THE STALKING ON RAINBOW FALLS TRAIL
by Jim Quick
Lynda Bryan and I planned an early morning hike to Mt. LeConte on July 6, 2000. We picked Rainbow Falls Trail going up and Bullhead Trail coming back down since I needed both of these trails for my second map. It was one of those drizzly mornings in which we waited out the rain and couldn’t hit the trail until 9:00AM. The first hour of hiking reminded us of a Hitchcock Mystery-foggy and spooky! We made it to Rainbow Falls in a little over an hour but even with the rain, they weren’t that impressive.
As the fog started to burn off in spots, we were rewarded with scenic views every so often. At 11:00 A.M. we decided to stop and take in a bit of lunch before we pressed on with our uphill hike. We preplanned a special treat for our lunch that day-juicy baked chicken! We tired of sandwiches and other traditional trail faire. The meal started out pleasantly and the taste of baked chicken after a couple miles of hard uphill hiking tasted "wicked good". Halfway through the meal Lynda said she heard something in the bushes behind me. I stood up and did a thorough look around but didn’t see anything.
Again Lynda said she heard something and then I was beginning to hear it myself. I then stood up again and began clapping my hands and yelling at the top of my voice. This noise was an encore for the entry of our future shadow.
A big black male bear came out of the thicket and proceeded to walk around us keeping an uncomfortable distance of only 10 feet. Mr. Bear performed his squatter’s rights imitation in front of us. Neither one of us ever uses a walking stick but Lynda found one at the beginning of the trail and decided to bring it with her to try it out. I took the stick from her and began beating the ground between the curious bear and us. This didn’t faze Mr. Bear at all as he sniffed the air trying to pickup the scent of our chicken.
Lynda and I decided to gather our belongings and get on up the trail. As soon as we moved away from our spot, Mr. Bear moved in to see if we left him anything. We picked up our pace and turned our attention to destination at the top of the mountain. Twenty minutes later, while admiring a beautiful view from one of the vistas along the way, I turned my head and discovered Mr. Bear rounding the corner and heading toward us. Once again, we scurried up the trail to put distance between us. Every few minutes we stopped to see if we still had our unwanted company. Each time we stopped, our newfound buddy appeared without fail.
After 45 minutes of this stalking, we decided it was time to convince Mr. Bear to turn back. We picked up big rocks and threw them at the bear. We bounced the rocks off of the surrounding terrain around the bear. None of the rocks seemed to phase the bear until one bounced right in front of his face. The rest of the hike was uneventful after we left our short-lived shadow behind.