FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: Lost in Yellowstone (Chapter 8)
“Bear in the darkness.”
Two nights in a row we slept in a bear meadow – perhaps ‘bear wilderness’ would say it better, even. But this one may have been more of a dangerous place to camp than the first. Todd and I hadn’t been in the tent long that night trying to sleep when we heard something just outside the tent. Todd describes it this way in an overview he wrote a few days after our emerging from our wilderness:
Right at dark, a heavy, medium-length legged animal sounds like it false charges us while trying to sleep in our tent. Appears to be about 30 yards away, based on the sound. Sounds like an aggressive, sure-footed, unafraid charge. We stay very quiet. It’s a very uncomfortable, frightening moment. I’m assuming it’s a heavy large bear.
I was glad to get Todd’s perspective on those moments. We talked later and both agreed the sound seemed more in the range of no more than fifty-sixty feet. He pointed out that sounds may seem closer when you’re out in such a remote area. Still, knowing our location, I would expect the animal was in the open area just outside our tent, because he had pitched our tent against some high weeds in the middle of an open field. The animal easily could have been thirty feet, even less. I remember the sound vividly, just as Todd describes it. It just seemed to come out of nowhere. It was so unexpected, louder than you might expect. I can say with almost certainty that it was a bear executing (as they say they do) a false charge that night. Randy Butler and I had heard the sound of a moose running off into the woods on the first night, so I have an image in my mind of its gait. While the moose probably weighs nearly as much as a black bear – up to a thousand pounds, I’d say – its gait is definitely different with longer strides. I had the chance to get an up-close view of the sound of a bear’s gallop, too, as you know, less than forty-eight hours later. Comparing the two, the wild animal outside our thin little tent that night almost certainly came from a bear.
While I was editing this part of the story, my brother Wayne called me and talked to me about the adventure. We had talked for an hour right after we got home. I’ve learned to do my “training” by going out and going for a walk when I get into longer conversations, and I was able to walk on that day for almost an hour again. He told me of some of his adventures on the motorcycle as he traveled through the years, and I told him something I want you all to know, too.
One of the amazing things as I look back is knowing – yet not knowing nearly to what degree – the Lord’s protection over us from things both seen and unseen. Ah, I think, even now, of that old song I still like to sing as I mill around during my day: “There is an unseen hand to me, that leads through ways I cannot not see. While traveling through this world of woe, that hand still leads me as I go.”
Then the resounding chorus: “I’m trusting to the unseen hand that guides me through this weary land. And some sweet day I’ll reach that land, still guided by the unseen hand.”
God’s beautiful, guiding hand was with Todd and me that night. We sat quietly for some time, afraid to move, not daring to go outside the tent to see what was lurking outside, just waiting to hear another sound. The danger, apparently was over. But I can say that had that bear made a different decision regarding the intruders in his territory, this story would have ended much differently.
It wasn’t long before we lay back down and drifted off to sleep; and we slept peacefully that night, leaving the rest of that dark night in the care of that unseen hand, until we waked the next morning.