Lost in Bear Country

Adventure on the edge of the wilderness in Montana can take on many forms…

I followed my husband into bear country, he didn’t take his GPS, and we got lost. I will follow him anywhere, sometimes against my better judgment. It never does me any good to complain and to be fair, I must add that he hasn’t steered me wrong in all of these years.


Following the barbed wire fence line in our new backyard proved to be a voyage of discovery. We started towards the back passing the land of dog houses and turned east towards the mountains. We came across a curious fenced in area with what appeared to be an animal gravesite – probably that of a beloved pet. Later when I told my girls about it, Eileen suggested it could have been the location of some kind of ritual. Letting my imagination run wild with that thought was fun. I do love a mystery. But, as evidenced by the flower pots lying in the weeds I suspect it was something much more mundane, such as a peaceful garden spot for meditation. One detrimental thing about the place, though, was that I stepped into a hole and almost got my foot stuck.


The land of dog houses


Next we found the deer stand. We climbed the ladder to take a peek, but were reluctant to go on to the platform not knowing if the wood was rotten. I had no desire to fall through and hurt my bum, but I still wanted to know if it was sturdy. Even if we don’t use the stand to spot, hunt, and kill innocent deer for our sustenance, it would make a terrific place to observe nature.


The deer stand


Following the fence line, David and I wound up across the road and next to the clearing where we found a property survey marker. We turned north and followed the fence. I enjoyed the view and the exploration while my thoughts were of how lucky I felt to have found such an amazing place to live.


the meadow near our home


Eventually, we lost the barbed wire fence and turned to go back. We didn’t follow the fence line, but walked southwest towards what we thought was the road. I kept following my husband, although this was an “against my better judgment” moment. As we walked, I began to feel a wee bit uncomfortable.


“Leave your garbage out and you will get 2 to 3 bears a day”, I had been told.


That remark by someone in the know left me thinking that I had moved into some serious bear habitat. Don’t get me wrong, I am not terrified of bears. I hike, bike, camp, and recreate in bear country all of the time. But I respect that they are wild animals and like to obey the rule of avoiding dusk and dawn to prevent startling encounters when bears are most active.


The sky was getting darker, it was getting closer to dusk.


Suddenly, I smelled animal. This is when I spoke up. What good this was going to do, I am not sure – other than to make noise and alert whatever was lurking in the brush of our presence. It was undoubtedly watching us, as wildlife see us a lot more than we see them. David totally ignored my “I smell an animal” observation. However, I know he smelled it too because later in his retelling of the “Lost in the Woods” story he said he smelled it at the exact time that I did. He loves to tell stories and his version of it made it sound like he was the hero. In my view, I was the one who had come prepared and saved us from a cold night lost in the woods.


Not cozy enough for an unplanned camp out on a cold October night


My boy scout husband said he thought our gravel road was near and that we should follow the logging trails to the west to find it. I went along, but was beginning to feel lost. I have heard of people getting lost in the wilderness very close to their home, car, or hiking trail. In fact, David, Mallory, Eileen and I got lost one time on a nature trail in Olympic National Park. A sign said a mountain lion was roaming the area and indeed we did see fresh tracks. Finally, we spotted a building which turned out to be park headquarters. Rangers gave us directions back to whence we came. All along, we had been paralleling the road which was a short distance away, but had seemed so far.


That’s how it seemed just right across the street from my house. So close, yet so far. Female intuition told me that if we kept walking along the logging road, we may end in the National Forest. The mountains to the east were getting farther away. I didn’t want to get seriously lost and have to embarrass myself by shouting for help. That would make a bad first impression with my neighbors.


Finally, I had enough. I whipped out my GPS, looked at the waypoint I had set for the house and said, “The road and the house are over there. I see the gate.“


After a moment of reluctance with David trying to tell that me he saw the road, (which he should have at that point and I think he wanted me to follow him), he followed me to the road and through the gate.



“You had your GPS all along?” he asked.


“Yes”, I said, “but I didn’t take it out until the end.


He gave me a look of which I will describe as a combination of astonishment and pride.


I think I scored points for myself and woman-kind the day I followed my husband into bear country. He didn’t take his GPS, and we got lost (well, almost).


Everywhere you look, life’s an adventure!


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