At first, when I read the signs on our way into the camp, I thought they were over dramatic. Why would they have bears in here in the first place and put people in it? We all thought they must be joking.
“Poe… do you think there are actual bears in this campground?” Stella asked skeptically.
“Ignore that. They are just trying to add life to the camp. Instilling a little fear always does that,” I replied to her.
When I said we, I didn’t mean just myself and Stella. I meant the whole squad of friends that we have. Josh and Babe- that’s what he and everyone called his girlfriend. Bridget and Davis and also Duke, Lewis, Baker, Huth, Doris and their baby girl, whom we all call Daughter.
“If there are actual bears, they will be somewhere far away from where people will camp and probably caged,” Huth added.
“The sign says, ‘do not feed the bears.’ How can you feed a bear when they don’t come to you?” Duke said
“Because you can go to them, dummy…,” Baker pointed out, and we all laughed.
Camping is one of those things we do that brings all of us together. And we do it at least once in a year. But we have not done that in a while. Doris had complications when she gave birth to her daughter. She had spent a few more months at the hospital before she was finally discharged. Recuperating had taken over a year. So this would be our first in three years and our first in this particular camp.
We can not say we did not know the rules and guidelines on camping and campground life, but since all the time I and others had been camping, we had never had an encounter with a wild beast such as the bear. Usually, we hear the noises of coyotes and other animals, but I have not seen one. And I am sure the other guys haven’t too. Because of this, we were feeling super safe.
The first night was awesome. We had put up our tent the usual way we always did- six tents facing each other. Three at each side. The big tent served as the place where we meet, play games and have fun.
We had gathered there that first night and talked mostly about the past. The fun we have had in different campgrounds we had been to and many other things each of us had done.
“Do you remember when Duke thought a fruit looked like the one his mother used to pluck for them when they were kids and went ahead to eat the fruit?” Baker reminisced.
“He had a head as big as a bull on the second day,” Lewis added.
“They said he had eaten the pregnant lady,” I said.
“How can a fruit be called that? The pregnant lady.” Bridget asked
“Because it makes your head bigger, I guess,” Josh answered.
“I got my head filled with so much air I was feeling like it was just going to lift off my neck and fly away in the sky. Then other times it would feel like some bugs were trying so hard to eat their way out of my skull,” Duke explained.
The rest of us were so cracked up. Huth and Doris curled up somewhere in the tent also laughing hard. It was the last camping we had before Doris gave birth. And we were all happy to see real happiness coming back to the group.
It was so much fun, and there was a lot of laughter in the camp that night. Little did we know what was in store for us the next day.
It was Daughter that first saw it.
“Mummy look,” she pointed “a big teddy,” she said innocently.
“Oh my God… It’s a bear!” Doris screamed.
We all rushed out of the tent to see the big beast coming towards our tent.
“Everybody stays calm,” a voice came over the speaker. “The Rangers are taking care of the situation as I speak.”
“Stay calm?” Baker said in disbelief. “It’s going to kill us all.”
Then we saw the rangers trying to lure the bear towards them as they led it away toward a cage.
“Get inside your tents,” the one who seemed to be their boss barked.
Later that evening they informed us that there had been a fire in the forest, and that was the reason why the bear came close to us. They also told us to be on the lookout as other beasts might come this way.
That night we were discussing how an actual bear could be living in the campground.
“That was one close call, guys,” Davis was saying that when I looked towards the entrance to the big camp. It was so big I would have taken it for long if not for how it was moving.
“Snake!” I screamed as they all sprang to action.
Josh found a stick and clubbed its head. It was a rattlesnake. And it took Josh’s bravery to kill it.
At this time we were not feeling excited about the whole camping again. We had had two deadly encounters, and we were not looking forward to the third.
The uneasiness had spread throughout the camp. Other campers had also seen one wild animal or the other. A man was injured by a wildcat and was rushed out of the camp to the hospital. Another man stepped on hot coal, because he didn’t know there was still fire beneath the ashes.
The man’s ankles had some burns. Then another man claimed that he had seen a mountain lion, but we didn’t know how true that was, because no other person saw it, and the camp’s management said there was no mountain lion in the vicinity. But the claim by the man had already registered and sent fear through everyone.
We decided to leave the camp for our safety, even though we had only spent three days.