© 2012 Aaron Atkinson

Bear Bells

When camping in bear country, you tend to receive a repeated piece of advice – hang ’em high. Whether out for a day of fishing, or while sleeping in your tent, the recommendation is that you bundle all of your food into a bag and hang it high up in a tree. While in the Boundary Waters, we always hung our food, but we also tied a couple of cups or pans to the bottom to serve as our alarm.

With one day of fishing left to go, I woke up early, ready to fish. As a laid listening to day come to life, Dad continued to snooze next to me.

The calm of morning was suddenly interrupted by the sound we’d all hoped not to hear, the clanging of metal on our food bags. The next 15 seconds seemed to go by in slow motion….

Dad woke up and sat up in an instant. Images of a big black bear or a pair of raccoons flashed to mind. We both started yelling and hollering hoping to scare the food-raiding beast back into the forest.

But the clanging continued, and it got louder. Dad, freshly awakened and determined to defend his granola didn’t hesitate to spring from our tent to ward off the bear. But having been awake for a few moments I thought it odd that the bells only grew louder, and that Ed and Tim didn’t join in the hollering.

Seconds later, laughter filled our dawny camp as Ed and Tim realized that they’d duped us by tugging on a length of rope they’d run from the metal cups to their tent door the night before. They hadn’t joined in the hollering as they’d been too busying restraining their laughter.

When asked later why I hadn’t joined Dad in bravely defending our food, I told them that I’d smelled a rat, and I chose instead to occupy myself by zipping back up our flap to keep out the swarm of mosquitos.


  1. ed
    Posted August 10, 2012 at 12:45 am | #

    This story goes into the northwoods hall of fame

  2. Aaron Atkinson
    Posted August 11, 2012 at 3:19 pm | #

    I concur!

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