As you know, this story will include a bear. This bear, as the title of the story, will play a central role. Sorry for spoiling it but you must know that this is one of the most magnificently absurd things I have experienced.
I received a text from Mooney saying that there were folks going camping. I was immediately in on the plan and went back to my apartment after filling out work paper work to throw a sweatshirt, socks, and my glasses in a backpack. Mooney and Robbie appeared outside of #12 Grimmauld (code name for where I'm living this summer) and we visited Walmart to purchase the obligatory smore foods. While there, Mooney and I again discussed how we would handle being attacked by a bear. We had gone on a short trek up the side of a ridge just the week before and had heard strange animal noises down the ridge the other direction and this had sparked a long and humorous imagining of what it would mean for Dana to drive stick shift to get Mooney (who had valiantly defended her from attacking bear) to the hospital for severe mauling. Robbie laughed at said at least we should try not to mock anyone like Elisha and get bears called out on us. Mooney didn't know this story and it was shared with gleeful violence attached.
After many delays, we made it to the Firetower in Rothrock State Park at 9:45 or so. We sat in the dark for a long while until some other came. Started the fire, took a short walk in the woods to an overlook (which was, as I'm sure you can imagine, rather dark and gloomy with very little to see), and enjoyed not saying much of anything and eating. Our company was this: Jason Hunter, Eric Mooney, Robbie Parks, Carren Stika, and myself. Jason cooked some excellent chicken in tin foil in the fire. Carren had brought hotdogs and we ate them off of sticks since there wasn't any bread. Lots of chocolate was consummed. And then, heavy with food and warmed by the fire in the heavy, storm promising winds, we decided it was time to bed down.
The chose spot was in front of a small cabin near the base of the fire tower. It was locked but we thought that if it really did rain we could get on the porch pretty easily. One place that was considered was under a pine tree away from either of these locations and toward the start of a trail, but it was rejected when we realized that most of us didn't have ground mats. Here is the location: Jason and Robbie were by the cars. Mooney and Carren were moving her hammock over to the cabin. I was ahead of the lot with all my things in my hands moving towards the cabin. And just as I got to the edge of the trees, the cell phone tower blinked in just the write way to illuminate a moving shadow. My heart caught but I was certain I was seeing things (having just scared myself silly by thinking about the book "No Country For Old Men"). I turned on Jason's head lamp and there indeed was a black bear caught in walking right across the grass where we would have been sleeping in five minutes. I backed up and got back to the cars yelling "Guys! There is a bear!"
Jason and Robbie dropped what they were doing and tried to shine the light on the bear. Mooney and Carren didn't seem to hear though and kept walking towards the cabin. We all started yelling and they stopped. My heart was racing and I had no idea what we were going to do next. So we just stopped and watched it for a few moments. Mooney and Carren finally moved over towards us and we had the cars between us and the bear. But the bear wasn't going away! It just stayed there even while we put lights on it and talked and yelled and had no idea what to do. The food had just been put away and we could only imagine it had smelled things cooking and had come to find us.
We were all moving and confused and weren't sure what to do. When the bear wouldn't leave, Mooney finally said, "Get in the car." I didn't move and at that moment the bear started coming towards us. "Dana! Get in the car!" I ran to Jason's car and the doors were locked. "Jason!" I yelled but Mooney's door was open first and I lept in and kept my eyes on the bear. I heard Jason yell, "Dana, you have to get in or no one else can!" I realized that I had stayed in the driver's seat and moved over. I don't know how Robbie got in so fast behind me and climbed to the back. Carren was in a moment later on my lap and we were laughing and clinging hands. I had not been too frightened until I saw Mooney and Jason get nervous. but we were all in cars.
That was when Mooney realized that Jason had his keys and so we were stuck for the time being with two packs outside of the car and the door wouldn't shut.
Jason called someone's phone and we were trying to come up with a plan. There were way too many plans going around when we realized that we no longer knew where the bear was. Jason thought he saw it by the fire. Then Carren and I screamed because it walked on our side of the car within four feet. Jason turned his car and and began to flash his lights. The bear backed up and began nodding its head and looked like it wanted to run at us. Jason revved his engine. The bear moved forwards and then back and then we all started the car horns at once. It ran off into the woods. We grabbed the packs as soon as we could. Mooney was quite brave in getting out the car at all in order to put out the last of the fire and get the backpacks. We were going back to State College.
We were about twenty feet down the road when this bear appeared again. It ran along side us and then out in front of Jason's car. It was big and lumbering. Mooney (a hunter) guessed 350lbs. It kept up at 20 miles an hour before disappearing again. We were flying now.
Jason took his time coming down the mountain after us. We stopped on 322 without a sound of cars in any direction. It was strange to see the busiest stretch of road in State College so empty. I got out of the car and laid in the middle of the road laughing. It seemed safer than anything else from the past hour had been and I was so relieved that everyone was safe and laughing at the ridiculousness of how we had all behaved in our fear. Jason caught up and called Mooney. "What is Dana doing?!" "Umm... I think she is letting out some jitters."
Seidle was still up when we got back to the Duplex. Mooney lept into his arms and started telling him how we had all almost died. Then he backed up and attempted to tell the story in a way that emphasized his manliness and defense of the helpless. Jason made it a comedy where he attacked the bear with a hatchet and Carren knocked it out with her maglight. Robbie just thought people were funny and wasn't scared at all. I was alternately the hero for seeing the bear in the first place or the brunt of much teasing because of how fast I got in that car. It took us til 2:30 to fall asleep in the backyard of the State College neighborhood. We were still laughing until suddenly we weren't and everyone was asleep.