What’s that sound?

This is a story based upon the events of Wednesday, May 14, 2008.

We headed down to Alfred Station NY to pick up our new bikes, and then onto Stony Fork Pennsylvania to camp. It had been warm during the day, but as evening approached the temperature dropped. On the drive down to Stony Fork a few spits of rain came down from the sky. The weather was not looking promising.

We discussed the option of taking a cabin rather than camping, since we were both cold and the weather was not looking good. When we arrived, we asked, only to discover that all the cabins were rented. Our options were tenting or backtracking to find a hotel. It was already 8 pm and we were hungry and tired after a long day, so we opted for camping.

We selected a campsite and quickly began our regular camp chores: Scott setup the tent and I prepared dinner. I immediately added a layer of clothes, and the chill I had went away. Once I was warm, I began to enjoy the camping experience. By the time the tent was set and dinner was ready, it was 8:30 pm and the sun had set. We ate dinner with the last whispers of twilight.

During supper we heard a loud whiny crying sound. I suggested to Scott that the sound was from an odd bird: the sound was vaguely Canada Goose like. Scott suggested that the bird was clearly in some kind of distress. Within a couple of minutes we heard a loud crashing sound in the woods approaching our campsite. It was clear that a large animal was in the area. I started talked to Scott loudly. We pointed our lights in the direction of the sound, asking what or who was there. I also looked for some metal, and began banging the pot lifter onto one of the pots. At the sound of the metal clinks, the motions of the loud animal appeared to quickly move away from our campsite. Scott suggested that it might have been a deer. In the back of my mind, I was thinking that it was much larger than a deer!

We finished our dinner and cleaned up. We did not hear the whiny crying or loud animal again.

After supper we recessed to the tent for our evening reading and sleep soon followed. We were both exhausted after a long day of driving and cycling. I was surprised at how well I slept – in the back of my mind, I was pretty certain that the “large animal” I had heard was a bear, and that the whiny crying was that of a bear cub.

In the morning, we received confirmation. When we talked to one of the campsite conveners, he mentioned that a mother bear was in his dumpster and that there were two cubs whining or crying as they were not big enough yet to crawl in themselves. Several people at the campsite saw the bears on the other side of creek while we were enjoying our dinner – blissfully unaware of the bears presence.

I am glad the bears were around while we were having dinner and not later in the night when we were sleeping. We were able to scare them off, and they did not return. We did ensure that we had a couple of metal tent pegs at our reach, so that we could bang them together if we heard any “large animals” rustling through the woods. I was amazed at how well that worked (or at least it gave us the appearance of being effective!).

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