Red Wood Forest, California

The RedWood Forest and the black bear

So here's my story about my encounter with a black bear. Now before any experienced hikers or anyone judges on how I handled the situation just know this was my first real hike in a huge forest alone and I didn’t know they aren’t aggressive until I later researched about them. I had no clue how to handle it all really. In hindsight it’s more funny than frightening, but in the moment it was pretty crazy! During the dancing, I was able to capture a very heartfelt moment between the groom and his mother, where a single tear was caught. The Dixon wedding was taken without stress and just let the day flow by naturally creating their couple’s delight.

So at a parking lot I stopped to ask this guy what trail he’d recommend. He said, “take the trail called Miners. I’ve been to over 50 trails all over the U.S and this is by far my favorite. It leads out to a beautiful view of the sea.” Sounds great to me, so I enter the forest and begin the trail. I stop at what seems like every tree because they all looked so majestic. As I’m walking, I keep seeing groups of people coming back from the trail. It WAS getting a bit late (~7:40pm) so I decided to stop taking so many pictures and move onward to reach the view of the sea. (next few photos)

At some point I see one guy, also heading back, who came all the way from Austria hiking solo and stopped to ask him how much further it is to the end of the trail and a few other questions. He told me he doesn’t know for sure but it’s probably looking like another 30 minutes. It’s around 8:20 at this point so he advises me to head back if I don’t reach the sea within 20 minutes or so or else I’m walking back in the dark. I thank him and continue the trail absolutely determined to reach the end.

But I stop to check how far I am from the water on Google Maps and it still shows I’m a little over half way, which meant I’d probably spend another 20-30 minutes arriving. I considered using my flashlight if it came to that, but I decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to continue so I turn around. I HATE quitting in anything so I walk back with my head down pretty upset about my decision. As I continue walking back with my eyes staring down at the ground, I hear rustling ahead of me and raise my head up. I see a black bear emerge from the trees 10-15 feet away from me.

I halt and stare straight at the bear who’s sniffing the ground with his snout as he’s getting closer to me. I thought he was playing dumb as he’s doing this to avoid contact and to thus close the distance. I move my left foot back as slowly as I can, but it looks up at me at once. I stare straight into his eyes feeling like the glare lasted longer than any lover’s eyes I’ve gazed upon, but within 2 seconds it dashes towards where it came from. I stand there star struck for less than 5 seconds and dash myself the opposite direction. Immediately, I start to wonder if a mamma bear was around, because I would then be...screwed. I keep running and scream in my head, “I’M GOING TO THE SEA AND I’M STAYING THERE FOREVER AND I AIN’T GOING BACK!”

After a couple minutes of running I start to think that that’s just not a good idea. Not only did I just have ½ a Gatorade bottle and some almonds with me but it was very cold over there, especially close to the sea. I also now had the knowledge of there being black bears in the woods so walking back in the dark knowing THAT slowed my pace to a stop and had me realize I had to head back right now. I stand there for about 20 seconds thinking... I take off my backpack and swing it on the floor in front of me. Unhooking the pocket knife and a flashlight. Unclipping a metal tripod I had and set it all beside me on the dirt. I took the almonds from one of the backpack pockets and put it inside my left pocket, unzipped it to... IDK throw almonds at it if it would prefer that instead of me.

There were 2, 6 inch pieces of wood I picked up to throw ahead of me to either make my presence aware and keep pushing it away, or to find out if it was interested in coming out, me being at a distance. I put them both inside my right pocket and stand up with the knife in my left hand and tripod on my right hand. I hadn’t seen anyone in about 40 minutes so I knew I was alone. And it was getting close to twilight. I get up and start walking forward slowly with adrenaline and tunnel vision. As I’m walking I’m hitting my tripod and pocket knife to create some loud noise and checking the roundabouts of the trail with full alertness.

I get close to where I saw it and start hearing rustling ahead. I move my tripod to the left hand and take out one of the logs from my pocket. Ready to chuck the piece of wood like a live grenade, I arch my hand over my head to throw it and end up hitting my hoodie, which causes my log to get thrown a whole 5ft in front of me…

I stand there with my hand in front of me, still in the motion from how I threw it and wonder if I had just ruined my whole life and just caused the Revenant to happen in real life. I hear rustling but it sounds distant and as if it’s moving away from me. I stand up straight and grab the 2nd piece of wood and start walking. I keep hearing faint rustles.

After about a minute of walking I position myself to throw the log again. This time making sure I DO NOT hit anything. I arch it over my head and throw it. Successfully, it lands a good 20feet away from me. I hear the wood hit the ground and again hear rustling of trees/bushes getting further.

I pass the point from where I 1st saw the bear and keep walking, passing it with full alertness and my eyes wide open. After about 5 minutes of walking ahead from there I felt a sense of safety. I start breathing better to calm my nerves. I also start practicing loud whistling to alert anything and everything around me, which I was able to do pretty well. As I’m getting close to the entrance I start laughing off the whole experience and feel utterly safe when I see a pasture. Thee end.