“Wait,” I whispered. “Did you see that?”
Pulled up short on the soggy trail, I pointed to some prints in the soft mud.
Husband Chris and I were chugging along a lake shore trail in the middle of Nowheresville, western Washington. (Aka: The Walupt Creek Trail. It skirts Walupt Lake, the deepest and second biggest lake in Lewis County.)
It was a beautiful, albeit damp September day. That’s pretty much par for the course in western Washington, where mildew sprouts overnight on anything that doesn’t move in 10 minutes or less.
There on the trail, about a foot in front of me, was an animal print. The trail was a bit muddy from a morning shower. So the imprint was flawless.
The print was flat-footed, with five toes. The largest toe was on the outside of the round, robust print. It also had five perfect claw marks. Really, really big claw marks.
Chris crouched down to the ground for a closer look. “Bear” he muttered, confirming my suspicions. “And not long ago, either. This mud is fresh. So are these prints.”
There are a few words I could really do without on a trail in the middle of nowhere. Or even somewhere: Avalanche! Swamp crossing! Mosquito farm! 4×4! And bear. Especially bear.
“When did it stop raining?” Chris inquired.
I checked my watch. “About an hour ago,” I replied.
Tucked into the verdant green folds of Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest, the Walupt Creek Trail was quiet and tranquil. Shafts of anemic sun played hide-and-seek through alder, Douglas fir and hemlock trees. A crisp breeze danced a tango along Walupt Lake, kicking up white caps and rustling ferns.
We heard a lot about this trail. Drove past it several times en route north to Mount Rainier National Park. It was a new trail for us in an area that we’ve just about hiked out. So we were looking forward to a new adventure. Just not one that potentially included a bear.
Heads on a swivel, we looked around. Listened. Did not stick around for pictures.
Sorely tempted to continue our trek, we decided that discretion is the better part of valor. Did an about-face. And set a new land-speed record heading back to the trailhead.
The good news: We weren’t ten minutes back inside the truck when the clouds opened and it started pouring. We’re talking Major Monsoon here. The kind of rain that cascades down the windshield in sheets. Wipers can’t keep up, even on uber high.
So maybe Yogi was doing us a favor? I mean, we could’ve drowned out there without his “re-direction,” right?
Meanwhile, does anyone know how to get mildew off a cook stove?