Mike goes on these expeditions very often, and I am very jealous indeed!
I have edited his original email slightly, but felt it was important to keep it pretty well intact, as he gives a very good account of what it is like to encounter these magnificent beasts in the wild, in THEIR natural habitat, and not behind bars in a zoo.
Maybe one day I'll be in the right place at the right time to go deep into one of these vast parks (I still don't understand why on earth they are called "wildernesses"?), and see these beautiful bears for myself.
Original email, edited...
"I have enclosed two pictures of black bears in
Yosemite proper from 2005 and a 2007 picture of a bear paw print from our
camp. All for your blog.
I returned from a 5 day hiking and camping trip in
the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
This year we were not in the National Park proper
but in the Ansel Adams Wilderness Area/Ingo National Forest in the Minaret Range
where we attained a height of 12,500 feet attempting to hike up Mt. Ritter,
which we failed to do.
This is the third year I have gone as my good
friend Randy Gates (yes,Randall) is an expert on this area and an avid
outdoorsman, natural builder and environmentalist.
He relates that in the 8 years that he has worked
the Sierra Range he has seen evidence that it is warming and drying out. I
can attest to the fact that in 5 days there was zero moisture in the air.
Even in the morning there was no dew on the ground at all.
By day two a nice trickle of blood was coming from
my nose every morning as a result of the dry air.
Black bears avoid conflict with people and will
run. In 2005 we found the bear, being a bear, in that he was tearing bark
from a tree and eating termites. He sensed us and started sniffing the air
and walking down the trail towards us. I asked Randy when we should start
yelling at him and making noise.
With a sly grin Randy tuned to me and said
"anytime you want Mike". The bear gave us another good look and seeing 6
figures took off into the woods without us making a sound.
In 2007, I awoke to the sound of our bear
canisters and kitchen dishes being flayed about in the kitchen area we had set
up about 30 feet from our tents.
I opened the tent and could not see anything.
Randy was yelling at the bear and the little dog
we had was barking so I heard it scamper away.
In the morning we found the print of what was a
small bear -probably.
When we returned to Randy's house in Squaw Valley,
Ca. it had been broken into by a bear who ate all the dog food and stole a
backpack containing some drink mix.
We found the bag with all its contents minus the
drink mix about 200 feet from his house, full of bear slobber. (Nice use
of the word slobber Mike. Pip teach you that?!)
We also saw a huge Marmot - they are really
thieves and will take anything shiny-even if they have no use for it. They
will simply steal and put whatever they find in their dens. The one we saw
was huge- a small dog.
He was watching us from afar waiting to enter our
camp to steal and shit on our stuff. (Again. Nice. Ed.)
Many great birds as well. I love the
Hunter's Jay (locals hate him but I think he looks like a Kingfisher) and
the Mountain Blue Jay. Also birds of prey a plenty.
Random thoughts - Lake Tahoe-the most beautiful
lake in the world. Surrounded by mountains and clear, clear
Mono Lake-If there was a lake on the Moon this is
what it would look like.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale-love it.
Cheers Mike. Really good stuff.