First, I need to provide some background to set the stage. Above our house near the garden, there are a set of cliffs about 20-30 feet tall. They are just below where we harvest chanterelle mushrooms, and the area is covered largely with shagbark hickory. On these cliffs, there is a completely flat rock shelf about 3' deep by 10' wide, backed by a sheer rock wall about 6' tall. It faces eastwards and thus is sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds, which can be particularly brutal in autumn and winter. It is a wonderful place to sit and look out and downwards into the forest. It is quiet, easily accessible, and just the right size to seat a couple of people on portable chairs. In fact, it is the absolutely perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine. Since discovering this place last winter, we have occasionally packed up a bottle of white wine, some glasses, and various antipasti, and along with a couple of folding chairs, headed up to the shelf to relax at the end of the day.
This past Saturday, we packed a bottle of Grgich Hills chardonnay, some chorizo and parmesan cheese, and some tuna salad made with Spanish tuna, chopped onions, dill pickles, and lettuce. Plus some crackers. These all went into an insulated carry bag, and we headed up the hill. We usually bring the dogs, but they are too restless to sit and relax, and thus are largely a nuisance. They stayed behind this time. Luckily.
The Eastern Black Bear generally stays away from people and roams widely over the mountains. They are not particularly dangerous to humans, unless you get between a sow and her cubs. Most often people see the back-side of the bear as it retreats into the forest. In the fight-or-flight spectrum, black bears run away rather than attack, whereas grizzly bears do the opposite. Black bears are medium sized, ranging between 150 and 500 lbs. The one we had met was probably 350-400 lbs.
(As a note, this has been a particularly good year in West Virginia for mast, especially hickory nuts, and we had a bumper crop. Bears, as you may know, eat about anything, and will gorge themselves when a particular food is ripe. It is common to see bear scat full of blackberry seeds in August, apple seeds in September, and full of crunched up nuts later in the fall.)