Encounter with a Bruin

For several summers my son Carson and I would embark on a week-long journey to explore some of our favorite places in West Virginia. This became a time for father and son to take it easy, discover new things, eat what we want, and spend time as best buddies. Oh yeah, we photographed a bit, too.

One June we visited the usual locations: Canaan Valley, Blackwater Falls, and Cranberry Glades. While walking on the boardwalk at Cranberry Glades we saw signs of a black bear –scat on the boardwalk, broken alder branches, and partially-eaten skunk cabbage. Rounding a corner of the boardwalk, we heard a loud crash to the side of us. We suddenly made out the shape of a bear, which was no more than sixty feet from us.

The bear sauntered into the thickets and disappeared. But it was still thrilling for Carson, who was seven years of age at the time. He was mesmerized by the bruin since he had been wishing to see a bear for a very long time. Within a few minutes, the bear moved on. It made Carson’s day for sure.

On our way back home a few days later we decided to explore the boardwalk once again, hoping for another glimpse of the bear. Not a soul was around, so we had the boardwalk all to ourselves.

After about an hour on the boardwalk, we heard a loud crash in the alder thickets, only this time the noise was much closer. We spotted a yearling bear – not more than 35 feet from us this time – munching on skunk cabbage. With an overcast sky, Carson got a much better look this time.

What struck me the most was seeing how patient Carson was watching the bear. For nearly 30 minutes we watched, photographed, and talked in whispered tones to each other as the bear went about its business.

After several minutes of silence, Carson turned around to me and said, “Dad, if you ever need to get kids to be quiet, just put a bear in front of them.”  This young fellow was now speaking from experience.

For today’s younger generation, the act of patience is more of an anomaly than a routine occurrence. I was proud of how Carson savored the moment and I was equally honored to be with him at this time to share it with him.