It has been a month since we finished the Alderleaf Wilderness Certification Program and the skills I have learned helped me come across a family of black bears last week. I was on a hike to the lakes that I have been to numerous times now. My friend and I were fox walking on the logging road in our attempt to catch glimpses of the summer birds. He hadn't seen a Swainson's thrush ever and was very intent on seeing one. We heard a stick break about fifty feet ahead and stopped dead in our tracks to see a bear cub, probably around 6 months old, pop out onto the road and playfully lope down the road away from us. After a fist pound and a "heck yeah" we witnessed another bear cub jump out of the salmonberry thicket along the road. He was more wily than his sibling because he stopped, looked at us, sniffed the air, and jumped back into the thicket. He then gave a bellow which mom responded to with a growl and 2 huffs.
At this point my friend turned to run, which I quickly stopped. Mom began walking toward us without revealing her full body. We only caught a glimpse of her back as she tromped through the thicket in our direction. We slowly walked backward and after about 100 feet on our trail she returned to her one cub who stuck with her.
We ended up going a different way to the lakes but got on the same logging road in the other direction on our way home. We saw a bear cub once again walking toward us in a playful manner. Our theory is that the first bear got separated from the family during our encounter 4 hours prior. We walked the rest of the way home with senses heightened, excited to tell our story to all of the Alderleaf residents.
The strangest part of this whole story is that the night before this hike I had a dream. In the dream I saw a baby black bear climb down a tree. Upon my inspection mama came out and growled at me. I slowly backed away and began walking back toward the main trail and she followed peacefully. People walked by me on this trail and said hello, none observed the bear at my side. We walked into a dimly lit tunnel and I turned around to see if the bear had come in. She had shape-shifted into an old man that mildly resembled the musical artist Sting. I said "Bear?" And the old man replied "it is me, I am with you." At that point I awoke. My dream had come true!
The lesson here, for me, is that dreams are more than just sub-conscious experiences. If we pay attention to our dreams they may guide is in one or more ways through our next day. They may teach us how to overcome an obstacle in our lives whether it be a life-long fear or simply deciding which direction to go at a fork in the trail. Happy hiking and happy dreaming everyone.