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Keeping Bears at Bay

Yosemite is famous for its bears, and the damage those bears have done over the years to cars, campsites, and unattended small children. (Just kidding. No children were harmed.)

And Yosemite National Park has done a simply amazing job of preventing further damage by educating its visitors about the need to keep bears safe. The number one rule is that you NEVER leave food in your car overnight. I know this well, and have often lectured others about it. Keep the food away from the bears, and you keep the bears safe from everything else.

But when I took a quick trip to Yosemite this fall, I somehow forgot to plan for that eventuality. I just hopped in Le Vin Blanc and drove up to camp at Tuolumne Meadows. The next day I was leaving for a backpacking trip.

And that’s when I realized that I hadn’t really planned for that with the van. In the back of the van, under the platform bed, was a box full of food: instant oatmeal, cocoa, freeze-dried dinners, miso soup, etc. It was our larder for our longer road trips. In the “spice rack” on the back door of the van was vinegar, olive oil, salt pepper, and a few spices. In the “catch-all” basket on the back seat were hand lotion, sunscreen, shampoo, laundry detergent, and a bag of M&Ms. And in our “snack box” under the back seat was a smorgasbord of energy bars, bags of dried fruit, crackers, nuts, etc.


The morning of my hike I spent quite a bit of time packing all of that stuff up. I had an empty cooler that held most of it, and the rest I crammed into spaces in the snack box. And then I lugged those across the road at Murphy Creek to stick them in a bear box while I was out backpacking.

I couldn’t help but worry a little bit. If a group of hungry backpackers found that food, I wasn’t sure that they wouldn’t help themselves to a free dinner…or at least some astronaut ice cream.

But I needn’t have worried. It was all there waiting for me when I returned. Except for the M&Ms. I took them on the hike.

Still, better to feed a couple of backpackers than ruin the life of a perfectly nice bear.

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