Thursday, August 6, 2009

Spirit Bear

Firelight dances off the walls of my shelter, the roof of the shelter is made of pine boughs tied together with willow bark and lashed to lodge pole pine logs. The back of the shelter consists of a small cave of sorts, about five feet deep and ten feet long. A small spring bubbles from the ground nearby and the surrounding forest is teeming with wildlife. I have been coming here for years to hunt the elk who inhabit these forests, and have used this exact location as my shelter for years.
Something is moving around in the darkness just outside the firelight. My faithful friend Little Brother lays close in the shelter, a deep growl coming from his chest. I have been watching the darkness for the past fifteen minutes trying to catch a glimpse of the creature moving around out there. After a while the woods return to their normal night sounds, as the fire dies down I somehow find myself drifting away into the dream world and lose myself to dreams of bugling bulls and quiet stalks through the wilderness.
Daybreak comes with the chill only the high lands can bring, even through my elk skin shirt I feel the cold trying to rob me of body heat. I walk into the meadow and whistle for Tiger my trusty steed, through the morning mist he answers in horse talk and I see his black coat materialize twenty feet away. We greet one another I with a stroke of my hand upon his neck and he with a rough nuzzle from his big head. The bulls are bugling at the upper end of this long meadow today and their calls echo down through the pines. We are traveling light today , I shoulder my quiver and war bag, brace my bow and leap upon Tigers back, usually I always ride bareback in the high lands, this way if something were to happen to me, my horse would not be burdened with the task of surviving with the saddle stuck to his back. We have traveled literally thousands of miles together over the years, building a bond and trust with one another that few would understand. Near the end of a long meadow about two miles from our shelter Tiger suddenly stops in his tracks, his ears come up and he stands completely still. From the tree line several elk emerge from the forest and begin feeding away from us. Tiger was not interested in the elk his attention was focused on the tree line to our left, Little Brother ran out in front of Tiger and began staring in the same direction, a deep growl reverberating across this chill morning. I dismount and draw an arrow from my mountain lion skin quiver, and circle in the direction of the hidden danger. Just inside the timber I come across fresh Grizzly bear tracks the rear track is nearly thirteen inches long and as wide as my foot plus half again as wide. the tracks are going deeper into the woods, so I return to my horse and now quivering with excitement dog , and leave the area. For the next week I have several encounters with the bear, but never once do I actually see the bear.
Snow falls from the sky in large slow moving flakes, already the landscape is covered with a foot of the white stuff and looks to be no end in sight. I am riding Tiger through this storm nearly a month after my last encounter with the ghost bear. In this winter wonderland I am certain that all bears have gone into the big sleep. Near the end of the long meadow I dismount and begin making a cold camp at the tree line, Little Brother has stayed home on this trip, age has caught up with my old friend and the cold renders him virtually unable to walk the deep snow. I release Tiger to feed in the meadow and clear the snow from the ground for my bedrole and meager supplies.
Sleep found me easily in the darkness and I slept as one only can while in the quiet solitude of the wilderness. Near daybreak I have a great need to empty my bladder and leave the comfort of my bedrole for the below zero morning chill. After relieving myself I dive back into my wilderness bed and fall back into quiet slumber. I am not sure how long I slept but it could not have been more than a few minutes. I awoke to the still grey dawn of morning but the landscape had changed. The snow still fell slowly from the sky but now the tracks of the ghost bear were literally a foot from my bed! The claw marks on top of my tracks from my early morning bathroom break, the bear had walked up to my bed and stood over me, then turned and walked away through the deep snow. I was literally shaking uncontrollably after it dawned on me how close I had been to North America’s largest carnivore. I told myself at the time that the bear was really a spirit bear sent to me for some reason I still haven’t been able to comprehend. Now so many years later I still feel the hair stand on my neck at the remembrance of the encounter, but the fear is replaced with a humility and respect for the spirit bear, I am glad to have met with him and felt the power on that cold November morning of our meeting. Sometimes the wild places offer up subtle hints in the hopes we will be able to read the sign, other times mother nature is not so subtle with her messages and still we somehow fail to read the massages sent. Some have said that it was just a bear walking through the snow, I say to them, until a bear has touched you while sleeping and your spirits have intertwined on some cold mountain you could not possibly understand the connection we shared. Hawk a/ho


Stacey Huston said...

I am thankful that this bear did not make YOU a spirit on this encounter my dear husband.. Beautiful writing once agian..
thank you for sharing

fishing guy said...

Hawk: I have to really agree with the last statement. There is no way I can come to a true understanding of how your spirits touched on that day. I am glad you shared this wonderful moment with your readers.

SkyNymph said...

Namaste' Hawk; well, that was

almost like a song *grin* and I felt like the tiny dancer , dancing to it :0)

Wow, such imagery. That is really interesting you pointed out why sometimes you wear bareback, horses are very very special to me, I ride but have yet to actually know such a friendship, like you describe with your horses.

Gee, I feel such a romantic intimacy when I hear you talk about them, just bare, as if I am viewing something too bare, but then again everything you talk about is like that, your beloved mate, your children your horse :0)

Horses very much remind me of wolves in many ways even being pack orientated animals.

I keep telling myself when the time is right my black stallion will come to me hahahaha. But I better build a nice barn first ;0)

thanks Mike!

Sandy said...

What a spine-tingling post!

huntertrapper said...

awesome, sir. animals are things that people never in the woods will understand, and sorry to hear on PA, i read the posts that ignorant man left in regards to the bows you use in the high country. keep writin!

Michael said...

Hawk, that was well written. Reminded me of a few elk hunts in grizzly bear country I've been on in Montana. Needless to say, I slept very closely next to my 300 Weatherby on those trips. And I know the feeling of that cold crisp morning when the bladder needs to be emptied. LOL. I enjoy your blog. I look forward to your next article.

Robin Easton said...

Yes, my dear friend, you are so right to claim the merging of your spirits on that cold mountain. Anything less would not be YOU. Anything less does not honor the existence of greatness in both your spirit and the bear's spirit. To not claim it would dishonor the existence of Life itself and all the profound meaning and magic that entails.

It would be like looking at my vision quest as a failure because things did not go the way I thought they would. But they went the way the were MEANT to go, the way the great mountain wanted them to go for me. On that quest the mountain and I exchanged spirits and I will...NEVER...EVER...forget how the depth the mountain carried me further into in myself than I have ever been before.

I will go again to exchange spirits with the mountain. I know this as sure I as I know I'm alive.

Thank you my brother Hawk for sharing such beauty and confirming for me the wild ways of living and feeling. I've become such a part of them; without them I would die.

Hugh said...

Very well written. Your words made me feel as if I were right there with you. I know where you are coming from with the grizzly. Once while bowhunting for whitetail in Alberta, I had a grizzly come up to my tent one night. I could hear the soft crunch in the fresh snow as he circled my tent and made his way towards my head. I could hear him breath as sweat beads big as grapes rolled off of my face. I remained still and silent. After a few tense moments, he turned and walked away leaving me with a weak and sick feeling. I will never know why he decided to leave but I sure was glad that he allowed me to bowhunt the following morning. Thanks for the journey.

Eutychus2 said...

I'm new to your blog, and must say I am inspired by your writing, and your wife's photo's are beyond words. Blessings on you both.