September, 1998. As noted in “Bear Bag – Part One,” I am spending the first night of a three-day solo backpacking trip in the North Cascades. After finally hanging the bear bag, I try to get some sleep. This will be the first night I’ve ever spent in the mountains all by myself. By my reckoning, the nearest humans are about a quarter mile away. I’m so tired, I nod off anyway.
Around midnight, my bladder insists it cannot wait until dawn. Fine. I crawl out of the tent.
Gazing up at the moon, the stars, the mountains and the trees, I water the shrubs. My appreciation of Nature’s beauty does a tango with my suspicion that night creatures lurk in the shadows. I empty out and scuttle back to the tent. I fall asleep almost immediately.
It doesn’t last long. At 1:15 AM, my whole body goes rigid as I snap wide awake. Something is padding around outside my tent. Something heavy.
I’m hardly breathing. The Thing Out There stops moving. It’s just on the other side of the flimsy tent wall that I’m depending on for protection. My ears itch in anticipation of the next sound. I don’t have to wait long.
The largest sinuses I have ever heard start to snuffle a few inches from my head. I have read that a bear’s nasal mucosa, the inside of it’s nose, is 100 times larger than ours. That’s quite a schnozolla.
This one is smelling me. Actually, it’s smelling the BANANA FLAVORED ChapStick I SMEARED ALL OVER MY LIPS before I went to bed. Major error. I had spent more than half an hour hanging the bear bag, only to plaster Eau De Bear Dessert DuJour on my own mouth.
The snuffling outside continues. My heart pounds as I realize I am about to experience a sloppy, highly unromantic, ursine smooch. I’m going to get kissed by a bear. Not the kind of evening I had in mind.
Should I yell? Should I fight back?
Nothing has happened. Yet.
Nothing continues to happen, just the snuffling.
I decide to use my most effective weapon against predators in the wild: being boring. I just lie there.
It works. My would-be paramour whiffs at me for about 60 eternal seconds before succumbing to boredom and shuffling off elsewhere.
Hypoxia induced by failure to breathe probably helps me get back to sleep.
The next morning, I see a large cinnamon colored bear on Flower Dome, some 3 miles away, devouring huckleberries.
I do not hike to Flower Dome.
The next night, the banana ChapStick goes in the bear bag with everything else. My suitor does not return.