Continuing with our Great Smoky Mountains trip and now that it has been established that I can, indeed, eat ketchup; we did do more than just hiking and climbing the ‘stairway to heaven’ otherwise known as Clingmans Dome. We also had a few bear encounters, one real and one perceived, both Mamas.
Almost every mother out there has experienced the ‘Mama Bear’ mentality. It is an inherent instinct in us. It surfaces the minute we sense that our children are or may be hurt and it is destructive and, quite possibly, deadly to the perpetrator of that hurt. As a Mom you’ve probably experienced that moment when you know you’ll do anything to protect your child. (Spoiler alert. When you get older this becomes a Nana Bear mentality. In other words, once a ‘Mama Bear’ always a ‘Mama Bear’, just slightly slower and with more wrinkles.)
The adorable little nose and mouth attached to this shirt belong to our grandson, Sawyer. The blue string around his neck is his ‘Bear Whistle’. He was very diligent in blowing it and keeping us safe as I’m sure you can imagine. Little boys and whistles really do go together and Sawyer did a great job with his.
You can’t really read it but the biggest animal on the top left of his tee-shirt entitled, ‘Animals of the Great Smoky Mountains’ is called a “Furry Nope”. Translation, “Yes, they’re cute and ‘Furry’, but should you go near one? NOPE.” You would think this would be the mindset of most people and especially that of a Park Ranger. Imagine our surprise when we came to one of our hiking trails and were greeted by a round little female Park Ranger standing by the entrance to the trail. That wasn’t what surprised us. What surprised us was her question and response.
Her question ~ “Would you like to see what you might encounter on the trail?”
Her response ~ She scrolled through the pictures on her phone and showed us this.
Well not exactly this, she didn’t share the picture with me, but it looked an awful lot like it! A huge bear seen on the trail just a few hours earlier. Now a huge bear is kind of scary, but then she tells us it’s a Mama bear with three cubs.
My mind immediately went to the “Nope” part of Sawyer’s shirt. I was ready to find another trail to hike. But then, she tried to assure us all. “It’s okay, she’s ‘tolerant’. Just don’t go near her cubs.”
When I think of adjectives used to describe Mama Bears, human ones included, ‘tolerant’ is not one of them. I quickly decided that this Park Ranger was smoking something and whatever it was it had surely altered her sense of reality.
If you’re wondering if we hiked the trail, we did. There were quite a few people on the trail before and behind us, so I guess we felt safe enough. Bears live in all of the woods, so why not take our chances on this one. We hiked the trail and oddly enough were looking through the woods for Mama and her cubs. We didn’t want to see them on the trail, but we did want to see them.
We didn’t see them. We sensed something down below the trail in the woods, but that was all and that was just fine with me. I had no desire to run into the Big Furry Nope and her little uh-uh’s.
As we were driving along we saw a line of cars parked on the side of the road. We know from experience that this means an animal has been sighted. Interestingly enough, when we’re home and see a deer or a bear, it’s (dare I say) not that big a deal, but somehow in a National Park people will pull over their cars and whip out their cameras to capture a picture of wildlife, any wildlife…even if it’s a skunk. Well, maybe not a skunk, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
This time though, people were lined up to try to get a glimpse of a Mama Bear in the tree with her three cubs. Maybe it was our ‘tolerant’ Mama Bear or maybe not. We would never know. Fortunately, this Mama was very high up and completely oblivious to the stream of paparazzi waiting for a glimpse of her. She did peek out once or twice and we did see her babies walking along the tree limbs, but we did not get a good picture. This one is, again, not mine; but you get the idea.
I do find it interesting that bears in our garbage cans at night are a nuisance, but bears in the woods of the Great Smoky Mountains are celebrities. I guess what they say…location, location, location…is true! Maybe our garbage bears should relocate, but then food is food and to them I’m sure it’s really not that big a deal.