A few weeks ago, on an early morning hike in the Upper Peninsula, I met a bear cub and his mother. I've seen a lot of wildlife while wandering through the woods up there, including wolves, porcupines, and more grouse than I care to count, but this was the first bear I've seen outside of the car or zoo. Needless to say, this was a pretty intense experience.
I was circling back on a loop that took me down Blind 35 near Big Bay and up some of the southern hills (a hike that I'll cover at a later time). My main goal was to get a sweeping view of the Huron Mountain Club and the mouth of Salmon Trout River, which I finally obtained on a rocky outcropping a few hundred yards from the road. I could see down to Conway Point and over at the bumps of the Keweenaw far off in the distance. Tired from the climb, I sat down after taking some pictures and rested in the waking sun.
After a few minutes I noticed some movement a few dozen feet below me. The waddling gait reminded me of a porcupine until I noticed the telltale body shape. Tensed, I grabbed my camera and quickly started snapping away at the bear cub. Following a few yards behind came the lumbering mother bear, also sniffing at and digging up the thin soil on the outcropping below.
Not an expert on bears, I knew enough to stay still with a cub in the vicinity. When the mother did turn her head my way and we locked eyes I didn't move an inch. She let out a loud 'woofing' noise and started to charge me. There was a large gap in the rock between us that stopped her after ten feet. While she didn't appear to be happy about my presence, I didn't pose enough of a threat for her to cross the gap, and she turned around and herded the cub in the opposite direction.
Once they were out of sight I took off down to my car. After all, I was miles away from any sort of cabin and didn't want to bump into the bear again in the thick woods below the outcropping. While I've been in some tough situations in the Upper Peninsula, this experience was one of the more adrenaline-pumping ones. I can't say I recommend wandering around searching for black bears, but if you meet one (and can walk away) it's a truly neat experience.