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Interview with a Bear on the Rubicon Trail Interview with a Bear on the Rubicon Trail
Ah, another night, another raid. Those humans sure do keep it interesting. One night we hit the jackpot. Another night, it’s zippo. As in... Interview with a Bear on the Rubicon Trail

Ah, another night, another raid. Those humans sure do keep it interesting. One night we hit the jackpot. Another night, it’s zippo. As in nothing. You just never know what to expect. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Learning the ropes quickly

Hello, I’m Frank. A native of South Lake Tahoe, I was just minding my business one day when my world turned upside down. While enjoying a romp through my favorite dumpster behind the Waffle House, I feel a sting in my back. My vision gets blurry, and I go limp.

Next thing I know, I’m out in the forest somewhere. Not a dumpster or Waffle House in sight. Bummer.

Not knowing anyone, I quickly joined the Trash Bear Coalition. (Most states have a chapter.) The coalition pointed me toward the Bear Academy. While there, I took classes on Cooler ID Technology. Learned all about the various coolers out there and how to raid ‘em, along with other bear-pertinent information.

For example, we learned that Yeti coolers are easy to get into unless the special padlocks are in place. They tend to contain a lot of trail mix, granola bars, carrots. That grub is OK, but it’s not the good, sweet stuff.

Also heard about this thing called a picnic basket. I hadn’t seen one of those before. It sure sounded tasty.

Now that we’re coming into autumn, we’re reminded to bulk up. So even boring food like trail mix is worth chewing up.

Meet my amigos, Rusty and Charlie

It was at the Bear Academy that I met two really good fur buddies, Rusty and Charlie. Rusty gets his name from his reddish fur. Charlie is, well, Charlie.

Relocated from Yosemite, Rusty and Charlie are more backwoods types. But that’s OK. We get along fine. Being slightly older, I get treated as the senior member. But, hey, I’m a recent graduate just like those two.

Strategy meeting before every raid

One of the things you learn in the Academy is to hold a strategy meeting before each raid. Ours occurs about an hour before departure.

image006.jpgWe always go out at night. The quiet darkness gives us a huge advantage. You see, humans sleep during that time. (Why? Nighttime is the best time!)

The strategy meeting helps us pinpoint good locations. We bears have really sensitive snouts. As in, some 2,100 times more sensitive than the human nose. How’s that for sniffing out the goodies?

However, that ability has its downside. Some nights we get luscious smells from several directions. One direction could be sweet stuff. Another direction, bacon. What’s a bear to do? We put our three furry heads together and agree on a direction.

Rusty, though a bit of a knucklehead, has his moments. He’ll tell us, “Don’t bother with the tents. They may smell good, but there’s never much in there. They’re hardly worth bothering. We have to find the coolers.”

Split up, then meet up

We always split up. Humans tend to travel in packs, which leaves good picking for each of us. Funny thing is, they sometimes leave the doors off their vehicles. Wow. No work. Big gain.

We can often hear them making this odd rumbling and whistling noise. Not sure what it is, but it’s great cover for us.  They never hear us pawing through their packages.

Oh, some nights are spectacular. If one of us finds a good haul, we meet up and attack the smorgasbord. Heck, we can’t let one guy have all the fun.

Occasionally we have to get a little creative to reach the food. One time I climbed on Rusty’s back so my claws could grab a small gap in a window. Voila! All three of us climbed into the vehicle. And, what a haul we had.

Not all raids go smoothly

Some humans know how to thwart a raid. We entered a campsite recently, and I heard Charlie cry out, “Dang. They hung their food in the trees.”

Another time two humans spotted us sneaking up and started banging pots and pans together. Pretty soon there was a whole chorus of pots and pans – even a dog barking. Man, our furry ears were ringing for a day.

Charlie got the worst of it one evening. As we approached a set of coolers, I heard a pushhhish. Charlie let out a yelp like a coon hound getting bit in the crown jewels. We bolted for the woods. That was a couple years ago, but Charlie still talks about it during our strategy meetings.

“That dang human came at me with a can of bear spray,” the poor fellow laments. “Got me square in the snout and eyes. It stung for days. I don’t ever want to get sprayed again.”

Our motto today is, “Bear spray? Stay away!”

Occasionally, we find coolers wrapped with ratchet straps. I tell the guys, “We could mess with these for a while, but we’re better off moving on. We’re bound to find an easier cooler.”


One time I came across a Trasharoo bag that had been sprayed with vinegar. Peeyuu! Rusty says he’s encountered Trasharoos that smell like ammonia, Pine Sol, and even bleach. He said, “No way, Jose!” and scampered on.

The rivalry continues

Oh, I could go on. But the night is almost here. We will hold a strategy session soon. Charlie has a weird smirk on his snout. I think he’s spotted a real gold mine. He’ll tell us where, eventually. Then it’s on to tonight’s raid. Will we be successful? I sure hope so. But you just never know.


Tom Severin

Tom Severin is an International 4-Wheel Drive Trainers Association© certified professional 4WD Trainer and a Wilderness First Responder (WFR), and President, Badlands Off Road Adventures.