Black Bear

black bear Santa Barbara hikingI was lounging around camp in midafternoon boiling the billy. Had me a relaxation station set up in the shade of a tree, an air mattress propped up against a boulder as a makeshift recliner, and a long view down the creek.

I had pulled my can of boiling water off the campfire and set it beside my lounge chair, and when I glanced up before sitting down, I caught sight of a black bear just before it passed behind a wall of bushes along the creek bank.

I was startled for a second. It was odd to unexpectedly see an animal of that size, a big black beast, so close to me. I’m not accustomed to seeing anything larger than deer when out in the forest around here. It’s not like Sequoia National Park or other places where bears are a daily sight.

billy canI was all alone in that canyon, I thought, the biggest animal around, hadn’t seen anybody in two days. Then seemingly out of nowhere another large mammal suddenly pops into sight. And it was only a short stone’s throw from where I stood and coming directly toward my camp.

I bounded over to my backpack and ripped my camera from its pouch, but when I looked up the bear had already fled back across the creek. It was pushing through the brush and climbing over boulders moving up the slope out of the streambed. It paused briefly several times to glance back down at me as I watched it intently.

It’s only the second bear I’ve ever seen in the Los Padres National Forest. I saw one a couple of decades ago, but just a split second glimpse of its hind end as it charged into the chaparral, after having been surprised by me as I blasted down a dirt road on a motorcycle.

Nearly every time I go out for a hike I see bear sign. Bears seem to be everywhere all the time, judging by the number of footprints I see, but they’re sly and not commonly seen. On this day, however, a bear walked right up to my camp oblivious to my presence.

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12 Responses to Black Bear

  1. Anonymous says:

    That’s the beauty of being in the ‘wild’ isn’t it? The unexpected can be a thrill. Just think about those mountain lions who know exactly where you are but you haven’t a clue they’re even there. That’s frame-able photo. Suzanne

  2. Lila Henry says:

    May be he wanted a cuppa tea. : )

  3. jim ansley says:

    Jack, great experience. I had just finished viewing the following when I read yours. So I thought you might enjoy another bear experience off Huffington Post. Including the title link and URL, just in case.

  4. Great photo. I think I might have been a little scared – even more so if it had been a Grizzly – I presume there are those around there too?

  5. Pat says:

    I’m sure he was just as surprised as you were.
    At least you a good photo of him.

  6. Pat says:

    I mean to say “At least you got a good photo of him”

  7. Roger says:

    really? what about fire restrictions?????

  8. Roger says:

    yeah, well they are in full effect…. contact Andrew if have any more questions…

    I hike in the post Basin-Complex fire area of the Ventana Wilderness and it sucks, so I am a little sensitive..

    love your blog, just be careful out there and don’t forget the bear spray…

    Los Padres National Forest
    For Immediate Release
    Contact: Andrew Madsen (805) 961-5759
    Twitter: @LosPadresNF
    Fire Restrictions Take Effect in Los Padres National Forest

    GOLETA, CA, May 19, 2014…Due to extremely dry vegetation and an increasing fire danger, Los Padres National Forest officials announced that Level III fire restrictions will go into effect beginning today, May 19, 2014. The following restrictions will be rigorously enforced until this Forest Order expires:

    • Wood and charcoal fires are prohibited in all areas of Los Padres National Forest except for designated Campfire Use sites; however persons with a valid California Campfire Permit are allowed to use portable stoves and lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel outside of designated Campfire Use Sites. California Campfire Permits are available for free download from the Los Padres National Forest website ( You may also obtain a California Campfire permit in person at a US Forest Service ranger station. You must clear all flammable material for a distance of 10 feet in all directions from your camp stove, have a shovel available, and ensure that a responsible person attends the stove at all times when it is in use.

    • Jack Elliott says:

      Hey Roger. I can appreciate your feelings toward hiking in burned forests, as around my neck of the woods, over the last decade or so, we’ve had numerous fires. Many places will never be the same again in my lifetime, which I have written about with a sense of sadness and despair:

      You should not assume that the experiences in any particular post on my blog occurred at the same time a post was published.

      In fact, I have drafted content stretching back three years which I have not yet published and, aside from that, am running a back log of several months worth of unpublished material.

  9. Fireman Bob says:

    Yes…the bears are aplenty, here in SoCal.! Approx. 27 bears were brought here from Yosemite in 1933…and now. I’m a native of the San Gabrial Valley and have always lived on the edge of the Angeles Nat. Forest. In the last decade they now continually make the news here. Why? The need for food and water, intrusion on their habitat and foreigners from other countries moving in who have no idea on how to interact with them. I’ve come across hundreds of bears. One bear slept in my backyard in Monrovia. Anyways…I really enjoy your website. Thank u!

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