“Look kids, it’s a bear!” The six of us stared as the dark mass of shaggy fur bounded up from the creek where we had been sitting a few minutes earlier and headed up a ridge. We ran over to where the bear had entered the timber, and saw the animal eyeing us curiously, panting like a dog with its tongue hanging out of its mouth.
We were exploring the North Fork of Ponil Creek in New Mexico’s Valle Vidal on an ambitious family trek: It was my youngest child’s first backpack without “Momma,” and my first trip to take all five kids—ages 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1—out by myself! Now we were being treated to a bear encounter, another first. As we walked away, I looked back over my shoulder and noted with surprise—and a jolt of adrenaline—that the bear was now following my little herd as we hiked next to the creek. I stopped and turned to face the animal and it stopped and stared at us.
In a few minutes, we began walking again and so did the bear. Could it be stalking us? I had a 1-year-old in a front carrier, a 70-pound pack on my back, four children standing next to me, and a 200-pound bear watching us way too closely. My anxiety increased when the bear continued to follow us in this start-and-stop pattern. If it attacked, how would I possibly defend my little clan? Fortunately, I’ll never know. The bear lost interest and wandered away, and the kids had a great story to tell mom. Griffs lives in Dimmitt, TX. Favorite hike: Anyplace in the Guadalupe Mountains.