We had hiked out to the ocean in the morning and spent the day on the beach. It was a full day of nature mysteries, tracking and exploration. As the afternoon waned we headed back to our camp next to one of the lakes further inland.
The trail took us along boardwalks and dirt paths through bogs & forest with huckleberry & other wild edibles. I was separated between two groups & wasn't sure how much space there was ahead of me or behind me to the next person.
This was early on in my learning journey with nature observation and I was focusing really heavily on learning to reduce my presence through the eyes of the birds so that I could walk in their territories without upsetting them. I had been told that if you can learn to walk softly & not disturb the songbirds then you'll get to see more wildlife because the animals won't be forewarned of your presence by their alarms.
So I was walking along the trail using a style of movement that kept my footfalls quiet & when I would come across birds feeding on the trail I would wait until they were done or until they had moved off to the side so I could pass. I got into a really nice, quiet rhythm & noticed that as I moved along I was hearing bird song around me in every direction.
After a few minutes of this I was moving through one of the bogs when I heard the sound of varied thrushes up ahead in the next wooded area giving out their thwapping alarm calls.
"Did I cause those alarms? I must have missed something because they seem upset with me."
Part of me felt like there might be an animal up ahead but I thought it was more likely that I had done something to disturb the birds. I continued moving along the boardwalk to the wooded area still doing my quiet movement when suddenly I heard rustling off to my right in the bushes. I stopped and looked but saw nothing.
What was making that sound?
I slowly moved forward on the boardwalk & as I turned a corner I saw up ahead from 30 yards coming around the edge of a massive tree was the biggest black bear I have ever seen. I was so shocked at this massive animal right in front of me.
My mind raced from the first moment I had heard the alarms, to the sounds in the bushes and then back to this bear in front of me. I realized I was standing right in between the bear and whatever had been making that other sound. What had I been hearing in the bushes?
Could it have been bear cubs?
I started backing away just to be safe. I didn't want to get in between a mama and her babies.
It seemed like the bear hadn't spotted me but in my diligence to keep my eyes up as I backed away I had forgotten about a turn in the board walk.
I put my foot back one last step & fell right off the edge into the bushes with a crash.
I peered up over the edge of the walkway just in time to see the bear bounding into the woods away from me. I was glad to discover that this bear was more afraid of me than I was of it. I never did find out what caused the rustling in the bushes beside me.