Rhett Wilson: Encounter
The Bear Necessities.
“I’m so glad to live in a world where there are Octobers.” So wrote L. M. Montgomery in her novel, Anne of Green Gables.
While a student in Louisville, Kentucky, I remember our seminary president saying once in chapel that October in Louisville was an outpouring of perfection. Every fall I get that urge to get in the car with my favorite blue jeans, ball cap, and soft t-shirt and drive toward the North Carolina mountains.
One October Saturday several years ago, our family decided to venture onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. A beautiful day, we looked forward to exploring mountain sights. Leisurely driving and stopping along the Parkway, we enjoyed the breathtaking views.
Parking at mile marker 417, we hiked into the woods until we came to Skinny Dip Falls. Before it became known publicly, SDF would have been an excellent place for skinny-dipping. Nestled deep into the woods, the spot is one of the most gorgeous and picturesque swimming holes I’ve experienced. It looks like something straight out of Fantasy Island.
Returning to our van, we continued our journey of gorgeous sights. The best views of the day came as the sun set over the mountains. We and a lot of other motorists stopped to take pictures of the sun setting over the peaks.
Breaking at the Pisgah Inn, we checked out the bookstore filled with mountain-culture paraphernalia. Other travelers packed the place, waiting for the two-hour wait at the restaurant. Knowing that church duties would come on Sunday morning, my wife and I told each other we needed to hit the road.
Leaving the Inn about 7:30, we headed down the dark road towards the Asheville exit. At night the Blue Ridge Parkway is very dark - very dark. For most of the ride, you only have your vehicle's headlights as any source of light.
About ten miles south of the Inn, I suddenly noticed a young black bear jumping out of the woods to the left of the minivan. The bear darted directly in front of us. It was one of those moments when your mind processes things very quickly. I slammed on brakes, and I think all five of us in the car saw what was about to happen and screamed simultaneously.
My wife and I have since described the animal as somewhere between a bear cub and an adult bear. It was as long as the front of our van. Maybe it was a teenage bear!
Within two seconds of our spotting him, he and the van collided. We heard and felt the impact. SMACK! The animal slid spread-eagle across the pavement for at least ten yards. Then, immediately he jumped up and hurried into the woods out of our view.
Accelerating, I put as much distance between us and the scene of the accident as possible. I did not want to meet mama or papa bear. Seriously. We drove several miles until we came to an overview. Stopping to survey the damage, we discovered much harm to the vehicle's front. But thankfully it kept running.
I quietly prayed, "Lord, please get us off of this Parkway and into Asheville." At that point, I did not care if we had to spend the night at a hotel. I could call a deacon and say, "You’re in charge of church tomorrow." I just wanted my family to be safe and away from any more wild animals. Earlier that day I had thought, I sure would like to see a bear somewhere today. But I was thinking more from a long distance.
Thankfully, we made to Asheville in another few minutes. I don't know I’ve ever been as happy to see a Ryan's buffet restaurant my entire life. After a good supper, we prayed in the van for safety and drove almost two hours to our house in Laurens.
Looking back over our incident on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I see reasons to rejoice. We enjoyed a great day viewing the autumn colors. We got to see a bear up close. My family was protected from what could have been a threatening and precarious situation. Our van still operated after the accident. We made it off of the Parkway, found supper, and made it safely home.
So I’ll have to say, the Lord provided for our bear necessities.
Dr. Rhett Wilson, Sr., is a freelance writer, editor, ghostwriter, copywriter, and pastor. He and his family live in Lancaster, South Carolina. Check out his site at rhettwilson.org.