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674 Bear Burglary 2012-07-07

broken window, at night

After a good hike on Monday, I went to bed fairly early. It was hot even in the mountains and I read for quite a while hoping for a cool breeze.

At about one in the morning, I awoke to a sound near the road. The campsite layout had the parking near the road and the camping area up a slight hill more than fifty feet away from the vehicle. A few nights before we had an incident where someone at one of the campground's neighboring houses honked his horn and yelled profanities all night (literally). When I first woke, still dazed, I thought the two incidents might have been related.

Listening for a few brief moments, I opened the tent door and shone my light down at our vehicle. At the time I still was not sure where the noise originated. As the dim headlamp (I had the same batteries in it from last summer!) beamed toward the road, I saw something moving away from our Honda Element.

paw prints on the side of the vehicle

Cautiously, I got out of the tent and walked toward the vehicle. I guess I spooked, whatever made the noises. I heard footsteps as they headed away from our campsite. Inspecting the vehicle, I walked around one side and could see no damage. With a sigh of relief, I continued the inspection. On the other side of the car, a small side window, had been knocked out and lay shattered on the ground. I peered inside the car, but did not see anything missing. Paw prints were all over the vehicle. A bear had attacked our trusty vehicle.

I walked to the campground host's site and woke him. I knew he would not be happy about my waking him in the middle of the night, but I thought he would want to warn the other campers.

We drove back to our campsite. After looking at the window, he asked was anything missing. I said that I did not think so.

With his super bright light, the host led the way as we inspected the area. There he was, the little bruin. We made as much noise as possible - as we tried to chase him away. The bear dropped something as he turned and scampered. It was one of our food bags from the back of the car. We have used the same small Patagonia boot bags for years as our food bags. There was no damage to the bag only some missing groceries. He had grabbed the snack bag which was mostly filled with crackers and breads. The bear seemed to have had a fondness for the honey graham crackers. The host teased that it was probably because of all of the honey in the crackers. Right!

We collected all the scattered food and disposed of it in the bear-proof trash bins. Next, we drove to the neighboring sites to see if there was any bear activity. There did not seem to be any other visual evidence of other incidents. The host did not warn any of the other campers. He returned to his site and I began to think about what I needed to do next.

I really thought that the hungry bear would return.

I did not have a secure place to store our food.

I was not necessarily afraid of the bear, but if I tried to go back to sleep in the campsite, I would not sleep. I would keep one eye open, alert for the bear's return.

I could have tried to sleep in the car, but there was broken glass everywhere inside the car.

I needed a secure place to park so I could at least rest in peace. I decided that my best option was to return to our friend Mark's house in Boulder. I would have to go to Boulder anyway, to get the window replaced.

After leaving the campground, when I was in range, I called Amy. She was in San Diego and knew something was wrong for me to call her so early in the morning. We talked over what to do and confirmed our friend Mark would love to see me again.

Mark was surprised to see me the next morning, but graciously offered to help in any way possible.

As soon as possible, I cleaned out the car and took it to a glass shop to have the window replaced. We still had claw marks (scrapes) and a bit of damage to the interior, but all and all we thought we got off pretty lucky.

bear warning sign

By the way, the campground did not have bear lockers (we love using bear lockers) and they did not post any warnings other than normal bear signs.

We keep a very clean campsite. All of our food, cooking gear, and the cooler were locked inside the car. There were other nearby campsites that had cooking gear and coolers sitting on the picnic tables - they were left untouched.

We found out later that the bear made a round through a loop of the campground. He had tried to enter at least three other vehicles or RVs. Hitting our vehicle, seemed random and busting the glass was just plain luck.

We decided not to stay at the campsite any more nights. We did not want to risk another break-in.

Happy bear-free camping trails


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