A loaf of whole wheat bread. This is what saved my life. That’s right, I am and always will be forever grateful for this food that sits high on the nutritious food pyramid pedestal. What is he talking about and what does this have to do with a grizzly bear? Well hold on, I promise you there’s a connection between the two. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking, that picture is fake and if it is real, why would somebody have taken a picture, and why are you still alive? yada …..yada……..yada
I guess I should start from the beginning , then move on to the middle and then maybe if I feel like it, tell you the end.
If you read my profile on the website you all know how much of a hiking enthusiast I am. In fact, I can’t get enough of it. Every week I ask Diana “when’s the next hike, Saturday, Sunday, what about both days?” Well I am exaggerating a little bit but I really do love hiking especially when its Fall and the weather is cool and we have a four day weekend and the Yankees aren’t in the playoffs……………..
Ok I think you know where I’m going with this.
It was during one of these classic Autumn days in October (2006) on the Columbus Day weekend that Diana persuaded me to sacrifice, oops- I mean spend one of these days doing a nice easy hike in Bear Mountain State Park. I initially balked when she asked me, but not being able to think of an excuse fast enough, I “enthusiastically” said, “Sure that would be great.” The good thing about it was that I didn’t have to wake up early since her husband Sergey was driving. She said we would be leaving at 9 in the morning which is a lot better than seven. So I was now actually looking forward to it and the weather the next morning was cool, crisp, and sunny, so it was perfect for me. Little did I know that Diana had brought an extra sleeping bag and my very own tent (that she had been storing in her apartment, don’t ask me why). Of course I didn’t notice this until we got to the park and she took these extra items out of the trunk of her car. Now I didn’t sign up to do an overnight so I was a little “miffed” when I asked her, “Why do you have three sleeping bags?” and “Is that my tent?” Her response: “Well we thought that maybe we could convince you to camp out just this one time. Come on give it a chance.” My response: “Huh ….. what ……. umm……. camp out……….me……… well………. I don’t ………. Before I could say the last two words “think so”, she laid a guilt trip on me: Sergey and I want to do an overnight and if you are willing to we won’t have to drive you home.” Needless to say I was suckered into it, ambushed, to use a better word but I tried to have a positive attitude about it. Maybe I was just being stubborn, maybe I needed to be more open-minded and give things more of a chance. Who knows, I thought to myself, maybe this experience will change my life. Little did I know that these words would come back to haunt me.
Before embarking on our hike we spent an hour by the lake just talking, laughing, gossiping and taking in the beauty of the park. This is when I decided to eat my lunch a little earlier than I expected. I took out my sandwich (a huge hero with all the worst cold cuts you can imagine) when Diana stared at me very contemptuously saying “I understand that you have a big appetite but how could you eat white bread knowing how bad it is?” “One day you’ll change.” Now of course this wasn’t the first time that I heard this speech from her, but I just didn’t know what she had against white bread. True that it has zero nutritional value but who cares?, Besides, it tastes good and who could eat a hero sandwich on whole wheat bread? That would be sacrilegious. Anyway I decided to eat only half the sandwich and save the other half for later. Now we were ready to hike and into the woods we went. We decided to take our time and rest from time to time because we were in no rush. We wanted to savor the moment since this is the best way to enjoy nature and the wilderness. The beginning of the trail was pretty easy and flat but gradually it started getting steeper and steeper. We decided to take our first break near a cascading stream, beautiful small waterfalls. It was a real pretty spot to rest, and Diana even thought that it would be nice to camp out somewhere nearby. At this moment I remember her telling me how she never saw any wild animal in all the hikes and backpacking that she’s done and how disappointing it was. She told me that only once did Sergey see a black bear when they were in California before it quickly scampered away. She went on to say that people who go on organized hiking trips usually have a greater chance of seeing wild animals because the expert guides take them to the exact places where they could be found. I found it funny that she found this to be “disappointing.” since that isn’t exactly the word that I would use myself. I mean why would you want to run into a wild animal? Call me a coward but I’m not “one with nature”.
Well we are all resting when Sergey decides to get up and sit closer to the stream. Diana and I are sitting on a big rock above the stream and this is when I hear it. It was a high pitched angry growl that could only come from a vicious blood-thirsty predator. At this moment without even seeing the beast I knew that we were doomed. This sound was too close to us to even think about running away or hiding. Very quickly the sound became louder and more intense and was accompanied by heavy breathing. If there was such a sound that meant “Death” then this one was definitely it. Diana and I looked at each other but did not say a word. We became frozen zombies hoping that this monster would just walk away on its own. That was not happening ………………………..
To Be Continued