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Hello, Readers! Eloise has just returned from a four day stay in the big woods in the Middle of Nowhere. (That's a joke, Slovenians--I mean The Cook Forest in Pennsylvania, USA). If there is one thing you can count on, it is a good story about our adventure. Here it is:
I'm a nature girl, and I really like wildlife. My body is happier outdoors than in, and I like to spend my free time tromping around in the woods. I am not a hunter or a fishergirl, although I am not opposed to either sport. They just aren't for me. I can't look into the eyes of a dead thing, and think about it living or swimming free just moments before. It breaks my heart. Food is plentiful in America, Slovenians, so I guess I haven't been hungry enough to get over that yet.
I've been on a bit of a bear obsession lately. There have been reports of bears roaming the areas near my husband's family's camp and also in my hometown. Since then, Eloise has been on the lookout for them, and I have come across some good, solid evidence which I have put on this blog that you can see below. I've actually found tracks and sighted bears on two occasions with my own blue eyes.
A couple of summers ago, there were tons of sightings of bears surrounding the area near the camp. I listened to every single one. Many people dismissed the reports as tall tales from drunken fishermen. Not Eloise. There was something I could feel deep in my bones that there were, in fact, bears around. On the next trip down that summer, I was hell-bent on finding one. I chattered for days about looking for one. "Put down that DS, Ellen! We have a bear to find." I even went to the little touristy store in the heart of Cook's Forest and bought a little bear figurine for good luck. I would set him on the porch railing of the camp and do a little dance around him like the Indians did. I know you Christian folk are conjuring up images of the Golden Calf incident. That didn't end well for them, I know. Eloise is aware of the story, so I told God first that it was just a fun thing to do with my kids. He must have thought it was funny, because he sent that bear my way on the last night we were there. And he was a big one who came right along side the camp, next to our van, and kept right on walking. Either God put him in my path or he was lured by the bacon I was frying over the campfire. You decide. He was moving fast, so I couldn't get a good photo of him, but you can bet your butts that I was out looking for a track early the next morning. My dog Josie and I discovered the bottom photo of Smokey's track. It is the summertime one, minus my Royal Ring because this was a couple of years ago.
Just this past December 30th, I found the wintertime track shown next to the orange mitten (yes, that is my mitten--the tops flip off, they are cool). Josie and I discovered that one during a New Year's Eve-Eve walk behind my house. I was convinced there was a bear around. I flashed that photo around my parents' New Year's Eve party the next day, as well as e-mailed it to several avid outdoorsmen friends. The reaction was mixed; some said yea and others nay. Shouldn't the bear be hibernating?--the naysayers would ask me. Not if it is a bear like Eloise. Who wants to sleep that long anyway? About a month ago, I spotted him in the field across from my house. My trusty binoculars told me my instincts and wickedly sharp eyes were correct--it was a bear. So I did what any nature lover would do--sent my husband and 10 year old to check it out while I stood post on my front porch. Hey, someone has to guard the north 40. No luck in finding a track, but much luck in recirculating the bear rumors. A fellow teacher of mine caught wind of the incident and told me that a neighbor called to tell him that a bear was on his back deck two weeks ago and has a photo to prove it. Ah Ha! Smell that? That is the sweet, sweet smell of an I Told You So. Delicious.
This brings us to the more recent past in the big woods of Marienville, PA just two days ago. My husband, son, nephew and his family were fishing about 50 yards from the camp. My son Sam, who is known for his incessant chatter about nothing and his barrage of imaginary friends stated rather matter of factly that there was a "bear over there." Of course, he was ignored. Don't call Children's Services, please. Just read my past posts and you'll get some idea of my pain. Since Sam didn't even get a passing glance from his father who was trying to hook that elusive brown trout, he asked Alesha, my nephew's wife, if she had seen the bear. No she had not, but inquired as to where he saw it. "Over there," Sam said simply, gesturing towards the woods. It was almost chow time and Eloise was assigned the task of preparing the chow, so I called them to come back to the camp to eat. They pulled their chairs around the fire ring and no sooner sat down when I heard my nephew, a three time combat tour army guy yell, "Get the kids in the camp--BEAR." Eloise did what any good mother would do; knocked my kids out of the way as they ran into the camp as I ran out with my camera. He was a smaller one this time. My best estimates determined from the interviews of long time residents of that area that the bear was about two years old--momma must have kicked him out of her cave and he went exploring about on his own. I hopped in the van and followed him. When he was a safe distance away, I was able to grab the snapshot of him below. Give me a break--it was nearly dark, I was leaning out of a van window, and in my haste, I forgot to put the flash on. The photo is a bit shadowy, but if you look REALLY closely, you can see him on the left side about a third of the way up from the bottom. That dark spot is his butt ducking into the underbrush. I feel for those people who have claimed to have seen Sasquatch or the Yeti and can only come up with a hazy photo. It's your word and that bad snapshot that people rest their beliefs on. It sucks trying to defend yourself with something like that. But trust me, 'Lil Smokey is in that underbrush.
I could not resist the urge to tell friends and family members back home, so I decided to drive up to the main road to try to get a satellite signal for the cell phone. I texted just one word to everyone before I lost the signal. The message read: BEAR! Before I left on the ten minute drive uphill, I did what any good mother would do. I left my children in the care of my tough, army guy nephew and his wife and said, "Keep my babies safe. I'll be back in a bit." But before I left though, I handed my camera to my ten year old and said, "If he comes back, make sure you get a picture of him---and don't forget to hit the flash button--it's pretty dark out here now."
Did you hear that? That was my mother who just read that and is sending me a text. I am going to ignore it. Did you hear that? That is my phone ringing. Wait, let's let the answering machine pick up this one. Let's listen. Yep, it's Grandma. Yes, I understand you just sent me a text. No I didn't read it. Beep. Did you just hear that one? Looks like she just sent me an e-mail too. I'll be right back--got to go check it...................Yep. It was her again. No, I didn't read my text or answer your call, Mom. I am not going to repeat what she put in the e-mail. Not nice. Maybe you should all call Children's Services on HER. Do you think they'd answer a call about abuse of a 40 year old? I WAS JUST KIDDING---Ellen gets me. She knew I was just joking. Geez. Some people have no sense of humor.
While I was deep in the woods the next day trying to track "Lil Smokey (I had my dog with me and a whistle, so I was safe), I had some time alone to contemplate life. I do that a lot. I've learned the skill from my father. I watch him out my window when he is in his yard picking up sticks. I see him pause often and stare out into the world, and I know he is doing just what I do--contemplating life. He doesn't blog about his thoughts, but give him a few beers and ask him a question about politics, religion, or society in general and you will see that he's put some time into formulating his opinions on things. Pull up a chair though, because he tends to be a bit windy when he's standing on his soap box.
I thought about my friends a lot this trip, and how I couldn't make it without them. You know who you are, so this song posting is for you. You have to go to the embedded link again--Eloise still can't solve the posting problem so I will have to break down and call my computer guy, Jerry to fix it. I'll try to get the posts to appear the old way soon. It will save you a step. Make sure you listen to the Bruno Mars song Count on Me. It is about friends and the lyrics are as good as the tune. It climbs a notch on my Favorite Songs list. I hope you all like it too.
Counting On YOU to keep reading,
Eloise---scroll down for the pics and click on the link above for the song