This morning we came upon a bear. In the car on the way to South Marble Gulch I told Jenny that the customary procedure when one sees a bear is to sing real loud. I thought of Neva and her high school beaux who turned a corner in the woodsat Yosemite and happened upon a bear. The boyfriend pulled out an axe as if by magic, in the very same motion handed Neva a whistle and they slowly backed away. Neva later commented on the fact that he had armed her with the whistle instead of the axe.
In the woods this morning we too were turning a corner. A giant sound came grumbling out from the purple grey woods. My body reacted by haulting mid-step before my mind had a chance to register the low warning. It was a giant animal. Bear, moose, mountain lion we will never know; I turned to the spot Jenny had been in one second before and discovered she was already halfway down the mountain at a pace faster than I had ever seen her go.
Every sound started her. The whir of the airplane above was a long ongoing growl from the beast we had escaped. The murmur of the stream alongside the trail was surely the rustle of padded paws. The whizz of cars passing on the highway was a not too far off hiss from a like-minded lurking ally. Once the trailhead was in sight she looked back behind as if she might see the creature there lumbering in an almost friendly way now at a safe distance behind.
'No, Kate, this is not funny. This is very serious.'