I was attempting to cycle from Victoria to St. Johns in the summer of 2009 in the company of two other friends. In reality I would only make it to Sudbury. For the month and a half duration of the trip we almost exclusively camped. There was a split between campsites and side of the road ‘rambo’ camping as some call it. We had made it to Northern Ontario and had not had a single incident of any kind to disrupt our road side camping antics.
Often the campsites that we created along the road were less than perfect. The most ideal locations were the road side rest areas marked on the highway by a picnic table. Not only did they feature flat ground, but they had picnic tables. This rare treat of a seat was a luxury that I savoured whenever possible. Sitting on the ground sucks, sitting at a table is excellent.
Northern Ontario being particularly rocky did not offer much selection in the flat ground department, but on that day on the edge of Lake Superior we did find a picnic sign. This meant the potential that I could sit down. This was quite pleasing. After a long day I would often be willing to sacrifice a finger for a seat at a sweet table. Had that option been given and it being a long bike trip, it is possible I could now find myself digitless. Camping was illegal at the rest stops, however no person ever decided to risk there life by telling me to move along.
The location we had homed in on had little to no flat ground, mostly rock, but that table glowed like it had a spotlight on it from heaven. I sat and enjoyed. I put very little thought into where I would camp. My cycling partners chose their tent site first, it was the premium location. I was left with few options as most everything was rock. The least rocky spot was located adjacent to the picnic table. It was also only two feet from a nice stinky garbage can. That evening I did not take this into consideration.
I fell asleep before the sun could even set. My tent was unzipped, I had not made my bed, snacks were sprayed all around me, and I had not gotten my headlamp out while it was still light. I was poorly prepared to so much as get up and take a shit in the middle of the night. I woke up to an unholy racket only feet from my tent. In my first dozed moments I was confused. It took only seconds to realize that the growls and smashing were coming from a bear that was laying siege to my tent side garbage bin. It was pitch black. I could feel the breeze coming through my open door. Thankfully the door was oriented away from the bear. I shuffled around my tent and I could hear the crinkle of rappers from open and yet to be devoured snacks by either me or the bear. I had made my tent into a buffet, the most delicious item on the menu was me. My home was a prison cell well stocked with a treasure trove of tasty treats. I was scared shitless. The dwelling I was trapped in was now my nylon fortress, or so I hoped. My balls quickly retreated into the safety of my stomach in an effort of self preservation should the bear attack.
I began to let out my own competing racket in hopes of scaring the bear. While whistling, clapping, yelling, and swearing, I fumbled for my flashlight. Some how I thought a light would save my bacon from a horrific bear mauling. The assault on the bin would halt, but I could hear no sign of retreat given that my ears were clogged with the wax of fear. My headlamp secured snug to head and now fully lit, I popped my head like a periscope out of my tent, the HMCS Dumb As Shit. There was no bear. I warned the other members of my group and we ditched all our food in a distant washroom, safe from bears. While walking around my headlamp cast a bear like shadow. Had I been twenty years older it would have resulted in a cardiac event. I went back to sleep. So much as a squirrel breaking a twig would snap me directly into fight or flight mode.
It was a long sleepless night. I welcomed the safety of dawn. When the sun rose, I inspected the garbage bin I had decided to make my neighbor for the night. It had the scars of numerous bear onslaughts. How I never noticed or thought of the consequences of this is embarrassing. I could have very well been up for a Darwin award. An award given to stupid people, who die as a result of their stupidity. It is possible that the garbage did save me. My case being that the garbage being so smelly and delicious from the Bears point of view, it ignored the odours and food coming from my tent. I offered this reason more so to save face.
I think the lesson to be taken away from this is quite obvious. Always carry a gun.