The Three Bears: Part 2 — Some Confrontations Can Be Humorous

By Stephen Mullaney July 22, 2021


Editor’s Note: In this, the second installment of “The Three Bears,” we’ll hear from NCOAE staffer Stephen Mullaney tell yet another true tale about confrontations with bears. In this post, he’ll attempt to find the humor in a persistent bear taking up quarters in an NCOAE camp late at night. But let’s let Stephen tell the story:

The spot where this particular bear adventure occurred is conveniently located near an area we used for climbing instruction. Unfortunately, the site is also known for its occasional bear activity, and with proper planning and risk mitigation, can be safely used for that purpose. This was an outdoor education industry training trip, and all participants were adults with lots of experience guiding in the backcountry. 

We had finished cleaning up camp, putting our bear canisters well away from campsite and had settled down for a well-deserved night of sleep after a long day of climbing. I laid down in my hammock and was asleep in an instant.

Having spent an incredible number of nights sleeping in the woods, I have learned the difference between a stick or branch falling, being blown by the wind or being cracked in half under the weight of a large animal.

The crack that woke me up was the crack made by the weight of a large animal.

I rolled over, lifted my tarp, and took stock of the situation. I didn’t get out my hammock, because I didn’t want to fully wake up if everything looked copacetic. No more sound means more sleep, and I rolled over and fell back to sleep.


There it was again.

I repeated my previously approach of taking a peek while buried in my hammock. However this time the cracking continued, and I was able to (more…)

Continue Reading

The Three Bears: Tales of Terror and Trepidation — Part 1 “The Shock”

By Stephen Mullaney July 17, 2021


When folks find out that my work often takes me into the backcountry, one of the first questions they usually ask me is, “Have you ever had a run-in with a bear — a bear encounter?”

After I tell them that I have had run-ins with bears in the backcountry, they ask what’s that’s like. And that’s when I share that there are many emotions attached to an encounter with a bear in the wilderness, ranging from shock, to humor, to the sudden and unexpected “meet and greet” where you wonder, “Am I going to have to physically engage with this bear?”

First up in this three-part series on bear encounters in the backcountry is a true story about ashocking bear encounter.

A Shocking Bear Encounter

It was Day Two on a multi-day backcountry expedition when someone in the group needed to stop and use the facilities, meaning off the side of the trail. The hiker asked for the “Poop Kit,” which contains hand sanitizer, a trowel to dig a hole and everything else needed for a semi-comfortable sitting.

Brown Bear Image © by JT Ray

Problems arose when no one could find the kit. As an aside, when traveling as a group, each participant is responsible for carrying the same communal gear each day — that way, nothing gets lost. So, who had been carrying the kit for the entire trip?

A voice spoke up, “I’m supposed to have it, but it’s not in my bag.”

Someone else said, “I saw it by the fire ring this morning while we were getting ready to head out.”

Not too happy, I looked at my co-leader and told him, “One of us needs to hike back and get it while the other gets the group into camp.” I lost the coin toss, and prepared to head back to get the kit. Wanting to travel light, I hung my backpack up in a tree, grabbed a snack and a bottle of water and headed the four miles back to the previous night’s campsite. 

Continue Reading

When Wildlife Interferes with Our Love of the “Wild Life”

By NCOAE Headquarters August 13, 2019

Backcountry Prep

Even if you’ve never participated in scouting, you probably know that “Be Prepared” is the Boy Scout Motto. It’s a maxim that still holds true for today’s outdoor enthusiasts — perhaps more so than back in 1908 when founder Robert Baden-Powell adopted it for the scouting movement.

Baden-Powell wrote that Boy Scouts in the field should consider beforehand, “any situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment and are willing to do it.” He also oddly mentioned that the motto was founded on his initials (BP), but that’s neither here nor there.

The point is this. It has been estimated that more than 8 billion people visit protected “wild places” each year — areas that encompass national parks, national forests, and wildlife areas in the United States and around the world. What that means is more people are heading outdoors, which results in more people coming into direct contact with wildlife.

And that’s not always a good thing. As the signs illustrating this post show, more and more of us are introduced to the backcountry and wild places with posted warnings concerning the “fulltime residents” of these remote and natural areas.

On Cape Cod beaches, for example, there are (more…)

Continue Reading


Have any further questions about our courses, what you’ll learn, or what else to expect? Contact us, we’re here to help!