I was twelve years old, and I had never used a camera before, nor could I have possibly conceived what a simple camping trip with my family would result in. However, I can recollect every single moment of that trip, and every odd, and yet horrifying moment. I think brushes with death tend to leave an impression on a person.
I remember complaining in the back seat the whole way to the camping site–the usual twelve-year old self-centered complaints of “I’m hungry” or “I have to go to the bathroom”, as well as the cliché “Are we there yet?” were being thrown around the car so frequently I think they may have only stopped bouncing–just like those little rubber balls–when they entered my Father’s brain for the fourth or fifth time. Needless to say the family was less than thrilled by the time we arrived in the early evening.
A cocky twelve-year-old, urging on adulthood, I decided to take a stroll for myself. I was independent, and absolutely hell-bent on proving it. My parents eventually conceded after what seemed like a half hour of verbal banter–I found out years later that my father had been going to that campground since childhood, and knew every inch of it like the back of his hand. On reflection, parents are much smarter than children given them credit for.
I began to walk aimlessly, still careful to stay on the trail. To find the isolation I sought, I conceded to collect firewood while everyone settled into the cabin. I knew I had a limited amount of time to myself before my parents became worried, but I took my time–the open space of the woods were enticing after the long car ride. With an adequate amount of wood to start a fire and darkness settling in, I begun to retrace my steps back towards the cabin. The path looked very different at dusk, and my mind was running wild. I needed to get back to the cabin as soon as possible, and I knew it.
I swear that for some reason a sudden calm came over me–I developed tunnel vision–the path was virtually illuminated. I did, however, still have a compulsion to return to my family as soon as humanly possible. Lugging the wood at my side–dry, large logs, just like my Father had told me–I came in immediate view of the cabin. I noticed the front door ajar, and I felt agitated.
Something was very, very wrong indeed–as I stepped on the front steps they creaked like cabin stairs do, and I heard a low rumble coming from inside the cabin.
Although I was only twelve, I was certainly no idiot–I had a feeling what I was hearing from inside the cabin, and walking straight through the door was clearly not the right way to approach a 300lb. bear.
I very quickly took inventory of what I had–a small pocket knife and a flashlight. Not very effective…until I realized the pile of logs I was holding. I saw the bear through the front window–stationary near the kitchen, with my Mother in the corner. My father was nowhere in sight–my intelligence failed me, and I rushed the door wielding a log and my trusty knife.
The flash of the Polaroid camera went off before I could process the situation–the still immobile bear, my Mother laughing in the corner…
I felt the weight of my Father’s hand on my shoulder…
“Do you think we are there yet, now?”