October 22, 2012

Bear in the proximity of Timothy Lake teases then vanishes

Winter time at Timothy Lake

It was the early morning when I left the small camp located lying along the north end of Timothy Lake and hooked up with the PCT near the intersection with the trail to Little Crater Lake, a small but deep, turquoise pool created from springs. From there, I intended to hike the Pacific Crest Trail to its intersection with road 58. I eventually had to cut the hike short because of a rare sighting that begged for a great deal more attention.

I can't honestly say whether it was movement caught out of the corner of my eye or if I just happened to look in that direction. Either way, the movement was that of a large animal which, I would like to believe was observed as a result of keen awareness of my surroundings, developed over time in the wilds. After spending a lot of time in the woods, senses sharpen and a feel for one’s surroundings matures.

 Then again, it was probably just dumb luck that I spotted the bear.

Black Bear at Lake Louise
Black Bear at Lake Louise (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 The week earlier, while hiking the 12 mile circuit around Timothy Lake, I discovered the small lakeside campground near two of the lake's inlets. Tall grasses stood between much of the campground and the lake. Old growth trees rose into the sky, and rhododendrons decorated the forest floor. Across the lake, an osprey perched itself atop one of the monarchs of the forest, spying on a fish swimming near the lake's surface. The best thing about the campground was its location, far away from the more developed campgrounds at the lake’s other end.

One week later my bride and I set up camp at this newly discovered site. We were fortunate; it was the only camp spot left. I proceeded to pump up our rubber kayak and paddled out onto the lake. All around, fish were breaking the surface, feeding on an early summer's hatch. Paddling toward the lake's inlets, I soon began to watch the end of my pole dance, as trout tugged at the gnat dangled near the lake's surface.

There is nothing like fishing a mountain lake just before night fall. Frequently, a 30 to 45 minute window of opportunity opens in which trout dine vigorously on insects. The winds, no stranger to mountain days, make their gradual departure as the sun goes down, often leaving a glistening, calm surface. It is you, the lake, the forest and the sky. Only a paddle and fish stir the hush as you glide between the growing rings created by fish breaking the surface. Wham! Your rod tip bends and you react to set the hook. Later, like clockwork, the bite stops.

Timothy Lake is an artificial lake that was formed in 1956 for the generation of hydroelectric power. The impoundment flooded Timothy Meadows, an area that for many years used by sheepherders for summer grazing. The name of the meadow came from their practice of spreading Timothy grass seed to supplement the natural grasses. The dam consists of earth fill and stands 110 feet high and 740 feet long. When full, the lake has a surface area of nearly 1300 acres.

I had seen only two black bears in the wild before this new sighting along the PCT. One was while hiking through the lush huckleberry groves of the Rock Lake Basin, located a dozen or so miles west of where this sighting took place. That time, my bride, some friends and I spotted a large black bear about 100 feet off the trail. It had seen us before we saw it and was in a full run through the thick brush before finally disappearing. For a black bear, it was large. It tore through the underbrush like a bulldozer.

 The other time I spotted a black bear was in the old Cascade area in the vicinity of Table Rock. I was driving a logging road at the time of that sighting.

This time I was about 100 yards from the bear, I stopped and watched it trudge along faint trail down slope from where I stood. It seemed oblivious to my presence before wandering into a thicket near a marshy area. Too good of a photo opportunity to pass up, I crept slowly toward where the bear entered the thicket. The bear made no attempt to disguise its whereabouts, thrashing about noisily in the tangle of trees. I don’t suggest anyone take this approach when spotting any bear. Even a black bear can attack. In this particular circumstance, a jumble of downed logs crisscrossed the forest floor between myself and the bear. It would have struggled mightily to get to where I was, and by that time, I would have been out of the area.

I quietly climbed up onto a fallen log about 30 yards from the thicket and waited for the bear to reappear. Soon, the brush grew quiet, the bear probably sensing I was near. I stuck around for 15 minutes, but the bear did not appear.

This Jokes On Me:

An 80 year old man was having his annual checkup and the doctor asked him how he was feeling.

"I've never been better!" he boasted. “I've got an eighteen year old bride who's pregnant and having my child! What do you think about that?"

The doctor considered this for a moment, then said, "Let me tell you a story. I knew a an avid hunter who never missed a bear hunting season. But one day went out in a bit of a hurry and accidentally grabbed his umbrella instead of his gun."
A black bear standing
A black bear standing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The doctor continued, "So he was in the woods, and suddenly a grizzly bear appeared in front of him! He raised his umbrella, pointed it at the bear, and squeezed the handle."

The doctor then asked the patient, "And do you know what happened?"

Dumbfounded, the old man replied "No."

The doctor continued, "The bear dropped dead in front of him!"

"That's impossible!" exclaimed the old man. "Someone else must have shot that bear."

"That's kind of what I'm getting at,” replied the doctor.
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