…I promise. Our tale began with a search to see the largest trees in California: the redwoods.
We camped near the redwood forests driving many miles down a side road to Albee Creek Campground. Signs were posted that bear lived in the area along with a 2009 photo of a bear in the campground. All campsites had bear lockers. Despite the warnings, danger did not seem imminent. The campground was small but had a neighborhood feel about it with sites close together and children bicycling and skate boarding around the driveways. Campers circled the fires in their lawn chairs. The feel of the campground was one of people happy to be on vacation in the state park.
Our habit was to stroll from the campsite at dusk on the lookout for birds. Binoculars and camera were at the ready. We walked past the remains of an old orchard. A herd of deer grazed in the meadow by the fruit trees. Some were filled with ripe fruit.
The path narrowed as we approached the creek. On we strolled until…there ahead of us was a pile of very fresh bear scat – still “steaming.” We froze. We looked around. We listened. The bear must have been right where we stood just moments before. What should we do?
We cautiously went forward the last few yards to the creek. We looked around and satisfied ourselves the bear wasn’t there. We left soon after because birds weren’t there either.
When we got back to our campsite word spread that a bear was not far away. Many campers and a Park Ranger stood on the road at a safe viewing point (not far from where we had been some moments earlier), watching a large brown bear (corrected to black bear) stand under an apple tree pulling down fruit to eat. The bear kept this up for awhile and then stood on its hind legs and climbed up into the tree to get more. As soon as it was up in the tree, two deer came over and grazed on the apples the bear had just knocked down from the tree.
The Park Ranger said the bear frequently comes to the apple trees and the deer always follow it there. Apparently the bear doesn’t bother the campsites. We enjoyed seeing the animals working together to retrieve all the fruit, glad to see that nothing was going to waste.
We still can’t believe we that: 1) we saw a bear in this quiet campground; 2) we saw it climb into an apple tree and disappear behind its foliage; 3) we saw the bear eat apples, dropping a number to the ground; and 4) then we saw several defenseless deer come over to retrieve its dropped apples; and 5) the bear, apparently, had no interest in venison.
We had thought that the lasting memory of our visit here would be of the giant Redwoods – they are tall, huge, and grand — but our memory of that apple-eating brown bear, with the deer below, will outlast even our memory of those mighty trees!