We encountered a number of camp critters during our week-long camping trip to the Lake Tahoe area this year. Two bears and untold chipmunks and squirrels had the potential to ruin the trip.
Although my loss to bears and chipmunks was minimal, we almost lost our entire food supply to a hungry black bear just after we moved from Kit Carson Campground to Tahoe Valley Campground.
In all we tossed one jar of peanut butter and a container of Hershey's cocoa powder. And in the process I re-learned the importance of locking the ice chest and food in the truck each night.
What proceeds is a do-as-I-say-no-as-I-do story. When we first arrived at Kit Carson, the camp host said, "We've been lucky this year -- no bear sightings. But put your food in the truck each night anyway.
I listened and quickly agreed with the host. It's long been my practice to secure our food in the truck each night when camping in the Sierra Nevada. There were no bears at Kit Carson during our three-day visit.
The chipmunks struck within hours of setting camp up at Tahoe Valley. While away at the supermarket, the cute fury critters almost decapitates our only jar of peanut butter. I suspect we ran them off as we drove up to the campsite.
That night I broke my number one rule in bear country. Out of laziness, I neglected to move all of the food into the backseat of the pick up before going to bed.
We'll be okay, I reasoned. After all, we didn't see any bears at Tahoe Valley last time we visited (in 2007).
At 1 a.m., my daughter bolted from her bed and yelled, "Dad, there's a bear out there!" I quickly crawled over my wife (and calmed her in the process) and joined my daughter in the doorway to the tent trailer.
A small to medium cinnamon-brown black bear had a grip on our circa 1978 Coleman ice cooler. He was minutes away from tearing the lid open and feasting on eggs, Italian sausage and three different cheeses (Parmesan, cheddar and blue).
My 23-year-old daughter blocked the door as I tried to slip by her. I didn't really have a plan at that point. I suppose I would've grabbed a couple pots and become a one-man precession orchestra.
At that point, my sole purpose was to chase the bear back into the forest. A diet berries, fish and nuts seemed more appropriate than the contents of my vintage ice chest.
Content to remain safely in the trailer for the moment, I told my daughter to throw something at him. She peeled a banana and threw it his way.
That did it! The bear charged off to the next victim. I quickly leaped out of the trailer and recovered the ice chest.
I had re-learned my lesson. I will never again leave my ice chest and dry food unattended in bear country.
In honor of a scrambled ice chest (with 1-1/2 doz. eggs inside!), we had scrambled eggs with sausage and spinach for breakfast Wednesday.
Sorry, no pictures of bears. I was too busy protecting my food to snap a few for the record. We did see a larger black bear late Thursday afternoon in the campground, but my focus was again locking up.