we’re going on a bear hunt

We’re going on a bear hunt… I’m not afraid!

I’ve got good friends to come with me.

What do I see?

It’s the Thursday night before school starts, and just as we have for the past 7 years, we are going on a “bear hunt”.  What started as a spontaneous night walk one evening with some friends, has turned into a yearly back to school ritual for us. 

The town we live in has a “linear park”, a trail system that connects the parks, to be used for walking, running, bicycling, etc.  The trail runs along a creek, and cuts through some very wooded sections, really making you feel like you are out in a forest, not inside town.  Wild animals such as coyotes, raccoons, skunks, etc do live there, but no bears.  When we went on our first hunt, our children were still in preschool, and the lyrical chant, “going on a bear hunt”, was a staple in our song repertoire.   The first bear hunt was filled with clingy children, fearing every noise in the dark was a bear poised to attack.  We walked along slowly, taking time to stop and stare in awe at the night time creatures we encountered along the walk, such a glo worms, spiders working on webs that shimmered in the  flashlight’s beam, and lightening bugs that lit up the night, always in the tall grass just off the trail (where they weren’t allowed to go). 

We enjoyed it so much that we made an annual event out of it.  My brother-in-law even dressed in a bear costume one night, an amazing contribution considering how warm August summer nights can be.  As my kids have gotten older, it has lost a little of it’s magic for them.  My oldest no longer fear the bears, or any creatures in the forest.  This last year, my daughter and friends ran the entire trail, waiting for us at the park on the other end.  Some of the moms wait for us there, with cold drinks and our “bear trail mix”.  The kids play on the playground while we chat for a bit, before returning home via the trail.  It’s just under a four mile walk.  Each year we have recruited families with young children to join us, and it’s fun to see the excitement as they make their first “bear hunt”.  Not only are we offering the kids a chance to connect with nature during a time that they may not usually be outdoors, but when we finished, they are feeling that exhausted pride that comes from overcoming a challenge and facing our fears. 

Bear Trail Mix
1 box of each of the 3 flavors of Teddy Grahams, honey, chocolate and chocolate chip
1 bag pretzels
1 bag mini marshmallows
2 large bags of gummy bears

My Mommy Tips:
We have a standing rule, adults carry flashlights, kids carry glowsticks.  Since we adults are very outnumbered by the kids, who are running back and forth in the dark, this rule makes it easy to keep up with where the kids are, even if we can’t tell who it is.  Even from quite a distance back, it’s easy to tell if it’s an adult or child going off the trail.  Also, it’s a matter of comfort for the adults, because what is the first thing a child will do with a flashlight?  A- shine it in your face! 

Bears in Texas
According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, “Bears have been making a slow and natural return to Texas since 1984, when a black bear was observed in Big Bend National Park for the first time in nearly 50 years.”  Today, bears are returning to Texas, and being spotted as far as the Hill Country and in East Texas.   The East Texas Black Bear Taskforce offers land owners information on how to welcome and coexist with these returning Texas natives.