Travel: Your holiday disaster

When Frank Woods caught sight of his first bear in the wild, he was enchanted. The second encounter proved a little more hairy

WE WERE in Yellowstone Park in April with melting snow, cold nights and bears slowly emerging from hibernation. The first bear encounter was charming. Driving from our campsite to view the spectacular Yellowstone River gorge we rounded a bend to meet a mother and three cubs looking as if they'd just wiped the sleep from their eyes; as bemused to see us as we were delighted by them.

Our next encounter was less pleasant. Walking the trail back from the river gorge we saw that our car, the only vehicle in a parking area 200 metres ahead down a steep wooded hill, had acquired an admirer and was being circled and sniffed by a large black bear. Thrill faded quickly into anxiety as the bear bounced hard on the roof then scratched and thumped at the windscreen. We had followed the advice of not keeping food in the tent at night and had left all our provisions in the car. This bear was hungry.

The trail branched immediately left through thick forest to connect with the highway less than a kilometre north. We set out that way to wait for a passing car. However when a clearing in the trees allowed a look back we discovered that the bear was nowhere to be seen. We didn't know what lay ahead, but behind was a vantage point with a chance of seeing what was happening. We weren't alone in thinking that. As we retraced our steps and turned the last bend back to where we had first spotted the bear on the car, there he was, 20 metres ahead, his back to us, bent over, sniffing intently at where we had so recently been standing. There was a long moment of subliminal, silent communication, a combination of mime and telepathy, as we both turned around. Fighting the urge to run, we made for the highway as quietly as possible amid fearful backward glances and whispered assessments of the possibilities of tree climbing or bolting in separate directions if the bear appeared.

When a car arrived I could have kissed everyone in it although it might not have been appreciated by the rangy middle-aged Texan in a Stetson, his wife or their three tall sons. They scorned our request for a lift to our car. "We'all know how to handle them bears," the father assured everyone as two of the sons joined him to provide our escort and walk us back to the parking area. He insisted on taking a position closest to where we had last seen the bear as we all walked down the highway in a line, their car following behind. The bear broke cover on the hillside and charged. "G'woan, shoo bear," shouted the father, waving and flapping at it. The effect was instantaneous. It doubled its speed towards us. The Texans broke ranks, piled into their car, and departed in a cloud of rubber.

The wild race for our car ended in a dead heat. The bear collided with the driver's side as I successfully fumbled a key into the passenger door lock and my companion bundled herself through and into the driving seat. I closed the door behind us as the bear climbed onto the bonnet, pawing at the windscreen. We all did well in the end. She managed to drive the car away, I managed to take a fuzzy picture and the bear managed to roll off into the ditch instead of smashing through the windscreen and biting our heads off.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsSchool leaver's YouTube video features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain