Angela called after her friend. ” Hey, Evelyn, Evelyn, can you hear me”? She waited but no response and called again “Evelyn, Evelyn” at the top of her voice. Again, no response so she sat down to consider her options. She had several including going on and getting help for all of her friends or trying to find a way down the hill and find Evelyn and maybe even the flashlight. She put the going on to get help out of her mind as she was not at all sure that she would find her way in the dark and either get herself lost or fall off the path as Evelyn had.
She looked over the edge but couldn’t see very much and decided to try to get down. Luckily, it was not a sheer drop but more of a gentle slope so by a means of slipping and sliding she got to the bottom of the hill. Luck was with her as the first thing she found was the flashlight still burning. She shone it around and located Evelyn in a crumpled heap a few yards away.
Moving over to her friend she checked for life signs and found a strong pulse. Evelyn had a deep gash on her forehead which was oozing blood and was unconscious. “Damn” thought Angelina “What do we do now”? She decided that she needed to wait for her friend to wake and to see if she could walk before making any decisions. Neither her nor Evelyn were dressed to spend the night out in the mountains. It may not freeze but the temperature would go down to the low thirties enough to make life very uncomfortable. She had no way to light a fire and didn’t think she knew how to rub two sticks together to start one.
Evelyn groaned and then tried to sit up. “What happened” she said “You lost your footing and slipped down the hill and landed on that rock knocking yourself out in the process” said Angela “You feel OK” “Except for a sore head, I feel OK. Nothing else is broken that I can tell” said Evelyn.
“I think we need to try to make it to the Ranger Station even if it is dark. We will at least stay warm as neither of us are dressed to stand a cold night” said Angela. It was true. Both had on shorts and shirts and neither had a jacket and unless they kept moving, would surely suffer from exposure.
They scrambled back up to the trail and started to walk back to the Ranger Station. They could hear the night sounds as the wolves and coyotes howled at the moon. The crickets were keeping up their constant chirping and they could hear an occasional owl before it flew silently in the night. They even heard the scream of some wild animal as it was caught by a larger species in the never-ending cycle of life (and death).
All very reassuring sounds when you are alone in the woods at night. The trail had been one fraught with danger more from the girls themselves rather than the wildlife, most of which scuttled off the path as they approached. They had one scary moment when they came across a skunk who was meandering along the trail towards them but it quickly faded into the bushes.
“Stay with me” said Angela “We can’t be far now”
An hour after the Evelyn slipping off the trail, they arrived at the Ranger Station.
It was awash with light with several cars and people around the parking lot. They staggered inside and the Rangers rushed to help them. Wrapped in blankets and sipping on hot chocolate, Angela told the story of what had happened while a doctor was stitching up Evelyn’s cut and the events leading to their appearance back to the Station. One of the Rangers mentioned that he had seen the bear and her two cubs earlier in the day on one of his regular tours around the park. Because the group had not reported back in, the Rangers were in the process of assembling a search team when the girls showed up.
The Rangers were well-drilled in rescue missions and quickly had a team together. They were going to drive in for about a mile and hike back in the rest of the way because it was dark and the trail was not good enough for safe four-wheeling. They made plans to mount a rescue of Bob and the boy who apparently was a regular trail rider on his four-wheeler. Rescuing people from the Park was something that this group was used to. Every year there would be 3-4 incidents requiring some sort of rescue. Parks and wild animals do have the complexities.
Angela volunteered to go back with the team to help to pinpoint where they had left Bob and the kid and as they all piled into the SUV‘s for the first part of the trip, Evelyn pulled her to one side and said “I have a bad feeling about this“.
“You worry too much” said Angela “This should be pretty simple”
They drove as far as they could and then jumped out and started hiking it. This time, they had plenty of light to show where they were going. They could hear the wolves and coyotes and the occasional roar of a bear which one of the Rangers called “sinister”. Apparently, bears don’t roar just to roar but either to warn off an enemy or to frighten them. Either way, it was an unusual sound.
They rounded the corner and Angela said, “This is it, this is where we left them. Over there I think”.
Angela and the Rangers surveyed the scene by the light of their flashlights The fire had died off with just glowing embers. As they looked around they found a blood soaked blanket and a little further off the torn up remains of the kid with the four-wheeler. There was no sign of Bob even though they widened the area of search. They decided to wait until daylight and then continue the search. The few remaining hours were spent uneasily with much discussion over what had torn up the kid. Some guessed a bear and others blamed the wolves.
Daylight came slowly over the horizon and once more, there was the light of day. They surveyed the scene in the daylight and they could see that there were signs of a struggle. Vegetation was crushed like something big and heavy had rolled on it. The area around the kids body was especially torn up as though the animal that had killed the kid had also vented some anger on him before tearing him to pieces. The remains of the four-wheeler that had started all of this was next to the body of the kid and was all smashed up.
They fanned out and started an orderly search of the area. Over here, one of them cried and they all rushed to the spot where the Ranger was holding up another blanket. What was odd that compared to the other one they found, this one had no blood on it. They continued the search with renewed hope at the unbloodied blanket and then Angela screamed out Bob’s name and the rest ran towards her as she pointed. There, sitting with his back to the same tree that he had cut the rope from the bear, was Bob Smith still clutching his hunting knife in one hand and his video camera in the other. He looked in a state of shock and looked at them with a blank look on his face.
“Bob, Bob it’s me, Angela. Can you hear me” she asked. Bob slowly turned his head and looked down and realized the camera was still running. He shut it off and then shaking himself as though to rid himself of his lethargic mood, he scrambled to his feet. He looked at Angela and opened up his arms as she rushed to him. “You OK” she asked “No, not really” he responded “It was horrible”
Angela took the camera out of Bob’s hand. “Why did you have this”? she asked. “I happened to be looking at the stuff I had shot today and the bear walked back into the clearing” he said. “I just pushed the play button and pointed the camera at the bear”.
Angela pressed the rewind button. The others gathered around as they watched the bear come back into the clearing and walk past Bob who had the camera rolling and go directly to the sleeping kid and carry him off. The kid was screaming until the bear killed him and tore him to pieces. Bob had managed to film it all too petrified and horrified to do anything else. The whole thing only took thirty seconds.
The bear walked up to Bob and raised herself up on her back legs and let out an almighty roar. Bob stood there still pointing the camera thinking that this would be his last-minute on this earth but strangely reconciled to that fact. What a way to go, he thought. The bear walked towards him and he backed up until he almost tripped over the tree stump from which he had cut the rope. He sat down with his back to it and continued to point the camera at the bear who dropped down on all fours and approached him. She sniffed him over and then looked him directly in the eye with her head no more than six inches from his. This time, he saw no hatred and maybe it was his imagination but he thought he saw a glimmer of thanks.
Then with one last look and a shake of her head, the bear lumbered off into the darkness.
“I don’t know how long I sat there but judging by the amount of wasted film, it was some considerable time before you showed up” Bob said. Everyone who had seen the picture was very quiet. Some were marvelling at the fact that the bear never attacked a second time, others were thinking how lucky and either brave or stupid to keep the camera running.
Angela and Bob were standing together and holding hands and not even realizing it. They too had their thoughts but both of theirs were about the wonders of nature and the marvel of the bear who had recognized both her tormentor and her saviour and had chosen to deal with them in her own way. For Bob, life would never be the same. For Angela, she was thinking of the man, For the bear, who knows what she was thinking as she left this man alive…