Day 7 – Whitefield to Littleton (continued)
Even with climbing a mountain our feet and legs felt pretty good. But walk enough and fatigue eventually sets in (and walk enough on asphalt and your feet are going to sizzle.) It was a good thing we had gotten the sandwiches for lunch in Whitefield, because *again* there had been no stores or restaurants for miles.
Midday, we ate our Italian subs (best sandwiches ever), indulged in the fresh oranges from the inn, and drank from our water bottles. Looking around we could see for miles. This was God’s country and we knew it. Each time we’d reach a crest, we’d be treated to another breath-taking vista. Blue shaded mountains undulated in the distance, trees covered the land like a moss-green carpet and birds sang their songs in appreciation.
“It’s gorgeous,” I’d say to Griffin pointing out anther view. “Do you know just how lucky you are to live in this state?”
It’s one thing to appreciate the sight of mountains, but it’s a far different thing to actually walk them. We discovered that the wonderful thing about mountains is that once you go up them, the only way left is to go blessedly down. After lunch, we spent most of the afternoon walking down the other side of the mountain and when we had reached the bottom (we knew it was the bottom because we started seeing houses and side roads) we were starting to get good at reading the land we decided to rest.
Our ending point for the day wasn’t too far away, it was early afternoon, the sun had come out and we decided to take a celebratory break. The day was going well. Another mountain, another obstacle obliterated. Finding a small mowed patch of land at the end of a long driveway, we put our packs down, took off our shoes and stretched back using our packs as headrests. The leaves overhead created a mosaic against the now cleared and blue sky.
We hadn’t been there for more than a few minutes when a man in a pickup truck pulled over and started talking to us from his seat in the truck.
“Do you have any food?” he asked.
We didn’t have much, our sandwiches were gone, but I was certainly willing to share what we had left.
“I’ve got some granola bars and a banana if you want those.” I offered.
He looked at me a little confused.
“No,” he said. “I just want to know if you have stinky food. There’s a bear down the road on the railroad tracks, if you have any stinky food you should probably put it away before he comes over to check it out.”
A bear! Coming face to face with a bear had been one of my greatest fears of this trip. It was why I had carried a bear horn (until I sent it home in the equipment purge thinking we were past bear danger) it was also why Griffin and I traveled with jingle bells attached to our packs – which after a few days of not seeing any bears had lulled me into a sense of security. “If they hear you coming, they won’t bother you” I’d been told by more than one seasoned hiker.
Let’s face it, I had been lulled into a false sense of security.
And a bear on the tracks was something I wasn’t going to miss. I quickly put my shoes back on and gathered my gear.” I’m going down,” I told Griffin as he put his shoes on. “I want to see the bear.”
Here’s the thing about train tracks that I hadn’t taken into account. They are usually built near roads. Because we hadn’t seen any tracks up or down the mountain we had just walked, I assumed that they would be far away, somewhere in the distance. A very safe distance away. I thought I was going to see the bear protected by a land barrier – an animal in the zoo, behind the safety of bars.
As I started toward the bear, I saw a youngster riding his skateboard down the hill on the other side of the road. He, like many other teens, was hooked up to music and was wearing earbuds.
Something started moving in the grass on the left side of the road, it looked like a dog, a lab and then it ran into the road and I realized it was THE BEAR!
It wasn’t far away after all, it wasn’t protected, and neither were we.
By now the kid had stopped and was facing toward me, away from the bear that was passing just behind him. I did want any logical person without a bear horn would do. I screamed:
“A BEAR!!! A BEAR!!! THERE’S A BEAR BEHIND YOU!!”And I pointed behind him.
The kids turned around, saw the bear, jumped on his skate board and got some distance.
“Thanks” he said as he passed me. ”I didn’t know it was there.”
Well I had known it was there and like an idiot I still went toward it, not away from it.
In all actuality, the bear (a black bear, young, I’d guess about 2 years old) was not interested in bothering any of us. Bears don’t normally attack humans (unless of course, you happen to have stinky food.) There are plenty of woods in New Hampshire which means plenty of game for them to hunt. Chances are if you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone.
But tell that to my heart which was beating a mile a minute.
Encountering a bear has been one of my biggest fears on this walk. What would we do, how would we survive?
It turned out, I hadn’t needed a bear horn after all. What I had needed to face my biggest fear was my voice. A tool I already possessed. I had needed quick thinking and a mother’s sense of danger in alerting another person, a kid.
I had encountered my biggest fear and I had come out on the other side, just fine.
But still, even victorious at confronting a fear, we weren’t stupid. Griffin and I cut our break short, made sure our jingle bells were loose so they would ring with each step, and we high-tailed it out of there.
After all this was the bear’s territory, we were just guests wandering through.
That black speck on the road is the bear. It was the best I could do in very little time.
(Here’s some information on why we took this trip.)
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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