A very large bear got our food and I went after it and got it back!
And I have a perfectly logical explanation why I did it:
Before I tell the tale I have a (dis) claimer.
Strange, wonderful and mystery describes best my 60+ trips into canoe county wilderness. My first trip led by an extreme risk-taker wild man launched me into my own adventures creating hundreds of stories. The hazards of time and memory make them “mostly true”. Some are so unbelievable that that I quiet down the truth a little to make them more believable than true.
Hunger is a teenage disease that captures teen campers and turns them into an eating machine with a black hole in their stomach. It’s as bad as any mood altering drug I suspect.
I remember having five 15 year old boys in our group of nine for six days for 60 miles and 24 portages. I had previously assured five mothers that I had enough food to feed everyone on the trip. I believe this is the trip where I wore out the phrase “we eat to live not live to eat”.
It was day three. Ten minutes after breakfast was over everyone had said they were so full they could not eat another bite of pancakes. Two elected teens (they had refused to help set up tents the night before) were getting ready to wash the dishes and I heard the largest 15 year old say “I’m Hungry”.
The conversation as I remember went like this…
(Todd) I’m hungry!
(Me) No you’re not!
(Todd) I know I cannot eat another bite but my stomach tells I’m hungry!!
(Me) Do you want to try eating again?
(Todd) Yes but I will still be hungry. You cannot make enough food to fill me up!
(Me) Wanna bet??
(Me) Okay, If I make a pancake big enough so you cannot eat it in half an hour, you will not say the words I’m hungry again on this trip…If you eat it all you can have all my trail mix on the rest of this trip.
(Todd) It’s a deal”.
I made Todd a fry pan size pancake 16” across and almost 4” deep. It baked like a cake and took almost 30 minutes baking over the coals. It actually turned out rather nice. I won the bet.
One hour later…”I’m Hungry!” It was a good thing the fish were biting. I let the boys keep 12 nice walleye. The five boys ate 22 walleye fillets as well as the regular scheduled supper. The rest of us were full enough to divide up the other two fillets. I have blocked the rest of the trip from memory.
Another trip found three senior girls hungry all the time. After four days this hunger came suddenly upon them after a very nice sized breakfast (I have never camped there again). They demanded a couple of us guys catch fish while they cleaned and fried (and ate). That sounded good to me until we had caught three nice fish just casting off the campsite rocks in just a few casts and the fish were cleaned and devoured in about one minute each. I made the mistake of catching a huge walleye and held it up for all to see. Back home this would make two meals for my family. The girls came running to claim the prize but I threw it back in the lake and told them they had eaten enough from nature’s generosity. They pointed to a rope hanging from a tree; it had a hangman’s noose at the end. I kept fishing. Maybe I shouldn’t have made them go 27 miles and quite a few portages a couple days before that morning.
I have other hunger stories but you get the gist. Perhaps this explains why I went after the bear at 2:00 am after he got our food pack hanging between two trees. I got it back with a lot of rock throwing on my part and a lot of growling on his. Every time I threw a rock he growled and dropped food. I threw more rocks and backed him way into the woods until I had picked up all the bags of food he had dropped. It was rather intense but I won! It’s perfectly a sane thing to do when there are four days, 30 miles of canoeing and 20 portages lake to lake left with hungry teens in the wilderness.