Life In Our Mountain Town: Grin and bear it in Truckee
Since I read in the newspaper recently that bears are coming out of hibernation now that the weather has turned warmer, it’s made me think about my personal encounters with bears.
Just about everyone that I know who lives in Truckee has at least one bear story to tell, myself included.
My story takes place north of here, at Bucks Lake outside of Quincy.
My husband and I had borrowed an RV from someone who lived here in town. I was somewhat embarrassed to be seen in this thing since prior to this time in our lives, we had stuck exclusively to either backpacking or car camping. An RV, in my mind, was many steps below real camping. My husband disagreed; he was pretty keen on the idea of having a campfire, and then going to sleep in a real bed.
So off we went, my husband and I, our 2-year old daughter and our two dogs. I think I may have been a little slunk down in my seat, hoping that no one would recognize us as we drove out of town on Highway 89 North.
We arrived at Buck’s Lake, set up our camp, which probably involved no more than throwing a tablecloth on the picnic table and unloading a few chairs and some firewood. Suddenly our 2-year-old ran across the dirt road to a group camping directly across from us. I remember that our daughter was wearing red shorts and nothing else, and with a short haircut, she immediately was mistaken for a boy. As I explained to our “neighbors” that she was in fact a girl, I also discovered that this group of families camping directly across from us just happened to also be from Truckee.
Just my luck! And here I thought no one from Truckee would discover my secret. Of course they didn’t care about our borrowed RV. Most of them had their own large RVs anyway.
The campground had the usual warnings that you see at area campsites about the bubonic plague and also about bears. Being the kind of person who likes to read posted notices, I’m sure I read the warnings, and that is why I knew exactly what to do when a bear visited our campsite later that night.
In the middle of the night I heard our dogs, who were chained up to the outside of the camper, pull on their chains until they were taut, and then the barking began. I got up, grabbed a flashlight and a frying pan, and opened the camper door. There was a large bear, stretched up on his hind legs with his front paws on our picnic table. He was staring at our dogs who were stretched toward him as far as they could go on their lines. I made a loud noise by banging on the pan with my flashlight, and he lumbered off, disinterested.
The next night, we had moved on to another campground towards Graeagle. But we heard from the Truckee families who were camped across the way that the bear had come back. He had gotten into a vehicle, a Bronco I believe. This group had dutifully placed all their coolers and food in the locked Bronco, but someone had forgotten to put the passenger window up. So the bear climbed in and dined on an assortment of deli meat. He also picked through all the sodas and beer, tried a Diet Pepsi and liked it so much, he then drank a few more. Every beer and orange soda and Coke was left untouched. He left behind several mangled and empty Diet Pepsi cans along with a considerable amount of bear slobber which was smeared all over the inside of the vehicle.
The moral to this story is don’t store food in your locked car while camping and then forget to put a window up. Bears are smart. They do in fact recognize brand name labels. They also are pretty messy.
Katie Shaffer has lived in Truckee since 1981.
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