The following is a Facebook saga of what can happen when you don’t secure your food while hiking on The Colorado Trail. This happened to a hiker on The Colorado Trail in 2016. I was on the trail, and didn’t have a chance to participate in the discussion. You can think of this as the stick that broke the camel’s back. Shortly after this incident, the Forest Service issued a regulation that now requires food to be properly hung or in hard-sided bear canisters at this and other near-road campsites in the San Isabel and Pike National Forests. If we don’t start handling food properly, it won’t be long before we won’t be able to step on a trail without a hard-sided bear canister in tow.
Megan: I can’t believe I have a little phone service when I had none at Mt Princeton Hot Springs, but it’s 3am and I just woke up to the sound of my backpack and everything in it being stolen, here at Chalk Creek Trailhead. Luckily I had my wallet in my tent. My tent is too small for both me and my pack and I’ve had to leave it outside. It’s too dark for me to do any searching until dawn comes, and I’m going to call the sheriff if my morning search proves fruitless. I have reason to think it was a human and not an animal, but no proof, and I did make the mistake of leaving my food in my pack, but it was carried away, not dragged.
If there is anyone in the area who can help me out in the morning, it would be sorely appreciated.
This post elicited the following comments.
Kemery: Yikes! I’m in Denver so not much help, but stay safe! That’s awful!
Keith: I’m soooo sorry this happen to you. I hope they catch the thieves and you are able to continue your hike. Good Luck.
David: What is wrong with people? Who steals a backpack in the middle of the night? What is the world coming too? So sorry you have to go through this.
Anthony: I’m not sure of your situation but I am in Denver. I hiked the trail last year and still have my gear from then. If you need to borrow it in order to finish your thru-hike, let me know.
Barbara: I hope it was animal and not human. Wish we were closer to share as well.
Dean: Sounds bearish to me. Leave your food in a pack outside. Guess what!
Galen: So sorry. Hope it was a furry animal and not a human, but nothing would surprise me these days.
Bill: Are you in that camping area above the creek at the beginning of Segment 14?
Dean: A bear would just pick a pack up and walk off with it. Wouldn’t be drag marks. Very strong jaws. If you search a bit you’ll stand a good chance of finding tracks or what’s left of your pack. Hopefully it wasn’t a human thief.
Lorry: Oh no! Keep us posted. I’m so very sorry.
Brandon: Wow… If that wasn’t an animal the deepest pit in hell is reserved for that person. I would have been devastated. Pack = Life, on the trail.
Dean: If it was a bear it’s now potentially a dead bear. We turn bears into trash mongers through our careless actions and they pay the price. It’s a shame this happened but I feel sorry for the bear. Leaving a pack outside with food in it is asking for trouble.
Brandon: Yes, yes, I agree. If it was a bear then “that’s natures way”. The bear doesn’t deserve punishment. However, a person does. People suck. Animals don’t.
Matthew: I’m headed to gym I’ll come up and give u a ride wherever needed.
Lisa: I am Megan’s Mother. If someone from here sees her, please have her call home. Thanks in advance.
Andrew: I hope it’s not a backpacker, but if it is, and you aren’t close to a trailhead, I suspect another backpacker wouldn’t want to carry both packs so they might have abandoned any unwanted gear along the trail in either direction. So sorry you’re going through this.
Barbara: It was a bear.
Heather: I am so sorry Megan. I hope you are able to find your pack. What was the opinion of the sheriff’s department??
Mark: It was outside their jurisdiction. They don’t have handcuffs big enough for bears and they found that housing them with other prisoners caused other problems.
Heather: Lol. Mark, I take it she was able to determine it was a bear and not a crappy human!
Megan: I’m desperately hoping it was an animal, because if an animal dragged it off, I can find it. I’m safe, but very scared and angry.
Naturally, it turned out to be a bear.
Megan: Update: It did indeed turn out to be a bear. I am relieved that my pack was intact, if soaked, and deeply embarrassed that I let my guard down and abear got to my pack. Most people I’ve met on the trail have been very relaxed about their bear bagging and hanging, so I’ve let that affect my diligence in bear bagging as well. Talking with the locals tells me that there is at least one tagged bear in the neighborhood that gets into the trash bins. I am not sure what to do about the fact that I can’t fit my pack into my tent, but it is something that I will remedy as soon as I am able. There were two car campers in a campsite near me who were grilling hamburgers last night, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that had something to do with it.
Last night was definitely one of the most upsetting and frightening nights of my life thus far, this is my first real encounter with a bear, and I thank everyone for their words of support when I needed it most.
Yesterday my trail name was Pika, today it’s Bear Bait. Yikes.
Lisa: She’s back on!
Galen: Did she find the remains of her pack?
This unleashed a torrent of advice. Some good, and some not so much!
Adele: Hi Megan. Thanks for the update: lesson learned. But I beg you not to put your food in your tent. That could bring a bear into your tent, which could be far worse. Find a way to hang it or buy the Ursack.
Marty: Hang it in popular camping areas for sure. That’s where the problem bears are. I slept with mine in the backcountry 90% of the time though.
Megan: I didn’t even realize that it was a popular camping area until I got further up the trail.
Megan: But, trailhead just on the edge of a neighborhood….
Robin: Just assure yourself that we only haven black bears in Colorado. They only want your food and will not attack unless they believe that your young is in danger. I am so glad that all is well.
Robin: Or if they feel cornered. In Florida two people were mauled because the bears were surprised and felt they had no way out. This led to the new horrible black bear hunts in NW Florida.
Dean: Or you surprise them or they’re hurting or they just wake up in a bad mood one day. Bears are unpredictable animals. They are as individual in personality as we are.
Jeremy: Do your best to stealth camp in places that bears have not become habituated to.
Megan: Didn’t know until this morning that they were habituated to this campsite.
Megan: In fact, there was a sign about it about 100 yards up trail that I didn’t see because I didn’t go that far. Talk about Big Oops.
Robin: This is the Chalk Creek trailhead correct?
Robin: Thanks I have the same problem I would buy a 2 person if I had it to do over again just so the pack goes inside since even if you use the Ursack away from the tent the monsoons are still a problem.
Karla: Those of us who live in the San Juans know that hanging food is the safest way to go. I would never pull my pack into a tent, with or without food.
Brandon: Wow! Glad you’re safe at least! And now you have an awesome story!
Robin: Good to know we are headed into that trailhead planned on pitching close by.
Eleanor: Glad all is okay. Prayers for you as you continue on a wonderful adventure.
Paul: Never put smellables in your tent. Even car camping. A nylon wall is not gonna stop a squirrel or a bear. Hang them.
Samantha: Thanks for giving an opportunity to discuss this Megan, I have been meaning to post about this on here. Growing up with a healthy fear of bears and with strict habits of always hanging food, we were appalled at the behavior of CT hikers that we met.
Cristina: Thanks for giving all of us the opportunity to learn…I’ll be making extra sure to tie off my Ursack correctly (this’ll be my first time using one and having a hard time learning a double figure 8 knot). And agree with the above, you’re awesome!!
Jerry: Christina – The knot is actually very easy once you figure it out. It is a double overhand knot, which is just a granny with an extra loop.
Cristina: Thanks! I get the knot for closing the bag itself but they recommend a double figure 8 when tying it off to a tree… Any advice there?
Jim: You must have a small tent.
Megan: Small tent and a big pack. I was aiming for 35 lbs, and my pack ended up in the 45-55 range (depending on food and water). I managed to get it inside once during a thunderstorm and it was just so, so cramped.
Taylor: This story has motivated me to start hanging my food again.
David: I wouldn’t say I was appalled but I was definitely surprised at the amount of hikers who were sleeping with their food. It made me feel like a lone wolf for actually hanging my food up high every night. My justification was that if I heard any noises outside my tent, I felt much better knowing that my food was away from me. This has brought up a great reminder of what “could” happen, even if chances are slim.
Carol: Love my Ursack/Opsack combo. Glad you are safe and learned a valuable lesson and shared it.
Robin: We will be at Chalk Creek trail tomorrow. The real problem is every time this bear is successful at poaching food the more dangerous the situation becomes, particularly for the bear itself.
Amen to that!
My advice? Purchase an Ursack, watch the video and learn how to tie the knots, and use it religiously. For for the bear’s sake, if not for your own.