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July 09, 2013 8:02 am

Column Like I See ‘Em: Does a bear sit in the woods?

Written by Dante Geoffrey

No matter how badly I try, I just can’t seem to run into a bear alone in the woods.

What’s a guy gotta do?!

Some people get to Bogart all the headlines because bears just voluntarily waltz into their backyard, while I’m out actively pursuing a bear encounter and coming up empty.

It’s hard to pinpoint why, exactly, I’m so eager to see a bear in the wild. I’m sure it’s partly because I never have, and it seems like I’ve spent most of my past 12 years trying to do things I haven’t done. Another reason being face-to-face with a bear is so intriguing is because it’s something most people hope to avoid.

While on the Heart Mountain community hike June 8, there were sudden rumblings among the hikers that a grizzly bear was spotted a short ways down the mountain. A few in the group I was with expressed hesitation.

“It will probably be gone by the time we get down there,” said a friend.

“Yeah, we won’t have to worry about it,” said another in relief.

So naturally, I ran down the trail hoping to catch a glimpse — and a few dozen photos — of the furry beast.

No luck.

My latest failed attempt — in Yellowstone National Park this past Sunday — came even after I was told of three sites where bears have been seen regularly this summer.

I drove from place to place thinking each turned corner would reveal my hairy brown white whale strolling up a hillside or along a riverbank, ready to strike a pose. Instead, all I got were more unbelievably beautiful landscapes and smaller, less ferocious beings.

While elk and bison and antelope and foreign tourists are all interesting in their own way, none pack a “So guess what I saw!” punch like I know a grizzly would.

Of course there is part of me that wonders, “Will the mediocre photos and embellished-yet-still-underwhelming story be worth the soiled pants and public sobbing?”

Answer: Without a doubt. I need the life experience, because as of now, my practical knowledge of bears is sorely lacking.

My personal relationships with bears have come in three forms. 1) A 49-7 San Francisco 49ers win over Chicago in week one of the 2003 season (the first NFL game I attended). 2) The nightmares I had throughout most of middle school about those creepy cartoon bears from the Charmin commercials. 3) The song “The Bare Necessities” from “The Jungle Book,” which I now refuse to watch because I was called “Mowgli” throughout most of my childhood.

It is not fair to bears, nor myself, that the essence of one of nature’s most awesome animals has been so grossly misrepresented in my life. My inherent hunger for the truth only furthers my desire to drop in on a bear in its natural habitat.

It’s too bad a hectic Pioneers baseball schedule, and a likely-miserable two weeks I will spend in California (rejoice, fans of my rodeo column) will interrupt my quest.

But the summer is still young and it’s way too early for me to start getting down about my missed connections. If there’s only one thing I’ve learned in Powell (then it’s because I’m a terrible student) it’s that hard work and determination will be rewarded.

It took nine months of what was probably pretty irritating persistence before I could convince a girl in Powell to like me back. But I got it done. There’s even two or three witnesses who can corroborate this story, though they speak mostly Spanish.

Whatever. Point is, I’m going to make this happen.

And lastly, I want to calm any fears that may be arising for my safety.

I understand the risk that bears present to the unprepared outdoorsman, which is precisely why I’ve armed myself with bear spray. I know that if a bear starts approaching me I can just quickly spray myself down like I would with bug spray, causing the bear to take pity on my idiocy and slowly retreat into the woods, shaking its head and toilet-paper-speckled butt.

I joke, but I’m not dumb (debatable). Bears can kill people, making them almost as dangerous as attractive women.

But unlike the girl, once I find my bear, I won’t be so sad to say goodbye.

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