Sunday, July 13, 2008

Beware the Great Bear Attack!

When I took my kids camping (for the first time...and I was alone) in the White Mountains during the week of July 4th, we couldn't help but notice the bright red warning signs posted everywhere we went. They read, "You're in Bear Country." The signs offered tips on what to do when you encounter a bear. The tips I found most useful were the ones that urged us to clap our hands and sing. I reminded the kids over and over to clap their hands and sing their favorite song if a bear came charging at them.

I'll be honest. I hadn't really thought much about a big bear encounter until the sun went down and darkness descended on our campsite on the first night. We chose to stay at a tiny state park campground on the Kancamangus Highway. We were about as remote as you could get, and we were one of only two families camping at the campground. Then only benefit to being about the only ones there was that there was no line at the Daddy long leg infested outhouse.

As we settled in for the night, I could tell the kids were feeling a little apprehensive. Still, they wanted me to tell a story about a bear who met Old Granny (I've made up a series of stories about Old Granny that I tell the kids when I don't feel like actually reading a bedtime story). I began telling a story about how Old Granny had to wrestled a bear with her cane. Oops! Big mistake. I don't know what I was thinking. The kids now feared a massive black bear would tear our tent to shreds in the night. I told them that I've never heard about a bear attacking a person in New Hampshire, but they had their minds made up that we would never survive the night. Now, keep in mind, my daughter is 5 and my son is 7. "Well Daddy, we liked this campground in the daytime, but not at night!" my daughter insisted.

I did feel bad for them, and I felt it was my fault. So, at 11 p.m., I ordered them to get into my PT Cruiser and I began ripping everything down and stuffing it into the car as they sat in the backseat, their eyes peeled for that killer bear. Down came the tent. Down came the $10 Wal-Mart canopy that took nearly two hours to put up. I just shoved everything in the back and the poor kids could barely see around all the camping gear.

After everything was packed away, we went on our way, searching for a motel. We found one 15 minutes away in Conway. After about an hour of trying to check in (the front desk clerk didn't know how to type, so it was a slow process getting our information put into the computer system and the glare from the desk lamp made it impossible for him to read the numbers on my debit card, so I had to read everything off to him.)

We finally arrived in our room at about 12:15 a.m., only to find that we would be spending the night in a sauna. The room was about 100 degrees with no fans or AC running. But I suppose it was better than the other room that was available that night. The front desk clerk didn't do a very good job trying to sell that room to us when he revealed that it was a smoking room and that some heavy smokers had just left it. Good grief!

As we settled into our room, we discovered that only one of the three lights actually had lightbulbs. "Look Daddy, no lightbulb in this one," my daughter told me. "Oh, there's no lightbulb there either," she said as she carefully inspected every inch of this dump.

I didn't much care at this point about light. I just wanted to get these kids in bed! We all finally landed on the back-breaking mattress by about 1 a.m., and much to my surprise, we survived the night. No bears could bust through the walls...actually, now that I think of it, a bear probably could have gotten into this place.

So yes, we survived, but it cost us $70 to make it through the night.

The next day we awoke and found ourselves the perfect campground: Lost River Valley Campground in North Woodstock. It was hidden, but had lots of people around, so the kids felt that if we did get attacked by a bear, someone would be around to help us. I understood their point.

After three nights of tenting, we arrived home only to learn that black bears had been spotted in Kingston and Plaistow! How could this be? We never saw a single bear in "Bear Country," yet we arrive home in southeastern New Hampshire and have to worry about the dreaded killer bear attack right in our own backyard!

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