1) I don’t like bears. Seriously, I try to avoid contact with any and all ursa majors and minors. Camping is not fun for me because I am always “bear aware.”
2) Some lessons take years to learn.
Recently, we had our stake’s young women camp in the Uintas. A pleasant enough place. I always share the story with anyone who will listen or pretend to listen that the first year my stake started going to this particular campground was my first year at camp… as a young woman. So, it’s been a tradition now for almost 30 years.
I don’t remember all my camp experiences but I can recall a few. Like when we went on a hike and the leaders made us stop because they heard a moose. A slight panic went up my spine and I looked around to see who I would have to outrun. After some investigation though, our moose turned out to be a cow. When I related the story to my mom after I returned home, she laughed. And gently teased the leaders for not knowing the difference between a moose and a cow. I laughed also.
Fast forward 27 years.
In November I was called to serve as the Stake Young Women president. Basically, that means camp is now conducted under the direction of my presidency. In short, I am responsible for the safety and well-being of every person at camp. At least, that’s how I see it.
Wednesday night shortly after 10pm one of the Priesthood holders from a ward approached me and informed me a bear had been in camp earlier that day. He found fresh scat within the camp boundaries.
Let me reiterate what was told to me Wednesday night: fairly fresh poo was the proof a bear had entered camp earlier that day.
When we arrived on Monday, the caretaker did mention a bear sighting a mile and a half up the road at the cabins. So this story seemed plausible.
Crud. It had to be a bear.
What does the manual say to do when a bear enters camp and uses it as its own private facilities? Nothing.
So, I alerted the leaders of each ward and spent the next two hours making sure everyone that needed to know was in the know.
My niece had been looking forward to the traditional snipe hunt that takes place on Wednesday night. I saw her hiding in the vicinity of the proof and sent her back to camp. Later I tried to explain that while I was responsible for everyone at camp, she was in essence mine because she belongs in my family circle. Really I should be commended for protecting her. Instead, I caused her to panic and basically ruined her night of fun. If it is helpful to know, I do feel bad about that.
When I returned to my tent, I discovered the other stake leaders had moved into the pavilion for the evening and also moved my bed in. I felt guilty and horrible. What if something happened in the night? I could just see it on the news, “A bear attack occurred at a young women camp while the leader of the camp slept in an enclosed area…”
I did not sleep at all Wednesday night. Not one wink. Maybe one wink out of sheer exhaustion but definitely not two.
The next day, there was a meeting and closer inspection of the scat. It was agreed upon by majority vote that it was not, in fact, from a bear. But from a moose. A moose I actually saw on Monday in the same area of the remnants (so I figure I scared the poop out of the moose).
The camp was safe.
I felt foolish.
New rule: inspect and investigate any questionable droppings right then and there before alerting the masses. Make darn sure before putting everyone on high alert that everyone actually needs to be on high alert.
When I returned on Friday, I wanted to play ostrich and stick my head under the sand to hide. But it was not to be, I had responsibilities on Sunday. I had to be visible and continue to do.
So, I’m getting teased.
I can’t remember who my leaders were on that hike that day when I was a young woman but I wish I could apologize to them. Because now I understand what went through their minds 27 years ago. I get it. It’s that feeling of responsibility and protection for everyone from a bear that’s actually a moose or a moose that’s actually a cow. Those quick thoughts of ‘what-if’ that make you take extra precaution.
My only hope is that some of the young women from last week will experience that panicky moment in say, 27 years.
And yes, I accept their apology.