Bears can be a problem in the Backcountry. They’re always hungry. Yogi Bear is pretty accurate there. The National Parks post bear warnings all over the place. Everywhere you look, you can see instructions for keeping bears out of your food and other supplies. Backpackers have special instructions. I think these instructions evolve. ‘Always hang your food’ has given way to ‘use bear proof canisters’.
On trail crews, keeping your supplies safe is like laying in for a siege. All food and scented personal hygiene items are kept in one central, easily defended position…the cook tent. A sentry is always posted at the cook tent. During the day, there are always at least two people around the cook tent, the cook and the corpsmember assigned to KP. The sentry through the night is always the corpsmember assigned to KP the following day, since he/she has to be up early to start breakfast, anyway. This sentry always has a supply of rocks laid in for the inevitable ursoid assault. And they will come. We don’t know when. We don’t know the direction. We just know that they will come.
Most normal people worry about being attacked by bears in the woods. We didn’t worry about that. We were the ones doing the attacking. Well…when they wandered into our camp, anyway. Think of it as an aggressive defense. When a bear shows up at a trail crew camp, the first thing anybody does is holler and wave your arms at it. Make loud noises. Look aggressive. Many times this is enough to scare the bear away. Also, by being loud, others in the area can hear about the bear and come running to assist for a back-up. If the loud noises don’t work, the next step is to start throwing rocks at it. I know this sounds crazy, but even 300 pound black bears are rather timid by nature and can be encouraged to leave by a hail of good sized rocks.
They have an entirely different approach to bears in Yellowstone, where they have grizzlies…but that’s a different story.
Yo2 had another critter problem in 1987. Our cook tent had a little hole in the back. The bear watch would be sleeping inside the cook tent with the food, but his/her attention was on bears trying to get in the front of the tent. The marmots started getting in through the hole in the back and eating the bread. Moose decided to combat this problem by sticking a cot behind the cook tent right in front of the hole. After your KP duty and sleeping inside the cook tent the night before, you were now assigned ‘marmot watch’ behind the tent the night after your KP.
Anne spelled it out the best for us in the crew journal:
Diane said the person in back chases the marmot and the person in the tent chases the bear. That’s the way it should be. But if the bear goes to the back and the marmot goes in the tent, then the person in the tent goes to the back and the one in back goes into the tent…and the story continues. Soon everyone will be so dizzy with the bear watch in the tent and the marmot watch in the tent and, and, and the Timex watch in the pocket.
I told y’all that Anne had a great sense of humor!