeping electronic time down. Thanks for your good comment at Diamond-Cut Life. Good to meet you and Broadcasting Sunny.

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    1. Keeping electronic time down does not mean stopping all together. As my kids say, how can you write about keeping electronics time down on the computer HA .... Of course, my response is - How am I going to reach my people? :D

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  2. LOL: I'm convinced it was the mom voice. It's very powerful.

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    1. I agree :) When we got home my hubby read a bear article that said that when black bears are with their cubs and sense danger, she sends the cubs up the tree. Maybe the bear knew I was yelling at the kids LOL

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  3. Well done! You TELL that bear what is and what is not allowed. Congrats to your husband on the photo, too.

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    1. LOL, he was a cute bear. I think we were in his breakfast area. I saw him eating something a little later.

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  4. Holy Moly! I'm amazed that all three of you kept your cool...and it was the mom voice for sure! It's universal. Even at my age, I stop when I hear the mom voice!

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  5. Agree with your husband, Cool!! How exciting. Would have loved to be with you. Thank God you stopped your daughter from running. Could have got you into a lot of trouble. In fact it could have been lethal.

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    1. Yes, I think it is the first time she listened to me and her sister. She's one of those who I would say the sky is blue and she would say know it's green.

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  6. I know you were probably scared, um well, sh....., but what a great up close encounter. I am glad no one got hurt. Now, your kids have a story to turn into the big family legend of how they stared down a grizzly.

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    1. LOL, yes! I tell ya what, I find the bears in Shenandoah mild mannered. I truly have the belief that they are more afraid of us than we are of them. I was not afraid but still wasn't going to take any changes. Like with my dog, if he sees us running, he'd think we were something to chase.

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  7. PS I followed you on Google + . ;)

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  8. Maybe the bear wanted to check the outhouse out because of the smell LOL

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  9. Reading this after watching about 3 bear mauling stories on TV last week, makes me pause (paws?) ;-) I'm afraid that fear of potentially dangerous wildlife has diminished my enjoyment outdoor experiences. The week after reading about a woman who was killed by a mountain lion while trail running in California, we were hiking in Zion National Park and right at the entrance to the trail was a sign informing the public about a recent mountain lion siting. Then there was the nature walk in the Costa Rican rainforest. The guide told us to be aware that there were flying fer-d-lances and then proceeded to seem kind of fearful himself. Uh oh. My favorite out door experience was a 4 day hike on the Milford Track on the South Island of New Zealand. We had to watch out for avalanches, but other than that, the most vicious animal one could encounter were thieving keas (Alpine parrots).

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    1. Sorry to hear about your fear. We did our research before hiking out, hence no mauling. Of course, black bears mauling is rare. We attended ranger programs and read up on black bears. Studies show that most attacks occur to those not following the rules.
      My advice would be to research the area and the animals where you will be hiking, follow the rules and go where you are comfortable. (Personally avalanches would be scarier to me because they are less predictable than wild animals.)

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  10. Here is the mountains of Colorado, black bear are plentiful. They are not as dangerous as the moose population who also live here. Black bears are vegetarian. They eat berries and things they find in trash cans. Generally, they won't bother you if you stay as far away from them as possible, which is very important, particularly if a bear is with its cubs. Brown bears or grizzly bears, on the other hand, are much more dangerous. They will attack and kill you if they even smell anything resembling food. I agree that seeing a bear can be frightening, especially when you are with young children. I am glad all of you are okay.

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    1. Although they eat a mostly vegetarian diet, they are not vegetarians and a small number of people each year get eaten by black bears. The number is about the same as brown bears.

      I agree, I don't want to hike with grizzlies unless perhaps it's in a national park where I will grill the rangers of how best to avoid them.

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  11. I am so right there when it comes to bears. One summer as a teenager I went to a cabin. A bear tried to break into the cabin and we had to jump out a back bedroom window to get out of the cabin. These bears were transported from Yosemite National Park so they were not afraid of humans. Since then I am happy to let ALL bears have their space. :-)

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    1. I wonder why they were transported from Yosemite. I believe in Shenandoah if a bear moves into human territory they are killed. Transporting them seems to just give someone else the troubling bear.

      And yes, I like to their bears their space. :)

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  12. Wow! That is so freaky and amazing. I have no idea what I would do if I faced a bear, but I doubt I would have a been a captain cool like you were. LOVE the power of the mom voice.

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    1. You might - I read your blog on how you handled the mostly nude guy - you didn't get caught up in everyone's fear and handled it beautifully. I'm just glad I remembered our training.

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  13. I spent three summers working in Yellowstone National Park when I was in college. I never had such a close encounter with a bear as the one you describe above, but thankfully you and your daughters responded appropriately. On the other hand, I once ran from a charging bison when I should have just went off into the trees on the side of the path. Live and learn, eh?

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    1. I would love to work in the National Parks. I just read Ranger Confidential. I can't say it was the best written book but the stories were incredible. I very much admire Park Rangers because of it.

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  14. Wow! My husband has talked about renting on of those cabins. I do not think I would be nearly as calm as you were though!!!

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    1. I really think it came down to knowledge is power. I had read so much about black bears and went to programs talking about bears and what to do. I even called the national parks to talk to the rangers. I badgered them with questions. I also felt that the park system has good control of the "good" bears and "bad" bears that when I saw it I knew it was dangerous to be that close but I knew there was a chance to get out of danger.

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  15. Awesome post! Very smart girls! Looks like the experience was quite fun.

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    1. Yes, in the end, looking back, it was cool moment. :)

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  16. Holy Crap! How did you remain so calm. I would have lost my mind with fright I would think. Well done for keeping your head on straight :)

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    1. That part always surprises me. I suppose it's how the brain works. My first thought was don't run.

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  17. A Great post. All readers will definitely like this post. Looking forward for your next post.

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