|It was late one afternoon on a cool
day and I was sitting by the campfire at Sara Totten campground on the Klamath River. With
me were my daughter, Renée Ward and her husband, Tom, and my grandson, Rob. We had spent
the day with a group of Cupertino boy scouts and their leaders expounding on the mysteries
of the canoe. But now the day's work was done and we were relaxing around the fire, each
with our favorite book of the moment.
We all like to read and it is our custom after the canoe gear is put away and before it's time to start thinking about food, that we spend a quiet hour with our books. I was deeply enmeshed in Peter Capstick's Death In The Silent Places, a collection of stories about the hair-raising exploits of men who faced the dangerous big cats and other things that will bite you. I was at a particularly gripping passage where Jim Corbett, the famous hunter of tigers, was facing the Champawat Man-eaters at twenty paces, his ammunition expended. The huge tigress was snarling in defiance, bunching her powerful muscles for the attack.
At this point Tom raised his eyes from his book and said "bear". Now, there is something about the word "bear' said quiet and flat like that just naturally grabs your attention. I immediately abandoned Corbett to his fate, wished him luck and turned to my own affairs of defending the camp.
But, alas, there was no opportunity for valor, no protecting the tents with the camp ax. The bear was, in fact, across the river and well up on the hillside. But he was a thrilling sight , nevertheless. No scruffy little black bear he, but a giant sized, family sized, mahogany-colored black bear. Now, seeing a bear on the Klamath River is not locally newsworthy, but this was a special sighting for our crew. You see, over the years we have taught hundreds of people to canoe white water, and we have often camped in this very campground, and always, morning and evening, we look across the river at this hillside. We do that because it's the perfect kind of place where one ought to see some denizens of the forest. The hill is forested in oak, madrone, and pine with several openings that are just right to accommodate a big buck, a bear, a mountain lion, a coyote or something. You know, some forest creature that steps boldly out into the clearing and gazes down at us in the camp. But it never happened.
And then, suddenly, there was the bear, standing boldly in the clearing and gazing down at us in the camp. It was perfect!! So perfect that we immediately christened our camp Red Bear Camp and started creating the Myth of the Red Bear. You know, stories to tell around the campfire and whatnot. Like --
Sometimes of an evening, a giant red bear will step out into that clearing there, and he'll gaze down into the camp here. That's why we call it Red Bear Camp. He'll stop there and look down to see what kind of folks have come to share his forest. Some people say that he's a spirit bear and can never be killed...
-- and so forth. Everybody likes a good myth, but
the reality of The Red Bear was enough to cheer up our camp and make the day a very
special one. We're watching now to see when he comes back.