On Fridays, Grant and I wander up and down Laurel Falls Trail several times picking up litter, visiting with hikers, handing out information about bears and the park’s prohibition of pets on the trail. We also hand out an occasional band aid or bottle of water and are always available to radio for emergency assistance. Oh, and we always keep an eye out for bears. Two weeks ago we just happened to be in the right place to help a mother bear with three bears to cross the trail to continue on their business of eating. We stopped foot traffic from both directions long enough to allow momma bear to gather her family and cross safely. It was a wonderful experience for Grant as well as all the hikers. One woman approached while the bears were still in sight and asked if we had been tracking the bears? I told her no, that we were just lucky to be here when they decided to cross the trail. She then asked what the park provided me to protect them from the bears? I replied with a simple “nothing”! She gave me that startled; wide-eyed look in disbelief. I then casually explained to here that I wasn’t there to protect the hikers, but I was there to protect the bears. She didn’t seem particularly happy with my answer and moved a much safer distance away from the bears. And that’s how we protect the bears-educating the hikers to keep a safe distance!
This Friday on our second trip down the trail we observed a herd of hikers gawking into the valley between trail markers #5 and #6. We stopped and visited as the group got larger. Several hikers were pointing into the woods on the other side of the ravine indicating that they saw a bear. Many people were excited sharing their description of the bears. When I mentioned that there was a family of bears frequenting the trail a couple hikers shouted that they just spotted a cub. We spent our time answering bear questions and killing time until the crowds broke up and went either up or down the trail. Once everyone was gone, Grant asked me why I hadn’t told anyone that they were looking at a stump? Why ruin someone’s vacation?