Living in east Tennessee (and technically western-ish North Carolina) for my entire life, I am no stranger to the mountainous landscape that graces our vision on a daily basis. And with its convenience, a short trip to towns in the Smokey Mountains – namely Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville – is almost always pleasant, comfortable, affordable and requires very little, if any, preparation or planning. With this knowledge, it goes without saying that my family and I have made this weekend getaway a regular occurrence in my approaching-middle-sized life.
Something that I’ve always noticed but never worried much about was the abundance of bear warnings in the area. No, Smokey is nowhere to be found, but warnings of what to do if you see a bear, how to not attract a bear and how to make sure you steer clear of bears are plentiful; However, I have never felt these were useful bits of information because the only bear I have ever seen in the mountains was in a concrete pit, feeding on carrot sticks being thrown to it by the onlooking rednecks and their children. No, bear warnings were simply put in place by the Chamber of Commerce and tourism departments in an attempt to make the “hillbilly,” experience complete for tourists from all over the globe.
…And then this weekend happened.
After missing the turn to get to the cabin we were sharing with my family for the weekend, we rolled down a rather steep decline on a one-lane street, trying to find a place to turn around. While trying to figure out how, exactly, we had missed our turn, we come to the top of a hill and we’re behind the beast. Clumping along like an obese, Mountain Dew-loving gamer at a comic book convention, the bear turned to look at us as if to let us know that yes, indeed, we were cramping his style, though with the absence of a yellow line in the road, we were to feel free to pass at any time.
And we did. In sheer terror.
Because of my ignorance and my well-deserved city boy lifestyle, I am only aware of two kinds of bears. One that frolics wildly in Jellystone park, always searching for the always elusive “pic-a-nic basket,” and one that wants to kill you. Our friend that allowed us to pass was not animated in any way, so I can only assume he saw himself as being responsible for our future death.
And to this day, he lurks outside the cabin, waiting on us to come outside one last time. I only hope to goodness that I am carrying a ham sandwich with me at the time, otherwise I may find myself either at the mercy of evil bear jaws, or riding on the back of a furry tractor.