…or rather, we live in theirs. Our number one wish for this trip was to get up close with wildlife – just not too dangerously close. We wanted the adrenaline and awe from the rare experience but not the blood or terror or worse. This area in Colorado was promising with signs like these appearing everywhere, including roadside, in the grocery store, and at the library:
All the paraphernalia left us eagerly awaiting our close encounter all 7 days we were in Nederland. Each night our paranoia also rose as our routines changed at sunset. We became much more alert and anxious with the darkness and unknown sounds in the night. To add to our high alertness, and to our lack of peaceful sleep, we learned that during our stay a boy – just 3 miles away – was dragged from his tent by a black bear .
Bella, being the sharp German Shephard that she is, became more vigilant each night and would erratically run to the door or bark or growl. Every time, Carl would excitedly grab his gun – just in case – and run out front to the camper and scan for any wildlife while Kristin stood at the camper door, asking for an animal report and begging him to get back into the camper for safety. (Side note: The gun is not for hunting but protection.) Carl would soon return to the camper, disappointed and with no sightings, and we’d chasten Bella for the false alarm. This ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ scenario played out night after night, sometimes in the middle of a restful sleep where dreams of elusive forest animals played in our heads.
And then on our one-week anniversary in this little mountain town, our camper became a 48-hour jamboree for area critters.
- At first, Carl spotted a large coyote running around outside. We happily watched it from a window as it ran down the meadow hill. It was a short-lived excitement.
- The next night, Bella played out her usual window-to-window pacing routine. As the week had gone by without any serious sightings, each check for wildlife was less enthusiastic. Carl walked out the door empty-handed, and Kristin stayed put inside undisturbed. In a quick turn of events, Carl had grabbed the gun and ran back outside where a black bear stared back at him. He growled at the bear to try to establish his territory, and, either out of fear, confusion or plain boredom, it retreated down into the valley below. It was just a little too late when we scrambled for our phones to capture it, and then we gave Bella credit where it was due for her ability to pick up on whatever scent or sound she heard to make us aware of our visitor. Ironically, that night we had the best night of sleep yet, as if our destinies had been filled.
- The next morning, we drank coffee and listened to the morning news when Bella started growling. With the euphoria of the night before still on our minds, we followed her senses and found a family of five moose around the sides of the camper munching on their morning greens.
- Later that night, we came home to the camper and found more – or maybe the same – moose eating around the camper waiting for our return.
It’s one thing to see animals in captivity and know you’re protected, but when you see them without any barrier, it’s a game changer. Nothing has gotten our blood pumping on this trip like being within 20 feet of a creature, immersed in its territory, and not know its intentions. But when the initial terror of the moment passes, and you get to watch a black bear lumber away into the trees as if you never met, you become enraptured by the experience and look forward to the next encounter and appreciate the animal for sharing its home.