Being the dirtbag, raft guide, wilderness kid that I am, I generally have a variety of sleeping situations set up at any given time. When I am raft guiding in Leavenworth, on the eastside of the mountains I have a small squatters camp tucked into the side of a mountain where no one can see me. It’s simple, just a tarp and a food cache I dug into the ground. This past week, after guiding on the westside of the mountains for the weekend, I returned to find a few things missing from my camp. My sleeping bag and pad were both gone, the cover to my food cache had been peeled back and my drybag full of food was no longer there!
While coming to terms with the fact that my stuff had been stolen, I crawled up on the rocks to see if the screen I use for drying food was still there. Looking out from that position I saw part of my sleeping pad drug up the side of the mountain. Scanning farther up the hill I saw my sleeping bag pulled part way up the game trail that goes behind my camp. I have seen deer using this trail many times since I’ve been camping here, additionally I’ve seen marmots, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, and deer mice, along with some coyote scat, all in the general vicinity of my camp. I wondered who or what would have drug my stuff part way up this trail just to leave it laying in the dirt.
Upon inspection of my sleeping pad I found that it was torn to pieces and only about half of it was there. Once I got up to my sleeping bag I saw that it only had a small hole in it, although it was obviously drug through the dirt quite a bit and covered in saliva. As I looked farther up the hill I continued to find pieces of the pad strewn across the path. I continued following the trail of sleeping pad along the steep rocky hillside until I could find no more. From there I continued exploring the various game trails for about half an hour or so until I came across the remainders of my food supply. It had been torn to shreds and all things edible had been eaten, aside from some peanut butter in a glass jar that the creature did not managed to pry open, but not for a lack of trying. Assuming that the marks I was finding on the leftover debris were from incisors, I determined that my thief was a coyote, as the marks were only about an inch apart. As I have seen their sign in the area before, I was comfortable with this conclusion and decided I would still sleep at my camp that night.
Taking a closer look at my pad later that evening, I started to notice a pattern amongst the holes. I found a few really clear 5-claw impressions in the pad. What I thought were the incisor marks of a coyote were actually the 2 leading toes of a black bear paw! My camp had been ripped apart by a black bear!!!! I found this to be much more concerning than a coyote. I weighed the possibility of its return and the chances of it acting aggressively if it did. After talking it over with Michelle…I decided to stay. I was going to keep a knife and a pot to bang on nearby, but after spending a good part of the summer on this mountain it started to feel like home and I wasn’t willing to give it up. At least that was how I felt until dusk set in and I heard a loud rustling in the bushes just uphill of my camp. I frantically grabbed for my pot and knife and started stuffing my things in a bag. After a few moments I calmed myself down, realizing it was probably just a loud Douglas squirrel bouncing through the trees. And then my phone vibrated in my pocket. I almost peed myself, my heart started pounding out of my chest, and I decided it was time to get the #$%^ out of there.
I spent the night at a friends. Since then I have been back on the westside for a bit. Tonight will be my first night back at camp with a new food storing location much farther from camp…