May 14, 2016
I have been going to the mountains in North Carolina since October of 2012. For me this is no small undertaking since I live in suburban Charleston SC. For me to get to Brevard, NC, my usual base of operations is a four hour drive. I have made 22 trips since October 2012. I have been to 151 different waterfalls, completed more than 250 hikes. I have been to the coolest place in all of Western North Carolina, Lower Dismal Falls and the Great Wall of Dismal. I have completed 2 of the big 5 cult status waterfalls (Yellowstone & Dismal). I plan on getting to Windy Falls, Big Falls on the Thompson River and Upper Sam Branch in 2017. I have hiked Looking Glass Rock and explored Yellowstone Falls @ Graveyard Fields and Dismal Gorge. I have seen some amazing things on my walks in the woods. I have seen waterfalls in excess of 400 feet high (Hickory Nut and Whitewater Falls). I have swum in more mountain streams than I can count. I saw someone do a backflip off of Second Falls at Graveyard Fields. I DO NOT recommend you try it. I have walked up on a couple skinny-dipping (Sunburst Falls). I walked up on a woman swimming topless (Red Butt Falls). Why just the day before my bear sighting my wife and I witnessed a girl in a bikini performing a series of cheerleading jumps on the ledge above the big drop (about 120 feet) on Toxaway Falls. I DO NOT recommend you try it. I have met some great people hiking. I have also encountered a bear and that’s why you’re here.
The encounter was over Labor Day weekend 2015. We had spent the day Sunday hiking in Panthertown Valley (Hike #3) and after dinner we headed back to the condo we rented next to Toxaway Falls. I had a few beers on the deck overlooking Toxaway Falls when I realized I left something in my Xterra. It was around ten p.m. and the night air was cool and crisp. All I could hear were the crickets and frogs. I unlocked my truck and grabbed my Panthertown Map so I could review the route we were taking in the morning. I closed the door and pressed the button on the key fob. The lights flashed and the horn honked. This was followed by a horrific crash. When I looked up, I saw that a black bear had managed to worm his way between the doors to the dumpster shed because they weren’t secured properly. He had been in the middle of a feast when the horn sounded. The sound obviously startled him and he reared back, snapping the one door off the shed and scattering one of the cans.
We were about a hundred feet apart but when we’re talking bears, that’s a close encounter in my book. He froze, I froze. He remained frozen as he looked around to see who interrupted his feast. I unfroze and ran up the steps to the condo. I burst into the condo. “Honey, you have to come see this, there’s a f**king bear in the parking lot!”
The two of us returned to the second floor balcony and watched as the bear returned to rooting in the trash for dinner. He remained oblivious to me trying to take his picture from the balcony. However after a few minutes a car entered the parking area and the bear vanished into the woods, leaving only a scattering of Little Caeser’s boxes in is wake. Pizza! Pizza!
So there you have it. I’ve probably hiked more than 1000 miles through the woods, including some of the most desolate places in the area and where do I see a bear? In the parking lot of a condo that’s right on US64! You just never know.