Mama Bear, Baby Bear

Recently we drove the boys up to Great Smoky Mountain National Park to see the fall colors. Experiencing seasonal color changes in leaves anywhere is a wondrous thing, but going to an area where there are literally hundreds of thousands of trees en masse is magical, especially when you catch it at the right time.

Jim and I never seem to hit the short “Peak Color” range of days each year we try, but the good thing about driving up into the mountains is that the change in elevation provides a pretty good shot at seeing something spectacular along the way, even if it isn’t Peak. In fact, on this trip we saw beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows near the bottom but as we reached the top at Newfound Gap everything was frosted over.

On the way down, we stopped at a pull-off alongside the road to take more pictures. Jim spoke to a couple who were on their way up and they told him that down the road there was a baby bear in a tree.

We all laughed as we got back into the car and I asked Jim if the couple told him WHICH of the hundreds of thousands of trees the baby bear was currently inhabiting. As it turned out, we didn’t need that information. Five minutes down the road we saw a huge amount of cars pulled over to the side where there wasn’t an official pull-off. Being a good follower, I parked the car behind the others so we could check it out for ourselves.

The bear was adorable, hanging out up there on a tree that was about fifteen feet from the side of the road. It was casually reaching out for berries, seemingly oblivious to the thirty or so people beneath it, wielding cellphones and fancy cameras, trying to capture every move.

As I watched the thin branches sway with each movement and shift in weight, I started to wonder if that baby bear should be up there at all. What if it fell? Would it get hurt or even die? How horrible would that be, us watching it all happen? Was the mother nearby? Even if she was, she couldn’t do anything to help, could she? My nerves became frayed and we got back into the car and left the bear cub behind. I really hope it got down safely.

The following day we took Jason back to the airport so he could get home to Wisconsin. After we said goodbye, Jim, Dylan and I boarded the escalator to go down to the parking garage. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Dylan, twenty-six years old, put his foot on the metal piece that runs along each side of the moving stairs and as he did, he slipped backward. He righted himself, thank goodness, but my Mama Bear arm went to grab him, to keep him from falling. Thinking back on it I’m sure I couldn’t have caught him safely at that angle and we both might have tumbled down the stairs. Mama Bears can’t always be right there but that protective instinct never goes completely away, no matter how old her cub might be. I’m working on the frayed nerves part: those never go away either.

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