Camping in the Cascade wilderness with our families the night before, we hung out on the river ate around the campfire and snuggled in the tent all night long. Roaring high winds didn’t make for great sleep, but by 4:30 am when our alarms went off it was calm and clear with a blanket of stars covering the sky and a crescent moon shining right above the jagged ridges.
We started driving in the dark and hiking in the dusk. We back packed a stand up paddle board and we were excited to make it to Eight Mile Lake in the Enchantment Park Wilderness. The hike was beautiful as the sun rose and before you knew it we were in the heat of day. Our adrenaline was high on adventure, but unforeseen circumstances would kick in our fight or flight before long.
When we came quietly and quickly around a tight bend in the trail and spooked a small cinnamon black bear we were completely shocked as well! The bear started to run off, but something changed its mind and it headed back up the trail at us. We stepped off the trail, took off our bag and grabbed the bear spray. I looked over at the brush ten feet away from us and silent as an Eagle gliding through the sky, the Enchanted Bear was creeping through the brush.
Our eyes met and I saw the curiosity and the hesitation. I carefully took the trigger off the bear spray knowing that our encounter was too close already to make any mistakes. I sprayed the bear and we grabbed our bags heading back to the trail. Enchanted Bear followed. One step forward and two more strong sprays…we backed away around the bend in the trail with the taste of pepper on our tongues and stinging our eyes.
The bear disappeared in a cloud of yellow smoke and we hiked with new vigor as we tried to cover more ground. I felt bad I had to spray the bear. He had curious eyes and was clearly as enchanted with us as we were with our mission.
We made it to the lake and celebrated with a picnic on the stand up paddle board high in the mountains in the middle of an Alpine Lake. We didn’t see the bear on the hike out…but you know we were looking.
The funny thing is that ever since that day, that bear has been with me. Something about feeling like prey. Something about the look in his eyes. Maybe I’m the enchanted one.