Guest Post: A camping disaster turned into a lifelong learning experience

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A camping disaster turned into a lifelong learning experience

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A few years ago, during my college summer break, me and a group of my second year classmates went to out to the Colorado country for a 5 day long camping trip. Colorado is a beautiful state and a great option for hiking and camping, with both nature and wildlife.

We studied at the Colorado State University and the hiking spot we chose was a few hours away and it was perfect as we didn’t want to drive out too far.We knew that Colorado country is home to black bears so we had already made sure to check out the details of our camp site and we were told that bear and human contact is rare and very much preventable. Black bears can be dangerous if they come near humans although their attacks are almost always made as a defensive action and as a species black bears are not generally aggressive.

We carefully read the instructions displayed on the signs boards and also mentally revised them while walking up to the site where we grounded our tents.

When camping in bear territory, it’s important to never leave food, toiletries, or anything else that has an aroma or smell to it, outside in the camping ground or even in the tents where you sleep. Even if the things are boxed up, it won’t work unless the boxes have been sealed off properly to not allow too much smell to leak out an fill the surrounding air. We actually followed up with an instruction video by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department, which a group of campers that we met on the way shared with us. We didn’t have any of the bear resistant containers at our side but we knew from research that cars are also safe as long as the food is properly hidden away and covered.

All was going well as we set up our camps, hiked around the area a bit and started our fire at around 7 in the evening. We made macaroni and cheese which was so delicious for our starving tummies after a long exhausting day and laughed and shared storied as we finished it. As darkness approached, we collected all of our left over mac and cheese carefully in a single container, packed it up and locked it carefully in the car., because we didn’t want to create any unnecessary food waste especially since we still had four more days to go.

The five of us, two boys and three girls, then went for a short walk under the bright moonlight before sleeping. After about 20 minutes, we headed back to our camp ground and upon reaching the site, couldn’t believe what we saw. Our tent was all pulled out and torn from all ends.

And right in front of our eyes and at the spot where our fire was, which we turned off before leaving as we had our torches so we didn’t need it anymore, there was a huge black bear with its slick coat and shiny eyes, reflecting the moonlight, staring right at us.

We froze where we stood, all freaked out. The bear started moving towards us and my friends started to swerve and pray in fear. We couldn’t even run to the car as the bear was bang right in front of it, next to the remains of our tent.

Then somehow, one friend Jake remembered that we can scare the bear by darting rocks at its way so he told us to do that and one by one all of us started doing that while flashing our torches around it. We also started clapping and thumping with our feet very loudly creating lots of noise. This behavior I assume made the bear feel intimidated and he stopped moving towards us. Then I remembered that we can flap our hands in the air to let him know that we are humans and this is our territory, something which I read on the internet. I quickly started doing that and made the group do the same. Eventually after about 7-8 minutes of this whole fiasco the bear glanced around a few times quickly and then started running in the opposite direction.

We were relieved to see that the humungous mammal was finally gone but the devastation which it has caused on the site was irreversible as our tent was totally broken and torn. Only after coming back to the city I read this precious bear proofing your campsite guide which we should have looked up earlier.

We were glad that the bear hadn’t attacked our car and damaged it. Even though we had followed all the instructions, we made one grave mistake, which was leaving the fresh camp site behind unattended, in the night. I think the bear was hungry and it was probably watching us from far away. I am pretty sure if we wouldn’t have left the site, the bear wouldn’t have come. But because it saw us leave it, decided to check the place out because it would have definitely smelled the food there earlier.

Although we were so thankful to have made it past the incident without any harm our exciting camping trip had to come to an end there and then as our tent was not usable. We knew that it’s also sometimes safe to sleep out in the open but we were pretty uncomfortable with the spot as we knew bears were in the area so we cleared up the space, got into the car and drove off in the middle of the night.

Our camping disaster was truly disappointing but it definitely taught us an important lifelong lesson; never to take nature lightly and always come extra prepared. If we had packed an extra tent, and then something like this had happened, who knows we could have probably talked ourselves into staying the night and the day after at least or just move a little further away to a new spot and camp all over again.

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