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Grizzly Encounter

by Gentle JoJo Fletcher 7 months ago in short story
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Stupid Hikers Anyway

My ex and I were out for an afternoon hike up Stony Creek, a place we had never been before in all our exploring of the spectacular trails around our home. We had the truck with us and we had been going to just 4x4 it. However, we ran into some eroding, gravel cut banks and other sketchy features of the trail and we decided that it was best to park the vehicle and continue on foot.

We wandered along up a winding, dirt track bordered by the ubiquitous aspens, all in full, bright yellow autumn color. The clattering leaves were conversing excitedly with each other about the inevitable fall to their deaths when the wind rose. It was a typical fall day. My ex had the camera out and at the ready, but the clickety shutter was mostly silent, as there was very little remarkable about this place besides how unstable the road seemed to be.

I guess my primitive brain is in better shape than my rational mind, because I didn't even see the animal properly, and I was already terrified. There was a crunching and crackling of sticks in the wood to my right and, dead in front of me, a massive, brown object was rushing straight at me. Without even knowing what was happening, my body surged with adrenaline and began taking those careful, backwards steps away from the lunging aggressor.

I looked at my ex for guidance, and his petrified face mouthed the words “ Grizzly! Don't run!” I heard the shutter of the camera open and close a few times, but he was not looking through the viewfinder.

“We left the pepper spray on Caribou Mountain,” my ex moaned.

“Oh for the love of a duck!” I cursed silently. As if either one of us would have known what to do with a can a pepper spray, and that was supposing that we could have gotten it out of the pack. Intelligent hikers carried it in a holster, like a handgun, and went to classes on how to use it. Apparently, intelligence was not one of our shared values. Fine time to find that out.

Walking in reverse when you are jelly legged with panic is no fun at all, but some how we made it up the slope we had just come down and over the crest of the hill. I figured the griz had only been bluffing us, because if she had been going to maul us, she would have easily caught us, but I didn't know for sure that she was not following. I couldn't lift my eyes off the ground. I didn't want to see.

We made our way down the backside of the knoll, and when there was a good bit of land mass between us and the monster, I turned to my ex and pleaded, “Can we run now?”

We turned and began sprinting in the direction of the truck. What had seemed only a few meters in the cheerful, afternoon sunshine turned out to be a full, agonizing kilometer. My bottom heavy figure weighed me down, and I was literally dying and gasping by the time my fingers closed on the door handle of the Jeep.

We sat for a moment in the sanctuary of the cab and debated. How much danger had we been in, exactly? Was the bear a mother? Had that been a cub off in the aspens to the right of the trail? Neither of us knew. We had not seen; we had only heard movement.

“Was it a male?” I wondered. “Was it a big silver tip?”

“Don't know,” my ex muttered. “I didn't look.”

“ Me either,” I admitted. “All I saw was a blur.”

I am, by nature, a wilderness chick. The thing that had kept my ex and I functioning as a close friendship after our divorce was our common love of the outdoors, however, we went straight back to town. I was almighty pleased to see the concrete and glass cage of A&W wrapped around us, and smell the hot grease, and feel the general atmosphere of ignorance of anything that transpired beyond city limits. Civilization with its obsession with fast food, for once, seemed like safety.

As I sat there munching my sweet potato fries and drinking my apple juice, marveling in the delight of being alive and feeling my blood sugar levels rise back to normal, I glanced over at my ex. He was scrolling through the camera's memory, looking at the captures of the day.

“I didn't get any good pictures of the bear,” he lamented.

I didn't answer; I just gave him the stink eye in disgust. “Photographers and their warped priorities, anyway!”

short story

About the author

Gentle JoJo Fletcher

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