“Hey, Bear: The David Sisters Story” coming this fall on Lifetime TV

“Bear. Bear. Bear bear bear bear.”

This was my slightly panicked chant as I hied down a wooded trail in Forbes State Park toward three of my four sisters.

“Bear bear bear.”

I wasn’t screaming it. I was just very matter of factly telling them … “Girls? Bear.”

Let me back up.

Instead of heading to a salon for manicures or to a restaurant’s patio for a lazy sunny Sunday brunch, my four sisters and I decided we would spend the day before Labor Day, our designated Girls Day Out, doing something adventurous. Call it our mid-life crises. Call it misguided ambition. Call it epically dumb.

We ruled out biking because only 4/5ths of us were comfortable on a bike. We ruled out kayaking because 2/5 of us don’t “do” water. We ruled out Segways because 5/5 of us didn’t want to look ridiculous when we died. Ziplining? Too high and too screamy. Spelunking? Too suffocating to death-y. That left hiking. We could hike.

So with a shout of “ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE!” we headed toward Forbes State Park in Somerset with the goal of taking one of the longer trails up to the highest elevation in the state, Mt. Davis.

My sister Terri had spent a great deal of time recently watching survival reality shows and informed us that we would need to be prepared for bears. She said we would want to take precautions. Whistles. Bear repellent. Kung fu.

We couldn’t find any whistles because every mom in the world knows you don’t ever buy your kid a whistle. None of us even knew where to purchase bear repellent, if that’s a real thing. And the extent of our Kung fu was shouting “hi-ya!”

So instead we hit the trail with a free whistle app on my iPhone, pepper spray, two walking sticks, prayers, stones to smack together to make noise to let the bears know we were coming, and the plan to shout out “Hey, bear!” in regular intervals as Terri had seen contestants do on the survival shows.

Then our eldest sister Stacey told us of her friend who was actually mauled by a bear while on a hike. She managed to scare us just enough that we had conversations on the way to the park about how we would react should we encounter a bear. We all agreed that Tammy would pee her pants and Terri would freeze up like those fainting goats you see on YouTube.

fainting goat

We discussed which actress — or goat — would play us in the TV movie that would be made after they found our bodies in the woods.

Pulling up a map of the trails on Post-Gazette website showed us the newspaper had classified the trail as “Easy — until you see a big bear sitting in the trail up ahead.” Great.

Sufficiently 100% sure we would have a bear encounter, we set off into the trail.

“Hey, bear!”

“Heyyyyy, bear!”

[clacking of stones]

[whistle app sound] [whistle app sound]

“Hey, bearrrrr!”

We reached the fork in the trail that we believed would take us down the difficult trail because the easy trail was for sissy losers and we were empowered Katniss Everdeens if Katniss Everdeen carried pepper spray, a whistle app on her iPhone, and regularly shouted out “Hey, bear!” every 20 seconds like clockwork.

That trail we took down into an open rocky area ended up being a logging trail of some sort and we realized it after crawling through two sets of fallen trees and thousands of poison ivy plants while still shouting out “Hey, bear!”

After one and a half hours of being lost in the sun, we found our way back to that fork in the road and used GPS to realize we missed the turn to the difficult train way back at the beginning and would instead continue on the “easy” trail.

We were thankful to be walking in the shade of the tree canopy at this point, but at the same time, those trees could be hiding bears and we were more aware of it than ever.

“Hey, bear!”

I led the pack with Terri, both of us holding walking sticks. Both of us taking turns shouting “Hey, bear!” while behind us we could hear Marcia clacking her rocks together with an occasional “Hey, bear!” thrown in.

It was serene, save for the din of our scaredy pants caravan of middle-aged rock-clacking, whistling, “Hey, bear!”-shouting sissies.

We walked and chatted and laughed and “Hey, bear”-ed.

Then Terri hesitated. Stopped. Looked to her right into the forest. Her eyes became big and terrified. I don’t remember what words she used but I’m 90% sure they were, “WELL WE ARE GOING TO DIE NOW.”

I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t look where she was looking because why look at the shark’s teeth right before you feel them rip into your flesh? Instead, I grabbed my walking stick in both hands and held it straight out in front of my body like a dancing Fred Astaire holding a cane, and I literally high-knee-jogged back toward my three other sisters who were huddled together at a stop.

This is basically what I looked like but with terror on my face:

cane

I looked like the receptionist at the Ministry of Silly Walks.

I neared them, calling out, “Bear bear bear bear bear bear.” I didn’t care about Terri. I left her in my dust. I just needed to outrun her and let her try to outrun the bear. I would give a stirring eulogy about her bravery at her closed-casket funeral to make up for my selfishness.

Watching my approaching high-stepping, walking-stick hoisting self run toward her, Stacey looked scared while mouthing, “DON’T RUN. STOP RUNNING.” Which, screw that, lady. Fight or flight, baby, and this girl FLYS.

Marcia’s face was immediately ashen. She didn’t so much look like she saw a ghost as she looked like she WAS a ghost. She began frantically banging her stones together fast enough to light tinder on fire, while screaming, “Hey bear!” at the top of her lungs over and over again, like a horrible broken record.

Tammy may have been fumbling for the safety release on her pepper spray, filming a goodbye message to her children, or peeing. I didn’t check.

When I reached my sisters, I turned back to see that a goat would definitely be playing Terri in the movie.

fainting goat

She was frozen to the spot only steps from where she had been, now doubled over clutching her chest. But we saw no bear. She breathlessly said, “My chest is pounding and all my muscles are cramped up!”

“What did you see, goat?!?”

“A rustling.”

“ARE YOU KIDDING US, GOAT?! We are of the age where actual cardiac events could do us in and you freak out over a rustling!?”

Marcia, the hypochondriac of the group, voted we turn around and go back to the car in case the rustling was indeed a bear. She was overruled because ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE, KATNISS!

We marched on.

“Hey, bear!”

The trail turned right into a much more narrow, darker trail. We hesitated. I asked, “We have to go in THERE?”

images

We started in.

“Hey, bear!”

[clacking rocks]

“Hey, bearrrrr!”

The trail began to ascend steeply.

Up and up.

“Hey, bearrrrr!”

…..

The trail became rocky.

….

“Hey bear.”

“Hey.”

Up and up.

“Hey.”

Up.

[rock clack]

Up.

“Whoop.”

That’s right. We were so worn out from fear, getting lost in a sea of poison ivy, our bear scare, and ascending the steep trail, that we had turned into Brick from The Middle.

We couldn’t even muster “Hey, bear.” We were just letting out an occasional whoop, and I’m not sure if it was to let the bears know we were coming so they better scoot, or to let the bears know our exact location with pinpoint accuracy so they could come and put us out of our misery.

“Whoop.”

Up and up and up.

Silence.

“Woo.”

Marcia tossed her rocks to the ground.

When we finally reached the clearing where the observation tower stood, we were gross and sweaty and no longer caring about all the bugs we accidentally swallowed or that we were probably covered in poison ivy oil and would probably wake up in three days looking like burnt baked potatoes.

But this was it. The end.

More steps upward. Up and up we climbed to the top to find breathtaking 360 degree views from the highest point in Pennsylvania. We forgot about the bears, the trail, the hike, the bugs, the sun. We had done it. Eat your heart out, Katniss. We don’t need you to volunteer as tribute. We got this.

view

We descended the tower ready to head home and share with our sure-to-be-impressed husbands and children how we had conquered Mt. Davis with bravery and determination and only a very little bit of pants pee. We had sought adventure and found it and hear us roar!

Then we saw the sign at the head of a narrow trail that snaked deep into the woods again. “Parking Lot. One mile.”

Crap.

“Where are my rocks?”

“Who has the pepper spray?”

“Hey, bear!”

 





3 Comments

  1. bluzdude
    September 11, 2015 7:46 pm

    And this right here is why I miss your blog posts so much.



  2. Sheila
    September 12, 2015 7:36 am

    ditto bluzdude. I just sent to my 4 sisters & said this sounds like us! Especially the pants pee part. You should just write about your sisters that would be hysterical.