There are black bears in Colorado. Lots of them. In many mountain towns, Aspen and Crested Butte come to mind, bear-proof trash containers are mandatory. Campgrounds post signs with proper bear etiquette and food storage information. Bear stories populate the news, and nearly anyone you meet can relate a bear tale or two. Even in our suburban neighborhood, we have watched a bear cross the divided main thoroughfare. They are ubiquitous.
Still, they scare the crap out of people. Every time I tell someone we’re heading out for a camping trip, someone will ask: “Aren’t you afraid of the bears?” I am not afraid of black bears. A mountain lion might cause me near undergarment spoilage, but a bear? Not so much. You see, I know something that most bears don’t. I have a can of bear spray.
Truth is though, even without the bear spray, I don’t have to be afraid of bears because the camping world is chock full of people who are either unable or unwilling to read posted signs. So, my camping philosophy has largely centered around this one thought: “I don’t have to outwit the bears. I just have to outwit the dummy in the camping site next to mine.” It’s the universal law of the lowest common denominator. As long as I am a more careful camper than the guy next to me, as long as my food is more securely stored, the bear will skip right past me and go visit the ignorant dude in the next site. Guaranteed.
This morning at precisely 6:38 a.m., I heard the tell-tale sound of a bear in the campground. Some numb nuts was yelling at the top of his lungs in his Papa Bear voice.
Twenty second pause.
Then, I heard a diesel truck engine start, followed by a prolonged horn honk. In quick succession, I heard a second blast of the horn. I shook my head. Definitely a bear sighting. Was I worried? No. Our food was properly stored in our locked car and not left outside in its cooler. Our table had been wiped clean. We don’t have to be the most immaculate campers. We just have to be more clever than the next guy.
We did see the bear. It was a young and small, perhaps 200 pounds. It crossed the camp loop road about forty feet ahead of us, nose up in the air sniffing, as it was being chased off by a man knocking some large wooden blocks together. I felt sorry for the bear, thwarted from its easy meal by the same dope who had provided it. How frustrating! Nope. I am definitely not afraid of black bears. Ignorant humans, on the other hand, scare the bejesus out of me.