The black bear looks back at Godzilla.
Godzilla Wrestles a Bear.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
I awoke this morning to a commotion. Godzilla was wrestling with a bear.
It was about six of a nippy dawn in the Allegheny Mountains, the air heavy with dew and Godzilla’s windows foggy from the condensation of my long night's slumber.
Me 'n the Atomic Road Lizard had found our camp the evening before, coming to rest a couple of hours before sunset under a stand of slender maple trees on the gentle southern slope of little Cherry Springs State Park. Our long, hot journey from Erie was done, and boy were we glad.
Warm under my sleeping bag on Godzilla's soft floor, I was floating blithely in dreamland when all of a sudden my trusty companion began to lurch and roll like a rowboat on a wavy sea.
Whoa! I'm prone to issue sharp verbal commands when startled, especially in the wilds. It gets a critter's attention. Up on my knees, I saw the bear lumber from the driver's side rear door panel, where it had pushed hard against Godzilla's flank, 'round toward the front of my riled-up road warrior companion.
The bear tried to put a choke hold on Godzilla, one paw on the hood and another on the front passenger fender. Whoa! Whoa! Go get him, girl! Holding firm, Godzilla shook off the first attack, then the second— and when she let out a loud bellow like a fog horn, the bear let go and ran off up the hill.
That was fine and dandy for us — we were sheathed in armor and experienced in matters of the fight — but up the hill, silhouetted against the slate gray horizon, a scene of real danger emerged. The only other campers in the park, a father and his three very young children, a boy and two girls, were fortified by a mere plastic dome, and the marauder was movin' their way. Me 'n Godzilla were a hundred and fifty yards downhill.
What to do? I put down the camera, grabbed the hand axe, and made a decision. Wait. Be still and quiet. Pray that the family would not awake in screaming panic. Let the danger pass in its natural way.
Were I to charge up the hill, or fire-up Godzilla and roar to the rescue, all hell might break loose from the sudden din and clamor. And if all hell did break loose, I would just have to race with feet aflame and deliver whatever aid I could muster.
The bear circled the tent. Silence. It stood on its hind legs and looked this way and that. Silence. It paused at the base of the dome, then put its head down, and walked into the woods.
The family never raised a sleeping eyelid. They were still at slumber when me 'n Godzilla rolled out of the park forty-five minutes later.
One of the bear's paw prints on the Atomic Road Lizard's hood.
Cherry Springs State Park is famous for its very dark skies. Pennsylvania Park Ranger Will Davis said the mountaintop park is one of the best places in the eastern USA for astronomers and stargazers to observe the heavens. The astronomers have their own special gazing field on the other side of the highway from the spartan camping area where me 'n Godzilla got our rest. Only a few 'gazers were there last night because it was cloudy with expectations of rain.
Ranger Will Davis greeted us cordially when we rolled into camp. I thought it was fortuitous that our paths crossed. He sat in his ranger vehicle and patiently answered my questions about the park, the weather, and his reasons for becoming a ranger. "It's a good fit for my interests," he said. "I can promote environmental conservation and pursue a career in law enforcement at the same time. And I grew up in this area, so I get to work close to home."
Soft spoken, wiry, sharp-eyed, and peaceful of spirit, Ranger Davis said he came to work for the Pennsylvania ranger corps after four years of undergraduate study at Unity College in Maine, known as "America's Environmental College" for its innovative programs in forestry, wilderness protection, and outdoor adventure education.
When I told Ranger Davis that the only thing in nature I fear is man, he nodded and smiled in acknowledgement. I advised him to keep his discernment sharp, learn to recognize the bad guys, and trust his gut. "That's the same thing they told me at academy," he said. We shook hands. "I'll drive by and check on you a time or two tonight," he said.
Ranger Will Davis
At this very spot Godzilla and the black bear wrestled in the light of dawn.
To read the previous dispatch in the narrative,
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L I N K S :
Cherry Springs State Park
The Journey Ends:
Shy and Wonderful:
An Easy Puzzle:
Sugar Hollow Road: