Being Rocked to Sleep by a Bear While Camping

Encounters with a Bear while CampingOne of the many camping trips my family took every summer was especially memorable. It’s not every time you encounter with a bear while camping.

Each time we would try various campgrounds all over Minnesota; the only prerequisite being that the sites we pitched our tent had to be within walking distance to a lake for fishing and swimming.

Encounters with a Bear while Camping at Potato Lake in Minnesota

After setting up camp late one afternoon at one of the Potato Lakes , (yes, there are a few named Potato Lake in Minnesota, “the Land of 10,000 Lakes”.  And yes, they’re all shaped like potatoes upon viewing a map – what lake doesn’t look like a potato?), we ate a quick dinner and hiked to the lake with our fishing poles to see if we could catch some “sunnies” and do some swimming before the sun went down.

Returning to camp, my sister Rachel (age 9) and I (age 10) raced ahead to the campsite leaving my dad, his girlfriend and my youngest sister Cindy (age 8 ) quite a ways behind. Upon arriving at the site we knew something was amiss. It looked like garbage had been strewn everywhere. And, in the fading light, we realized that we weren’t alone.

An Uninvited Guest

A bear, its outline barely visible, was attempting to drag our cooler into the woods. I turned to Rachel and said “Run!”

As I was dashing away, I realized she wasn’t following. She wasn’t even able to move! I grabbed her and attempted to drag her down the path, but she was completely in shock. By the time the rest of my family arrived, the bear was gone.  But not forgotten.

We cleaned up the debris, found the cooler and whatever food was left and put it in the back of the truck which had a topper. My sisters and I insisted on forgoing the tent for the night and dragged our sleeping bags into the topper-ed safety of the truck bed (where the cooler was now stowed).

Nighttime Hide and Seek

It wasn’t long into the night when we regretted or decision to sleep in the truck as it began rocking, back and forth. Apparently the bear had returned to claim his uneaten vittles. My sisters and I were mortified that we might be confused with the cooler contents. We began screaming; this awoke my short-tempered, Irish-German father who told us – the exact words I won’t repeat – to, “Hush, go to sleep and quit being so nervous about nothing.”

Usually, once my family set up camp, we would stay at the site for a few days.  But, for some reason, my dad was not happy with our camping situation at Potato Lake and we broke camp the next morning.


My sisters and I were still trying to convince my dad and his girlfriend that we had, indeed, had a late night visitor. But to no avail.

As we rounded a corner in the truck, the morning sun came glaring through the windshield, illuminating hundreds of large, individual paw prints. Everyone fell silent for a moment as the evidence was revealed. I quickly pointed in excitement and looked to my dad, saying, “SEE, I told you we were telling the truth!”

As I looked back at the windshield I saw the squirt of wiper fluid and the swing of the wiper blades erasing the evidence my sisters had been so happy to have been able to show him just seconds before.

“SEE, what?” my dad replied.

A good tip would be don’t leave any food in your tent, not even in a cooler. Otherwise you WILL have some uninvited visitors although their size may differ. It’s almost a guarantee something will find your food. Whether it be ants, other insects, Squirrels, Raccoons, Bears..the list goes on. Trust me you do not want encounters with a bear while camping. Don’t risk it! The best place for your food is in a cooler or some other type of container then stored in your car or bear box at your campsite.

Author: Christine Callanan

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