It didn't take long for rumour to spread Moments after our arrival we heard the sordid details from some friends in the campsite next to us. Allegedly, at 5 o'clock that morning, the campers across the road had woken to the sound of a mother black bear and her two cubs sniffing around their tent and digging into a bag of potato chips. We surveyed the camp site from a distance, noting the items left on the picnic table and concluding the campers definitely had not learned any lessons about bear safety. But then attention turned to the campground itself and it's lack of bear proof garbage containers. Maybe bear sightings were such a rare occurrence in the area that I could just push the idea of bears roaming wild in the streets at 5 o'clock in the morning out of my head. More likely however, that the place was known as one of the best buffets in town among the local wildlife.
We were staying in a resort like campground on Lake Windermere for the weekend to celebrate the impending marriage of two friends, but with me being the kind of friend who shows up to a party with a disembodied head in the back of her truck, I was able to sneak away to partake in some photography with my little pal Deadgar. Unfortunately the time for me to sneak away happened to coincide with the bear laden pre-dawn hour of 5 am.
I woke with a start to the shaking of our holiday trailer. The clock read 5 am, the same time of day the bear had been sighted, could it be back and trying to get into my trailer? Do bears have internal clocks that wake them up so they grudgingly get out of bed to go foraging every morning? Did the trailer even actually move, or did I? I laid in bed for a while pondering my sanity and decided that I was somewhere on the scale between "I like to wake up at 5 am to take pictures" and "I'm okay, I just have vertigo" I got out of bed and peeked out the door, it was dark but as far as I could tell there were no life threatening dangers between me and the bathroom across the campground. I gathered supplies for my morning shower, a can of bear spray in one hand and flashlight in the other. As an afterthought, I also packed some soap and threw a towel around my neck before setting out for the daily pilgrimage to the bathroom.
I silently made my way through the dark campground, tip toeing past rows of tents and their peacefully snoring occupants. I opted to forego my usual tactic of yelling out "boats! Boats! BOATS!" to scare away bears in lieu of being a courteous fellow camper. The sounds faded to silence as I approached the yellow light cast from the bathroom windows. I reached the bottom stair to the building and as I took a step upwards something snorfled underneath my feet. I jumped up the next four stairs, flung open the door stumbled inside and crashed into a wall. I fumbled around in the dark, did the door push or pull? PUSH OR PULL? It was pull. I violently pulled the door closed and turned the lock. Then I unlocked it in case someone had to pee. Then debated leaving the outside door unlocked but locking the door to just the women's side but eventually reached a decision to just leave both doors unlocked because whatever the hell had just snorfled at me obviously couldn't open doors very well if it was sleeping underneath a set of stairs.
This day was not off to a good start.
I showered, and after a few deep breaths to lower my heart rate, stepped outside to take stock of the situation. The space between the stairs was no bigger than a foot wide and using my superior reasoning skills I deduced the snorfling creature living underneath said stairs would have to be quite small to fit and therefore couldn't be too detrimental to my health. With newfound confidence, I traded in my soap and towel for camera gear and cup of coffee and meandered my way to the beach.
I switched back and forth between a wide lens and a telephoto, pointed my camera every which way and ended up feeling a little bit like the bears decided not to leave anything that was just right for Goldilocks. If I looked one way, I was dissatisfied with the view, another direction had too many campers in the frame, another direction yet held promise but the light wasn't interesting. Nothing was good enough. Finally, I decided to try another tactic altogether and hauled my camera gear, coffee and a disembodied head (Deadgar) up a hill. Below me, tents and campers sprawled out in as far as I could see, but if I kept the camera pointed in a particular direction, it was just right.