Yesterday marked the submission deadline for our Camp Story Contest, and boy, did we get some great stories sent to us! Your stories had it all – suspense, comedy, romance, family fun and important safety lessons. After carefully combing through all of the submissions, we have selected Robert Struckman as the winner of a new Litefighter 1 camouflage tent valued at $300. We would to thank everyone who made us laugh, cry and reflect with stories, and for taking the time share your experiences with us. Here is Robert’s story:
A Grizzly Night in Grizzly Basin
by Robert Struckman
When my son was 5 years old, we backpacked into the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana with the plan of camping the first night in a valley known as Grizzly Basin. Anywhere else, a name like that would be poetical exaggeration, but in the Bob Marshall it’s essentially descriptive. No matter, I told myself. I had bear spray and experience.
We hiked in, explored, ate a great dinner and zipped ourselves into our tent in that tight valley among pines and under an extravagant dome of stars. The air was sharp with mountain cold, but we comfortably talked and told stories in our bags until we dropped off to sleep.
And then, sometime in the deep black of the darkest part of night, something slapped the wall of the dome tent. I snapped alert and waited, half-sitting, motionless, breathless, listening. Nothing happened, yet something had definitely hit the tent wall! In my imagination, a curious bear had happened upon our campsite and maybe pawed the tent to see what it was. Nothing more disturbed the stillness. In my mind’s eye, the bear looked expectantly at the tent. After what felt like 15 minutes, I settled down, but kept a protective arm over my son.
Somehow, sleep crept up on me, but when something hit the tent wall again, I jerked to my knees, terrified and furious. The bear spray was in my hand, but then indecision paralyzed me. Obviously, I couldn’t pepper spray the bear from inside the tent. And if the bear collapsed the tent onto us, the spray would be equally useless. Nor could I quickly unzip the tent and spray the bear. The bear, I thought, would hear me, see the tent moving and attack. Meanwhile, my son slept peacefully. What would happen to him if I climbed out the tent, only to be torn apart and mauled by the bear? My boy was 5!
That’s when the stupidity of the trip began to sink in. What kind of dad takes such risks? Why did I choose Grizzly Basin? And what about my wife? She could lose both of her guys in one tragic night!
In the end, I decided to simply protect my son as best I could – to shield him with my body.
At that point, my little boy, overheated under my defensive arm, rolled over to cool off. His arm swung and hit the tent wall.
Suddenly I laughed. The vision of the bear faded. It had only been my son tossing and turning in his sleep. My fear ebbed. After all, I had heard no other sounds – just my son’s arm on the tent wall. No huffing breath. No snapping branches under heavy feet. No ursine grunts of curiosity.
This time I fell asleep peacefully, when we woke up, we packed up camp. Instead of heading farther into the wilderness, we went back down the trail. I drove home, thankful that it had been only a scare.