A Long Road, A Very Large Bear & Camping…

Erin Schaden
5 min readSep 12, 2023

I left last Thursday on what was an ill advised camping trip. Ill advised by several people who thought that perhaps this particular trip might be better left unbidden.

But I am rarely daunted by the opinion of others. I am more frequently egged on my own internal ideas, feelings and rhythm. So this was no different,

My daughter wanted to come as she is a budding photographer and being out in the open, wild Sierras sounded like a good idea to her. We got a late start due to my calendar and, if I am honest, my very disciplined workout routine. Must do all the things before I head out of town so that I do not miss a work out! I know it is compulsive but the gym saves me, mentally and physically every day and it has become a kind of temple for me. A place to worship, to pause, to think, a place where the physical limits I push my body to, allow me access to parts of my mind that seem unreachable otherwise.

So we got out of town later than was likely advisable for driving up into the Sierras and setting up camp. We met my last boyfriend, who is more present in my life today, than not. That is a story for another blog. But we are navigating a tenuous friendship out of what remains of the deep and abiding love we have for each other. And so far, so good.

He was in charge of where we were going and where we would be camping. I didn’t even bother asking, my trust for him in these types of matters complete and blind. So when we turned off the highway and headed down a very long dead end road, I was not concerned. This is what I want, to be away, away. Far from the madding crowds, from from people and all the very peopley things they bring with them.

So off we went, into the wild yonder, down a dusty lane, as night took control.

We saw a six point buck. He was gorgeous. And I felt his innate intelligence, finding his place in the wild, on protected federal land. Good call for a six point buck in the wild.

Then we twisted and turned, up and down, over and under, around, back again, passing down a dusty lane into the feral landscape that enveloped. It was around one high degree turn that brought into our view a very large bear, standing in our path, he as surprised to see us as we were him. It was only 9 pm, but he was well into his evening stroll. He meandered on his way, and we (at least my daughter and I) became concerned as to whether or not he might pay us a visit in the hours to come. I immediately wanted to know how far from this particular vantage point we might be attempting sleep…and would sleep be something that would find me that evening.

Finally, after some 35 minutes, we came to the end of the road, well, it wasn’t the end of the road literally, instead, signs that the road forward was washed out and impassable. We were .4 miles from where we planned to set up camp. So decisions had to be made. Do we camp where we ended or do we turn around, traverse the land and progress already acquired to search out new lands to call home for the night?

Discussion was had. Headlamps donned and used to scan the landscape for our bear friend we met with a very passing acquaintance earlier, distances measured in proximity to the now known peril of our somewhat too close for comfort bear neighbor. After some wringing of hands, my daughter’s mostly, we decided to set up camp at the situs of our premature dead end, and allow life to do what it does: shock us, amaze us, take us out, whatever…

We set up our tent, which was folly, because there was no way after seeing the flimsy material and the recollection of the size, power and clawed nature of a bear paw, we opted to remove from the very comfy confines of our tent bottom, and opt instead to sleep in our Jeep.

Which was not comfortable, but better than being killed by a bear neighbor…

Jeeps are not really meant to be slept in, but we made it work. And I slept as long as one could in a crouched and confined position. One never really understands the value of having a flat sleeping surface with expanse that stretches out in all directions, until one does not have such an opportunity.

But this morning I woke, refreshed, alive, no worse for the wear, my night having come and gone with no visit from our bear neighbor, the dog having done her job to alert me to his presence, and since there was none, we all slept in the cab of my Jeep, snuggled together, family.

And when I awoke in the morning, the dog and I ventured out to pee, I realized that this was my family and my home. Nature. Water rushing by below. Bears as neighbors. This man that I love with all that I am, and love him more for the fact that he is willing to live in this relational gap with me, where the love and relationship persists even if the confines of that love and relationship curtailed. My daughter and dog, this man that I love whom I get to know better as friend than I ever did as lover. Or perhaps that is untrue…perhaps I know him differently and in ways that were inaccessible to both of us when sex and emotions ran high. This is my family. He is my family. She is my family. Canine is family. And the kind of family I want, with bears for neighbors, a car for shelter.

Sometimes you find all you ever dreamed of having at the end of a very long road that leads to no particular destination, with bears for neighbors, after slumbering somewhat fitfully in your car. You find a new definition of family, of heart, of soul, of love, of purpose. You wake after a night of discussions had under the sheltering safety of the Milky Way, to a new version of yourself that you realize is inaccessible to you in places other than the places you find at the end of roads that lead to nowhere in particular with a family of people that you love with such ferocity and depth that they remind you who you are, who you want to be and all the untapped inner source that lives within your infinite soul.

No bear all night, but Lulu did not see a reason to stand down her watch…

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Erin Schaden

Who am I? I am all that I write, all that I learn, share and grow. Read and find out? Check out www.nakedrandomthoughts.com for more.