Bear in camp and a rollover

trees-300pixFriday, August 31, 1979—in the morning, we heard pans rattling outside the tent where we’d been cooking. Jerry, he rolled out of his sack. His tent has a zipper on the door and It had been raining and snowing and had frozen during the night and the zipper was frozen shut. Jerry wiggled it until he finally got it opened a little bit and he looked out at this grizzly bear and yelled, “Bear in camp!” I got out of my sleeping bag and grabbed the shotgun and looked out the window from my end. It was just getting light outside and I’m looking out the tent window just in time to see the bear come and pick up a chunk of ham and gobble it. He was standing about twelve feet away looking me in the eye. He was really a beautiful bear. He looked to be about three years old, didn’t have the large head yet, and he appeared to have a long neck. (That tells a person that he’s not a mature bear.) I’ve got every confidence in the 12-gage. Jerry yells at him and tells him to get out of there and he bounds over the hill towards Tyone Creek.

I take the radiator out of the buggy and draw a picture and measure it and Jerry fixes breakfast—he’s a good cook. I take a small lunch and a raincoat and start walking out to the highway (It’s about 26 to 27 miles out there). I say so long to Jerry, from the top of the first hill. He has the flu and I tell him to sleep in the buggy in case the bear comes back. Flushed ptarmigan from off the trail and two miles later, two nice caribou bulls at about 200 yards. Then at three miles, a snow track, pulling a trailer, he had the tongue broke out. They planned to chain the tongue and the trailer and the snow track all together and continued to the hunt. I walk on to Little Nelchina and get a good drink of water and I tie my pant legs tight to my boots (loosened the boot strings and tied the pants tight to the boots) and then wade the river as fast as I can. That keeps most of the water from getting in my boots. It works real well. I get across the river and there’s more bear droppings and the more along the river I walked, I see more. Two miles later the trail over Monument Mountain, I eat half of my food. Two thirds up the mountain, I smell carrion. I talk out loud and move on. (Talking helps avoid the possibility of startling a bear that might be in the vicinity.) No water here—small dip with snow and it doesn’t taste good. I stop and rest a little coming down the other side of the mountain. Get a drink at Crooked Creek and I’m getting quite tired now.

I’m 4 ½ miles from the highway when a fellow gives me a ride. He’s got a brand new Ranger track hunting vehicle and he’s got a new trailer behind it. The guy is really thorough; he has built a ROP on it (rollover protection). When we come to the top of a big hill, I ask him if he wants me to get off and walk down the hill and he says, no, he thought it would be alright. We get down the hill about a third of the way and all of a sudden, the trailer hitch comes unhooked from the Ranger. It’s a new outfit and he hadn’t snugged up the bolt that keeps the hitch fastened to the Ranger and it ran ahead into the track and threw the track off of the Ranger. The Ranger went over on its side and on up on its top and is sliding down the trail, upside down. We didn’t slide so awfully far, but it finally got stopped. He had safety belts on the seats and we were both strapped in and hanging upside down off of the seats. He asked if I’m all right. I told him yes, I was not hurt. So he undid his belt and dropped out and got out of the frame and I got mine unhooked and got out of the Ranger. We’re standing there looking at it and telling each other how lucky we are we aren’t hurt and I look at my rifle—it’s got 4 inches of mud on the muzzle from where it had dragged in the trail coming down.

There was nothing left to do but try to get the Ranger up on its tracks. He had a come-along with him and a really good strong rope. Luckily the rope reached some willows that were big enough to use as an anchor. It was a nylon rope and the darned thing stretched quite a bit. We had to unhook the come-along and re-hook and hook and re-hook. I’d hold the rope tight as I could while he would be changing it. We finally got the Ranger rolled upright—and it’s crooked in the trail. We have to get it pulled around and blocked so it won’t roll on down this hill. We get it jacked up off of the ground and we loosen the adjustments for the track and we get the track on there and then readjust the tracks. We discover what caused the accident when we went to hook it up to the Ranger; it was obvious that this bolt had gotten loose and let the whole thing happen. So we tightened that bolt. When he went to try to start the motor then, it wouldn’t start. On closer inspection, we find that when the Ranger was rolling down the hill, it got to going really fast and he was using the gears and its compression to help with the brakes. It was going so fast that the pressure stretched the bolts that held the head on the motor. He did have a toolbox with all the tools he needed to work on it, so he re-tightened the head bolts. Then it started and ran well and we got out to the gravel pit at the highway (what everyone calls the trailhead).

He had a vehicle there and gave me a ride to the Nelchina Lodge and then all that was left for the evening was to eat, drink and sleep. I was really tired.