This story is true. I just got a call from the Campus Times humor editor asking me to write an article about bears.

He said, “I need a story about bears, and I think you have one.”

So I was like, “Yeah, I have a story about bears.”

Then he said, “Can you write one for me?”

And I said, “Uhh…sure.”

This bear story is also true. Last August I was on a hiking trip with my friends, Andrew “Güt” Gutierrez and Ben “Ben” Martell, in the high peaks region of New York’s Adirondack Park. We left the trailhead at 4 p.m. The sun was bright. We brought four bear canisters. We filled them with food, and then filled our bags with more. For those of you that don’t know what a bear canister is, that’s a lot of food for three days. We had a pleasant day of hiking and at seven we arrived at our campsite at a small stream away from the main path. Across the stream from our camp, a large expedition had taken the only lean-to.

Güt set up his hammock then started cooking the pasta while Ben and I set up our tent. After dinner we gave the leftover pasta to Ben to finish and started to clean up the mess at 9 p.m. It was dark. Brushing my teeth, I heard a snap-crackle-pop in the woods but saw nothing. I looked at Güt and Ben to see if they had heard it. I could tell by his eye contact that Güt heard it. Ben only had eyes for his pasta (it was good pasta). Thinking it was a small animal, I continued brushing. I heard another snap-crackle-pop behind our tent, and from my light I saw two large bright eyes looking back at me.

The eyes were too far apart to belong to any sort of small animal and not dreamy enough to be Dan Stevens studying for his then-upcoming role as The Beast in the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast, so I knew we were dealing with a bear. I did what most people do in these situations: panic and shout. Güt joined me in yelling and even Ben managed some muffled grunts from behind a mouthful of pasta. It looked as if the bear was walking away and the shouting had worked, but it was just rounding a tree to eat at the open canister.

Defeated, we watched in silence as the bear ate our food. It ate one block of cheese, three freeze dry packs, 12 packs of oatmeal, and six of our 24 bagels. Hearing the commotion, our neighbors across the stream offered some bear spray. We bushwhacked around the bear to the main trail, and brought them back to our camp. The kind neighbors followed the dark path around the camp until they came unexpectedly upon the bear’s butt. Frightened, they sprayed at the bear multiple times, and it soon ran away.

We returned to our campsite, relieved to retrieve what remained of our food. Though the bear was gone from our camp, it was replaced with a healthy serving of pepper. What they don’t tell you about pepper spray is that it lingers. While choking on the air and with burning eyes, we cleaned up the mess as fast as possible. The spray irritates not only the eyes and the mouth, but also the skin. This would have been good to know before deciding to urinate. Not much sleep was to be had. Throughout the night, we continued to hear our favorite Kellogg’s trio. Snap-crackle-pop, snap-crackle-pop, our new smelly friend just kept coming back for more. As he wandered with impunity through the camp, Güt’s only protection was a thin hammock.

Not much happened the next day. We woke up early, our skin burning. The dishes were left out and thus our boiled water was full of pepper. The oatmeal was zesty, my coffee piquant, and had the bear chosen to dine on us for his dessert, we probably would have been spiced to perfection. We hiked two mountains that day and fell asleep at 5 p.m., our dreams filled with bears wielding pepper shakers.

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