The best stories often come down to the difference between what is perceived and what actually happens. Anyone who spends time roaming the mountains of Montana knows that this difference can sometimes be a chasm. Particularly when it comes to things that go bump in the night. And bears. Especially bears.
It’s a bear. That noise, just outside the tent—it’s a freakin’ bear. For sure. Bears snuffle, right? That’s definitely a snuffling noise. Really loud snuffling. Oh, God, it’s dark as sin out there, and there’s a grizzly snuffling right next to your head. Don’t move. Just chill. You’re being very undude, dude. Maybe it’s just curious and will move on. OH GOD, IT JUST TOUCHED YOUR HEAD. Do you turn on your headlamp, or will that startle the bear into an eviscerating mood? Do you grab the bear spray? In the dark, you’re as likely to spray yourself in the face as the bear. Damn your wife, sleeping like a baby while a grizzly nuzzles your head. This is bullshit. She doesn’t even know you’re about to be mauled. Poor thing. What a terrible way to wake up. You should wake her—quietly. Hey babe, there’s a bear outside. Yup, pretty sure. Please be quiet. Please lower your voice. Please stop hitting me. No, I don’t plan on sacrificing myself, but it’s nice to know where we stand. IT’S SHAKING THE TENT. We’re about to die. It’s a 600-pound bear, all teeth and claws and humped muscles. Beady little eyes. Top of the food chain. This is it. Goodbye, darling.
Drawn by the scent of overripe hiking boots drenched in salty, delicious sweat, the beast waddles toward the tent. Must… eat… boots. It’s dark as sin out there, and with poor vision, the animal has a hard time avoiding the labyrinth of tent guylines, backpacks, and firewood. It bumps into the tent several times accidentally—dangit. Its cover is blown. Ninja marmot it is not. Can you expect any more from a ground-dwelling, 10-pound squirrel that spends 200 days a year hibernating? To compensate for poor vision, it snuffles loudly, navigating by smell. It bumps into the tent again, this time making contact with a human who recoils as if bitten by a snake. Chill out dude, it was just a little love tap from your friendly neighborhood marmot. No harm, no foul, right? Hissing conversation begins in the tent. The humans sound upset about something. They’re apparently concerned about a bear. There’s a bear coming? Oh God, that’s terrifying. Bears eat marmots. Better hurry—stealth be damned. Grab a single boot and drag it under the vestibule wall, which shakes as the boot gets hung up. The hissing voices hit a fever pitch inside the tent, and finally the boot pops free. Back into a rockpile before Mr. Bear arrives. Whew. Just in time.
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