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  • Writer's picturebalzaccom


That's what people were yelling at us. But over the roar of the Kings River in full snowmelt stage, we couldn't hear them very well. All we could hear was a couple of people making way more noise than they needed to make in a national park.

So what the hell happened? We were on the horse trail on the north bank of the Kings River near Cedar Grove. I was hiking along, looking ahead at the trail, and trying to ignore those people in the cars below, who were yelling. M was hiking along about a seventy-five feet behind me.

But they kept yelling. Then it occurred to me that maybe someone had fallen in the river, and they needed help. So I turned and looked at the people in the car. They were looking at me. And they were yelling at me. It took another second or so to realize that they were yelling at me because a mother bear and two cubs had just climbed up out of the river near them, and were headed straight towards the trail we were on.

I looked downhill and saw the bear, and then the two cubs. Oops. I immediately called out to M, to tell her that the bear was on its way---and it was going to climb up onto the trail directly between the two of us. I also called out so that the bear wouldn't be surprised to see me up there. It was only about fifty feet away.

Mama and the cubs slowly climbed up to the trail, and then went right across it--the two cubs tumbling and clambering along after their mother. They got a good twenty-five feet above the trail, and then started along parallel to it--right above me, but hidden behind a few granite boulders.

I stopped dead in my tracks, and waited for them to get well past me before signaling to M that it was OK to proceed. Only when I turned around to hike the trail, there was Mama bear's butt, with two little baby bear butts behind her, calmly walking down the trail ahead of me.

I slowly followed, trying to let them get farther ahead. But the two little cubs kept getting distracted and slowing Mama bear down. So when I spotted a way to get down off the trail and down onto the road, I quickly hiked down, and showed M the same route.

Of course, no sooner had we hit the road than there came the three bears, about 75 feet in front of us, onto the road. We stopped again, and they crossed the road and wandered off into the ferns by the river.

At which point we stayed well to the left-hand side of the road, far from Mama bear, and tiptoed past them to continue on our way to camp.

It was the highlight of the trip, and by far the best bear sighting we have ever had in the Sierra.

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