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Bear Stories

Postby Heybooboo » Wed Apr 01, 2009 11:40 am

My wife and I have encountered at least one bear on each of our backpacking trips over the past 23 years of backpacking together.

As a new season approaches and a new trip planned I'm sure we'll encounter another one.

Our first bear encounter was near Little Five Lakes two days out of Mineral King. No bear boxes around, so we hung our food properly. Heard the bear around midnight as it was climbing the tree to try and get our bag. My wife started beating the lids of our cook kit like cymbals and I crawled out of the tent and started throwing small rocks at it. It came down the tree and luckily ran off toward another campsite where those campers continued to scare the bear using their camera flash attachment. Could have been a disaster but we were spared with proper planning.

Please share one of your stories.
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Postby bill-e-g » Wed Apr 01, 2009 2:33 pm

>at least one bear on each of our backpacking trips over the past 23 years

Holy Pic-a-nic Baskets!

I've been on many many many trips where didn't see any bears or only
wild bears.. (they high-tail it the second they see or hear you).

They used to relocate problem valley bears to Beehive area so I've
seen many problem bears there. Saw one there last year at Laurel.
Anyway, hopefully the number of problem bears keeps going down
now that bear cans are manditory thru-out the park.

Anyway... here's my story. Glen Aulin is notorious for problem bears.
(typical spot of too many clueless humans matched against smart bears)
Well, Return Creek bridge was out one year and the group I was with
decided to only go to Glen Aulin and come back out rather than going
thru the entire GCT. Well, the wife and I decided to not carry a bear
can and just sleep with our food in our tent. Night number 1 there was
no problem. ... Night number 2 the wife gets woken up by a bear nosing
her thru the tent... so she wakes me up and the group scares away
the bear. Another in our group had is pack under his head with food in it.
The bear stole his pack, unwrapped his power bars (bears are amazing),
and also ate his 2 pounds of prunes (no kidding). Well, we had to
go find his pack AND glasses which were in the pack. No damage
but the bear had to take a huge dump after eating all those prunes.
The wife and I DID NOT LOSE ANY food to a bear.
We've always brought a bear can since then. I felt bad that the bear
got any food from our group tho. ... cause a fed bears many times
is a dead bear...
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Postby balzaccom » Wed Apr 01, 2009 10:36 pm

I have too many of these...

I woke up one night in a campground in Jasper National Park with a bear standing on top of me, smelling my face (I think it was attracted by the toothpaste smell.) I played dead, and it walked away...only to tear into a tent on the other side of the campground, mauling two women inside. That was 40 years ago.

And in Lassen NP we had a bear rip the sunroof off our Volvo to get the food inside. The bear was too big to climb in, but sure shredded the steel. (This was before bear boxes...)

And 30 years ago in LYV we had a bear walk through six people and a dog to eat the food out of our plates during dinner. Discretion was the better part of valor on that one.

But like Bill---I haven't had a bear problem in quite some time. Thank God.
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Postby _Gabe_ » Fri Apr 03, 2009 12:12 pm

don't want to change to main story line on this post too much, but I am a first time over night backpacker. My plan is to rent a bear canister from one of the ranger stations. From what I understand you leave these canisters piled up away from our group's tents. I am just wondering if a bear will be persistent enough to try to break them open until he eats!
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Postby dan » Fri Apr 03, 2009 12:16 pm

No, they don't break them open--not at least in my experience. They just go on to easier pickings. I understand some bears in the Rae Lakes area in Sequoia NP are smart enough to unscrew the screw-top lid type bear canister.
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Postby bill-e-g » Fri Apr 03, 2009 1:16 pm

_Gabe_,
Do not worry in the least if you have a cannister that you rented.
Bears may come and knock them over to see if you locked them or
simply look and walk on by. I've never lost any food in the
bazillion times I've gone backpacking using a canister.

Now, another story I have is doing the JMT using an Ursack.
Well, in Lyell Canyon on the very first day (we started in TM),
a bear was biting into it and pulling like crazy on it. Luckily I had it
tied to a stump so I didn't have to go running after it. The bear
boogied off after I chased it away... the next day we ran into some
people who got their pack stolen cause they left food in it.
So... just put everything in it like they tell you to and you will be fine.
The Ursack is no longer allowed to be used. It's not a bad product
but the problem with it is the bear can get it's teeth into it and
you have to tie it shut... well... people put too much food in it
and then it leaves enough room for the bear to get some reward...
I call it the UrSUCK cause it was hit on the very first time I used it
and after never having any incident with a Garcia Canister (the ones
you will be using).

Have fun
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Postby oakroscoe » Fri Apr 03, 2009 8:34 pm

Beehive/Lake Vernon is the place I have seen the most bears over the years. I think every trip in that vicinity I've seen a bear.

First time I ever saw one in the wild was going cross country from the trail that goes to beehive over to Wapama Falls (great view back down on Hetch Hetchy from there.

I was at Lake Vernon last year and we saw one right after Beehive before we got to Vernon. My buddy was heading back toward the granite walls where the snow cabin is (we stayed at the far side of the lake) and saw 3 different bears in under 10 minutes.

They're definitely out there.



Hey Bill, speaking of the Beehive are, have you ever gone to Laurel Lake by way of the Lake Eleanor trailhead which goes through Miguel Meadows? I'll be at Eleanor in 2 weeks and was curious if you'd gone that way. I was looking for a good dayhike one day when we're not fishing. The only problem being that Frog Creek might be impassable that early in the season with it being mid-april.

Also, I figured you'd know about this, but there's an old abandoned Cavalry Trail that runs from the end of Eleanor and ties into the trail that runs from Miguel Meadows to Laurel Lake. Its all uphill, but you cut out a few miles by not going through Miguel Meadows. I've never seen it on a map, but its there and its still fairly passable.
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Postby bill-e-g » Sun Apr 05, 2009 8:10 pm

oakroscoe,
Yeah, you should go thru Miguel and check out Gravel Pit Lake.
There are fish in there so give it a look too. Early in the year you
can fish it ok because the weeds haven't grown up too much.
I've even brought a trail boat once and floated around fishing.
Only issue is that you can lose some lures with it getting stuck in the
weeds. Don't bother with Swamp Lake... no fish in there.
The trail from Eleanor to Frog Creek via Miguel is a pretty easy dayhike
so give it a go. Yes, Frog Creek will be a roaring torrent. There
are probably still some huge trees across the creek that you can
use to cross if you are comfortable doing that though.
I've never been up the old trail from the cabin by Frog Crk...
It's on my list todo too. I know that when the Eleanor fire occured
a few years ago they actually rehab'd that trail so it should be
in good shape.
It may be a little swampy around Gravel Pit ... just a heads up...
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Postby bill-e-g » Sun Apr 05, 2009 8:12 pm

One more thing... there is a ranger cabin and and old barn in Miguel
that you might want to check out if you like looking around at
that kind of stuff.
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Postby Heybooboo » Thu Apr 09, 2009 10:00 am

OK, here's another one of our bear stories.
Hiking the Rae Lakes loop clockwise out of Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon NP. Day 2 from Paradise Valley to Woods Creek Jct. I was in the lead in an open area. The trail made a sweeping left turn when I saw this black lump next to a log about 40' in front of us, which at first looked like the log had been hit by a lightning strike in its past life. Then the lump moved! It was a sow with a cub digging for grubs in the rotting log. I froze and told my wife to stop. For a brief second I thought, I'll get my camera out and take a picture of this, its so cool. Plan B kicked in, start walking backwards...

The sow turned and made eye contact with us. I took a step toward her and raised my arms and shouted. Why, I don't know. It worked, she sent her cub down toward a creek which was off to the right. After a minute or so of a standoff she took off after her cub.

An ugly incident avoided. That could have been a disaster of all involved.
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Postby bill-e-g » Sun Apr 19, 2009 5:28 pm

oakroscoe,
A buddy of mine and I actually were at Lake Eleanor this last weekend.
We started from Hetch Hetchy... and since I'm a bit faster than him
(and quite younger) I took the very long way around up to Beehive,
around Laurel and then down to Miguel to meet him before heading
over to Eleanor.
I was able to easily cross Frog Creek without any issues IMO.
I got somewhat lucky because the trees which used to be over the
river no longer span the entire section as they used to above Miguel.
The snow cover above 6200 ft. is easily over 90% and Laurel Lake
was still frozen over.
We did take the old trail from the Cabin up Frog Creek... and I was
astounded at how nice it was (IMO)... I just loved it. Thanks!
With the weather warming up I'd expect the crossings to get pretty
hairly for a couple weeks if not a month or so.
Anyway, were you able to go to Eleanor?
If you want to see a pict. of Gravel Pit or Laurel I can throw one up.
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Postby Dave Miller » Thu Apr 23, 2009 4:23 pm

bill-e-g wrote: A buddy of mine and I actually were at Lake Eleanor this last weekend. We started from Hetch Hetchy...


Bill,
I am new to the forum, but not to Yosemite. I am planning on doing some backpacking around North Dome on Memorial Day weekend, and looking for a backup in case Tioga Rd. Isn't open yet. Would you recommend the Lake Eleanor area as a backup? Some one mentioned this area to me and I found this site doing some research on the area.

I'm taking up some greenhorns so I'm looking for some moderate trekking.

I appreciate your advice.

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Postby bill-e-g » Thu Apr 23, 2009 5:10 pm

Hey Dave,
As you probably know Memorial Day and Labor Day are huge "let's get
out" days... so anywhere you go on those weekends you just have to
figure you are gonna have some company.
What we did on the trip you alluded to was hike from Hetchy Hetchy Dam
to Eleanor and back.
This is about 10 miles one way to the Frog Creek Cabin.
Let me tell you a little about Eleanor. It's part of the HH system
along with Cherry Lake which is just a bit west of Eleanor.
Since it is damned there is a road to it and you can take this road
and drive incredibly close to it. There are 2 main Trailheads, one is
very very close to the Eleanor Dam itself. The other is a bit further
away but still a very easy hike to the lake.
You take Cherry Lake Rd. to Cherry Lake, drive across Cherry Dam
(the gate opens on April 15 every year), and then continue taking
an eventual right to Eleanor Dam or a veer to the left to the
other trailhead parking. The road after the Cherry Dam gate is
a dirt and gravel road and can get washboardy and squirly. If you
continue past the Eleanor TH on left veer you will eventually get to
the Kibbie Ridge Trailhead.
Ok, so... since it is so close of a hike to Eleanor Lake you get alot of
people going there on Memorial Day wkend for sure. There will quite
possibly be some canoes on the lake too.
The south side of the lake is pretty much all dispersed camping.
There is a cabin at Frog Creek and a couple of bear boxes there.
The north side... camping is only allowed in the designated campgrounds.
We always liked to camp in the "horse" camp which is kinda on a
small penninsula.
So... is it a good alternative? Well, I would say yes but it is a bit of a
drive off of 120. And there may be some people there... so don't
expect solitude. It is a good place to take a newbie. It can get
pretty hot there due to the elevation and all. The hike in from the
TH I mention can be done by just about anyone. From there you could
dayhike up to Miguel Meadow/ Gravel Pit. Go check out Kibbie Creek
cacading into Eleanor. You could even hike back to your car and
drive up the road to Kibbie Ridge and dayhike to Kibbie Lake
(about 6 miles 1 way.. not terribly difficult).
North Dome should be jaw dropping for anyone... period. Make sure
you check out Indian Arch if you end up doing ND. I'd expect
Tioga Rd. to be open by Memorial Day. I think they are already past
the South Fork Bridge.
Did you write code for your website or use a canned one?
If so, which one. I was setting up the same sorta thing but got
side-tracked...

Kibbie Lake is just beautiful but is really pressured. Because of this
they have instigated rules such as no fires w/i 1/4 mile and alot of
no camping zones. This may not appeal to alot of people but is
really needed there. Kibbie is a great backpack for beginners also.
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Postby Dave Miller » Thu Apr 23, 2009 6:26 pm

Bill,
Wow, thanks for the quick response. I do know that Memorial Day will be pretty crazy, but,heck, I have to take the time when I can get it!

Of course, my preference is North Dome and I am planning on hitting Indian Rock and Yosemite Point too. My main thing I'm trying to do is plan for contingencies. It's kind of my nature.

What has drawn me to the Lake Eleanor area is it is mostly below the snow line and also I won't need a Yosemite Wilderness permit, just a forest service permit (if Martin at the Wilderness Permit office is correct).

Thanks for all the good information about the area. Even if we end up at North Dome (hopefully), I would like to get out to Lake Eleanor and vacinity. I don't see Lake Eleanor as our destination, but more as our starting point. Looking at my TOPO software, I see what appears to be the trailhead right next to the Lake Eleanor Ranger Station. It looks like that trail heads along the south side of the lake a bit and turns south towards Miguel Meadow and then heads up Frog Creek. Are there any decent backcountry camping spots in that area? I know that meadow areas in the the spring can be pretty marshy?

You mention that route from 120 is a long one, about much time do you think it would take to travel there from 120?

I am using a canned template for my site: Rounders 4 by Douglas Bowman. I've done a little tweaking with it though to make it wider, but I have more work to do. I found that bahiker dot com also uses the same template. Let me know if you try it and want to make changes to some of the dimensional parameters. I've got a little experience with it.

Thanks again for the time you took to answer my questions. I really appreciate it. I'm always looking for new places (to me) and I think I found one in the Yosemite Forum!
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Postby bill-e-g » Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:49 pm

Not a problem. I'm a code monkey and am on a computer all day...

>I won't need a Yosemite Wilderness permit
That's not true. If you are staying inside the park you will need a permit.
I'm not sure the quota on Eleanor itself but it is very high.
Kibbie Lake has a quota too. Kibbie Ridge up to Sytx Pass does not.
If you are staying in the National Forest you don't need a permit.
Ok, so... you can get a permit at the Groveland Ranger Station or
the Ranger Station in Sonora. The road from Groveland /120 is
much nicer but still a drive. Just figure about an hour.
The very cool thing about Groveland Ranger District is that you can
call them and they will put your permit in a mailbox if you are
coming after hours. The same was true for Sonora but I always get
from Groveland so.. not 100% sure about Sonora but then again
I doubt anything has changed.

Eleanor is a very very big lake ... so you can spend plenty of time
cruising around exploring.
I already mentioned the 2 parking trailheads. You found the one just
outside the park near the dam. Look on your topo! for the other one
between Cherry Lake and Eleanor.

By the time Memorial Day rolls around any meadows around Miguel
will be starting to dry up. The snow level last weekend was about 6200ft.
and Laurel Lake was frozen over. Beehive had about 3-4ft. of snow..
But.. with the hot weather ... by Memorial day there is just now way
you will have to worry too much about snow unless you
decide to go up to Styx Pass ... Everywhere else you go in that
area will be fine. Heck even over into Boundary Lake may be free
and clear by then (thru Styx)

By no means think about going to North Mountain. For some reason
they refuse to clear the trail. So unless you want to climb over
literally 100's of logs... nix North Mountain

As far as decent spots to camp... I personally have really enjoyed
the "horse camp" at Eleanor on the North Penninsula, the cabin
at Frog Creek, Miguel Meadow ranger cabin area, and Gravel Pit Lake.
There's just some really great areas in NW Yosemite.
If you've been in the Emigrant you may have even glimpsed some of
it's beauty.

Anyway, give it a look sometime. I love Mercur Peak btw.

Enjoy.
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