Filed under: Campgrounds & RV Parks, Destination Camping & RV Resorts, Nature & Wildlife, Preparation & Readiness, State & National Parks
The Teddy Bears’ Picnic
“…If you go out in the woods today,
You’d better not go alone.
It’s lovely out in the woods today,
But safer to stay at home.
For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic.”
It’s not just an old song! It’s true — this is serious stuff people!
While relaxing outside of our Fun Finder trailer in yet another beautiful state park, my DW of 45 years and I reminisced about camping with our young children some 40 years ago…
After visiting Washington DC, we drove up to Matthews Arm campground in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. We haven’t been back there for many years since our kids grew up and we retired to Florida , but we remember certain things about that particular trip like it happened yesterday (they say that traumatic memories are the strongest). The thing to know about Matthews Arm CG is that it was, and may still be, THE place to go – to see bears.
We were a young, fairly new family without much experience camping; with two toddlers and a somewhat reliable VW bus to use as our RV. The first day we were in the park, we had a surprise at dinner time. We were just sitting down to dinner when I spotted a black bear sauntering down the campground road — and headed our way.
This being our first experience with a bear not in a cage of some sort, we were both thrilled — and scared. I shouted out a warning and suggested that we all get into the van — NOW!
The bear had already turned off the road and was heading toward our site, undoubtedly drawn by the homemade lasagna and sweet corn that we had just set out. By the time I was able to follow my own advice and get my feet moving, I was amazed to see that my wife had already gotten herself and both kids into the van, slamming the door behind her.
As I pounded on the door, looking over my shoulder at the advancing ursine invader, my wife just stared out the window at me in dazed amazement- as if she couldn’t understand why I was still outside with the bear!
She began shouting through the glass, ordering me to get in there with her and the kids – “RIGHT THIS SECOND!” I managed to finally get her to understand that I would be VERY glad to, if only she would UNLOCK THE DOOR!
Well, I did make it inside and, moaning over the impending loss of our dinner, we watched as the bear climbed up onto our picnic table and begin chewing on everything that looked like, or smelled like, food. When the she-bear, as it turned out, finally finished eating our dinner, she blithely climbed down and walked away — off to the next forest buffet and without even a thank you.
Amazed at what happened, and wanting to share the excitement of our near-brush with death, I waited until the all-clear was sounded and ran across the way to a neighboring campsite. Yes, they said, the she-bears come around every evening at dinner time, and didn’t we NOTICE that we were the only ones still having dinner when ALL the other campers around us had finished, quickly cleaned up and put everything that would attract a bear safely away? Well, no-o, we hadn’t noticed, but we did learn an important lesson about bear country:
Always ask about potential visitors when you arrive in bear country and be prepared to hustle when the time comes. And, oh yes, eat early and keep a spare car key in your pocket at all times, since a mother’s protective instincts toward her family don’t always include her husband!
By the way, the other lesson we learned that night was that, although the she-bears came around at dinner time, the much larger he-bears came around later. I believe that I’ve still got a collapsible water jug around here somewhere that has deep tooth marks in it after being chewed on by the big fellow who came around in the pitch dark that same night.
Until next time,