Posted by: Suzan | October 2, 2009

When the Bear Growls Never Run

While reclining on my deck observing the Eucalyptus Trees, wishing they were fir trees or maybe red-golden Maples, I thought of our experience several years ago in the Sequoia National Park.

My husband, Jim, and I had completed a grueling backpacking trip there and decided to spend our last couple of nights in a lodge with a tub and an actual bed. With our main outdoor adventure over, we set out on a day hike to wander amongst the world’s largest trees. Bright sunshine lit up our pathway and a clear blue sky peeked in through the towering trees overhead.We had begun our journey very early in the morning to avoid the frequent afternoon storms which the Sierras are well-known for.

In a short while the sky darkened, Sierra rain pelted us, thunder rumbled, and nearby lightening crashed. We threw on our emergency rain ponchos and jogged briskly toward the beginning of the trail. As we rounded a bend we heard the tromping of leaves and looked over to see a Mama Bear with her cub walking out onto the trail. We stood still hoping they wouldn’t notice us. Then the Mama Bear growled as apparently, she’d picked up our scent.

I felt my heart leaping out of my chest while my legs barreled away. Then I remembered, ‘when faced with a bear – NEVER run!’ I then stopped, turned around and transfixed my eyes on the Mama Bear. I slowly backed away. Meanwhile Jim took his video camera out and began filming. I wasn’t sure if he wanted a final recording so someone discovering it would know what happened to us or if his passion for nature photography had taken over.

The Mama Bear approached us and grunted again. We yelled as loud as we could since we recalled the ranger suggesting this. The cub scampered up the nearest tree as fast as it could.

The Mama Bear glanced around and then fixed her eyes on us as if to say, ‘How dare you frighten my baby.’

We backed away gradually with our eyes locked on the Mama Bear the entire time. After awhile she turned to look over at her cub clinging to the tree. She let out a cry and the cub scurried down. Together they meandered around the meadow sampling the grass.

After our heart rates slowed down a bit, we followed the long path ahead. We were drenched since the rain ponchos had not been designed to outlive a Sierra storm. Although the lightening had died down, the thunder continued to roar as if mimicking the bear. Ahead we finally reached the end of the trail, yet we were now 12 miles from where we originated since the Mama Bear had veered us far from our course.

We found some overhead protection and sat under it on a log to rest. I closed my eyes to pray for someone to help us. Within minutes an older couple came out of the forest, walked toward us, and asked if we needed a ride. The gentleman, in his early 70’s, had returned the day before from a month-long hike which began in the Yosemite Valley (300 plus miles). Many people had assisted him, so he wanted to ‘Pay it Forward.’

The couple drove us the 12 miles to our lodge. In spite of being hiking enthusiasts, we were so grateful to be ‘out of the woods.’ We decided our next bear sighting would take place at the San Diego Zoo.

As I reflected on this memory, it reminded me of how when we know we’re in fear it takes such courage to face it. Even though our natural inclination is to run, when we can look our fear right in the eyes – the growl no longer seems so menacing. Eventually our fears will saunter away just like the bears. So remember, when you hear the bear growl – NEVER RUN!






  1. What an adventure and a lesson ! It does need courage to look at our fears into the eyes, as well as reason over emotion. Same thing with big worries or problems : not facing them will not help, they will still be there, menacing and hurting. Thanks for sharing your own experience.


  2. Thanks for your feedback. I’m happy to share my experiences with others – I appreciate your taking the time to let me know you could relate to the story. It is so important to face our fears – only then can we know peace. Otherwise fear can run our life and we’ll spend a lifetime being chased by the bear!



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