Located off Hwy 276 in the Pisgah National Forest near the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pink Beds is generally considered to be a picnic area. Visitors to this valley named after the pink tinted rhododendron, azalea, and mountain laurel blossoms that bloom there every spring can sit at one of twenty-one picnic tables spread around a grassy field. However, the Pink Bed loop hiking trail is a must see for all day hikers. The 3-5 mile trail (trying to confirm that length) circumvents the picnic area and provides a close view of the natural flora and fauna in this region, wildlife, and in the spring, Swamp Pinks, which are now listed on the Federal Endangered species list.
We arrived at 11:00 a.m. To our surprise, only four cars sat in the parking lot. Five minutes after our arrival, a man and three young boys popped off the trail and headed to one of those vehicles. We made preparations to go hiking at our car while they unloaded from theirs, but a few minutes later, one of the young 'uns headed toward us. When he reached us, he handed us a business card. Seems his father is a wildlife photographer and his kid is his PR guy :o)
I took the card because I can't stand to upset kids (there's your marketing ploy folks!) and as I read it, the father calmly told us he saw a bear on the trail. I looked up. A bear? In the woods? One thought immediately came to mind. And if you forgot, grab your copy of Bill Bryson's, A Walk Through the Woods and turn to page 17. I'll wait.....
Ready? Here we go:
"So let us imagine that a bear does go for us out in the wilds. What are we to do?....A grizzly may chew on a limp form (playing dead) for a minute...With black bears...playing dead is futile, since they will continue chewing on you until you are past caring..."
Mr Bryson proceeds to dispense advice that he read before he hiked a portion of the AT, such as: make a lot of noise if you think a bear is near. However, on page 18 he adds that this tactic may actually provoke a bear. He then relates a grizzly story (no pun intended) about two young men who were mauled by a black bear when the boys got too close to her cubs.
Oh, did I forget to mention the bear on the Pink Beds trail had a few cubs with her? And there we were--the Buffaloes. On a Trail. With a Bear.
Yes, I had hoped to see a bear at some point before we left the SC Upstate. I thought it would be cool. But hike with a bear? Not something I wanted to do but let's face it, we take this risk every time we go into the woods. The only difference now was that we knew such a creature actually existed. So we proceeded with caution, ready to make a lot of noise.
This was our first visit to Pink Beds, so I didn't know what to expect. Well, I did expect it to be wetter than it was, but the ground was dry. I don't know if that's common for this time of year, or if the drought is to blame. I assume the latter. I enjoyed the walk, though. The trail was surprisingly level, and while hazards such as roots and rocks existed in the path, we found short, wooden bridges over what I guessed were once boggy areas. We enjoyed the solitude, the trees, the variety of plants and ferns growing everywhere. What bothered us--me--was the cow bell ringing in the distance.
"Do they put bells on bears?" I asked my husband, showing my city roots. He laughed (guys, always a bad move.) But the bell sounded as if it were growing closer, and after awhile I saw hubby sneak a peek over his shoulder.
We passed an older couple who appeared to be unperturbed. We asked if they'd seen a bear. They shook their head but increased their pace. We continued on, enjoying the foliage along the shady trail. Then we came upon another hiker and his dog.
While poochy stopped at my husband's feet to worship him, my husband asked the man if he'd spotted a bear. The guy said no, but someone reported a sighting to him. We continued on for three more minutes, then we turned around, unwilling to chance a run-in.
We had a good time despite the bear scare, and definitely intend to go back to finish the loop and perhaps have a picnic lunch.
For more information on the trail at Pink Beds, go to Pink Beds Best Hike.
And because I hate to disappoint kids, here's the link to the dad's wildlife gallery: http://www.pricewildlifegallery.com/
I hope the kid works on commission.