My exhausted eyes and strained neck were not the worst part of the unsuccessful bear spotting expeditions we had spent the last weeks, indeed months, doing. Since we arrived in America and left New York City I have been on constant watch, scouring the endless forests as we drove deserted roads. But the worst part was the pessimism creeping in on me. I had been fighting Rob’s naturally gloomy outlook for the last few days but the negativity was starting to win as I heard a “we’re not going to see one here” from the drivers side once more. The kids were beginning to chime in too and my mood was grumping rapidly.
Until that moment… “STOP! A bear… Definitely a bear”. And rob swerved the car to the curb, hazards on and we backed up cautiously along the mountain road. I knew it the split second I caught a glimpse. The large black figure was moving sideways through the dense undergrowth in the greening deciduous woodland of the Shenandoah National Park. And there she was, with two tiny cubs following behind. Our nature programme dreams right there in front of us.
Her direction meant we could back right up to a pull in area to watch as the little family snuffled around and ambled peacefully on their route through the season. With the boys on the roof and us out of the sunroof with our binoculars and camera it was obvious we were watching something so it wasn’t long before a small crowd gathered, mainly consisting of a large family who, utterly disregarding the guidelines and courtesy of wildlife watching immediately jumped out of their car and swarmed towards the woodland. The effect of such inconsiderate disrespect was that the bear and cubs immediately changed course away from the clearing they would otherwise have passed through so that neither they nor I got a really great picture.
But no matter, I got enough for my memory and the encounter was so perfect for us that we were happy to move on, reeling and beaming from ear to ear. Hungry we stopped for lunch and talked endlessly of the muma bear and the cubs and how our tired eyes were worth it, and of course, how I’d been right all along.