Hiking with Yosemite Bears

by Kris Corey
Yosemite Audio Adventures
(Groveland, CA)

Black bear cub @ Hetch Hetchy (Bob Ennis)

Black bear cub @ Hetch Hetchy (Bob Ennis)

It was about 2:00 PM on a sunny but crisp Fall day. The waters of the Hetch Hetchy reservoir sparkled in the sunlight. I was coming out of the Yosemite back country, descending the Old Lake Eleanor road at a pretty good pace when I looked up and came to a screeching halt.

Instinctively, I took a few steps backwards as my brain tried to comprehend the image before me.
There, in the middle of the trail, approximately 20 yards in front of me, was a sleeping bear.

The animal was facing my direction lying on a spot in the trail where the sun filtered through the remaining Oak leaves. It's head rested comfortably on the ground between its two large front paws. She opened her eyes, looked at me for a second or two and then closed her eyes again and I wondered if perhaps she wasn't ill or injured.

I began talking to her softly and ventured a little closer. She wasn't a large bear, probably 150 pounds, and I could see no obvious injuries. She appeared to be napping on the sun baked trail.

After a few minutes of watching her sleep it became obvious that she had no intentions of moving so I picked up a small stick and threw it in her direction. She lifted her head, looked at me, licked her paw and went back to her nap.

This section of trail is cut into a steep hillside so the topography prevented me from simply going around the bear. One side of the trail was straight up and the other, straight down, I had to chuckle at the situation.

Finally, I decided that I needed to take a more assertive approach to the situation. I raised my voice, waved my arms above my head and advanced towards the bear. I thought if I could just crowd her a little she would certainly move.

Well, just as I was beginning to worry about our proximity to one another she finally stood up and I stopped.

"Great!" I said aloud, "Now what?" We were less than 6 yards apart and I had one small stick left in my arsenal.

I tossed it at her front paw and sure enough she took a step backwards. But rather than run away she simply moved to the edge of the trail, the downhill or cliff side of the trail to be exact and gracefully climbed about 3 feet up an Oak tree.

She looked much larger from this perspective. Her head was now elevated slightly above mine.

She hung there on the side of the tree looking over her shoulder at me. The sunlight shimmered off the brown tips of her fur. I was thrilled to see her climb but I expected her to keep going. I waved my arms to encourage her to keep climbing but she just stopped, looked back at me again and grunted as if to say, "Well, I moved, go on past."

So, I put on my nicest bear voice, faced her directly and inched past with only 6 or 7 feet between us.

She grunted a few times when we were at our closest but I really didn't feel threatened. We were both essentially in the same predicament. Unsure and cautious but forced into trusting each other. (Of course she did take the side of the trail with an escape route, I was the one inching along with my back to a wall.)

Once past her tree and out of danger I stopped to watch her climb back down and return to the same sunny spot in the trail.

Encounters with bears are rare but not uncommon in this area of Yosemite National Park and hikers should take proper bear precautions and follow park rules.

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In Danger of Becoming a Regular Contributor?
by: Suzi

Note to Readers: This is Kris' second story about Yosemite bear encounters (see "Don't Feed the Bears!"), and I'm delighted to have it! If you're planning a trip to Yosemite, check out Kris' "Yosemite Audio Adventures" (just click on the link under his name above the story) - a great way to help you get the most out of your trip!

Greetings Kris,

Thanks for another great Yosemite bear story! You DO lead an exciting life up there in Groveland, LOL!

I think I can safely speak for my Readers when I say we all look forward to hearing more from you!


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