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I would never had expected that my honeymoon bliss would include a bear encounter, but I was in for a roaring surprise! I walked away from the experience with lessons learned and a great story to tell! Here’s what happened.
The Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee was our cozy honeymoon destination. We had just “bear-ly” been married for three days and all was well in the world. The well-known and beautiful Cade Cove loop was on our to-do list while in the area. We decided to rent bikes rather than hike the trail to save time. This 11-mile trail had a paved loop which was easy to bike along. The trail boasted lush forests as well as a massive meadow, ripe for viewing wildlife. We cruised the trail at a leisurely pace, taking in the sights and sounds, reveling in the tranquility. We recommend this trail to anyone in the Tennessee area. Nonetheless, what happened about halfway through the day left me with my heart racing and a different perspective of this tranquil loop.
A Rollercoaster Descent
We approached a huge downhill section of the trail. This section had the appearance of a bike sized rollercoaster descent in my husband’s eyes. I told him to go ahead and I would slowly catch up. A moment later he sped up and bombed down the hill.
A Site to See
I decided to simply dismount and walk the bike down the hill, (as I have always been a hiker at heart). As I walked along, I heard some rattling in the bushes right next to the trail. I looked over to see a small brown bear exiting the brush next to the trail. The adorable bear saw me, did a 180 degree turn and walked up the hill into the woods. I watched as it sauntered away, and stood there shocked at the situation.
First, I was shocked that such a powerful creature would be scared of me. It could have easily kept walking and defended itself if I was in its way. But, it decided to avoid the whole situation, (which so I am also grateful).
Secondly, I realized what a neat encounter I was able to witness. It was just him and I on the trail. While I stood behind the bicycle knowing I could role away to safety, I also was grateful to see such a majestic creature in his element.
Next, I was relieved that this bear was clearly not a Grizzly, with the reputation of being much more violet and harmful.
Lastly, I realized that my husband was still at the bottom of the hill and missed the whole encounter! I continued my walk down the hill, to find a concerned husband.
Recounting the Tale
“What took so long? Everything okay?” My husband stated.
“Did you see it?” I replied, “The bear!”
He reacted with a puzzled look, obviously pondering if I was telling the truth or not. It was clear that he hadn’t seen anything, except for the imaginary speedometer in his head, with its needle creeping closer towards 100mph as he descended the trail.
I explained the encounter, and he quickly drew jealous for missing the bear siting. We were both happy for the thrill Cades Cove provided that day, but I walked away with better story to share for years to come. It is true that sometimes stopping to hike is simply the most rewarding activity in life!
Remember when you are hiking, you are in the habitat of these mammals. They simply live their bear life, which normally does not include human meals. However, when it comes to protecting themselves or their cubs, it is a different story. To ensure your safety in the case of a bear encounter, preparation and knowledge is key. It is a great idea to carry a bear bell or make noise to avoid startling a bear. Bear spray is also a self-defense tool that can scare away a bear. For more ways to prepare and protect yourself, read “How to Scare a Bear.”
Have you experienced a bear encounter? Share your experience in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!