When backpacking in bear country, it is important to hang all smelly things in a “bear bag” each night. This includes all food, trash, and personal care items. (Don’t worry, apparently even bears want nothing to do with sweaty, smelly, hiking socks and boots!)
In the past, hikers had to try to find the perfect tree…at least 200 feet from the tent with a branch 12 feet above the ground that is strong enough to hold all the items hanging at least 8 feet away from the tree trunk. Yeah, right. Not so easy to find in real life! (See more detailed instructions HERE, if interested.)
Because of the lack of perfect bear trees, most shelters and official campsites along the Appalachian Trail have installed “Bear Poles.” These metal trees have multiple hooks 12+ feet above the ground. The goal is to use the attached metal pole to lift the bear bag into the air and slide it onto one of the hooks. HAH!
I am hardly coordinated enough to do this at chest height where I can clearly see what I’m doing and where the weight of the bag is manageable. Trying to manage this feat with a heavy pole unbalanced by the weight of food bags becomes a comedy of missteps and errors.
I’ve decided these contraptions are actually “human torture devices.” Better yet, they are probably secret “candid camera” set-ups for the entertainment of bears.
Yep, I can hear that young black bear snickering right now, and I’m sure granddaddy bear is guffawing at my pathetic attempts to master the seemingly simple “bear pole.” Wish me luck, folks, I think Yogi is about to have a picnic with my food!
(Note one: these photos are not representative. They were taken at the shortest bear pole we have seen so far. Many posts are more than 12 feet high!)
(Note two: it is stacking the deck against me to have to reverse this process in the morning BEFORE I can get my hands on breakfast and morning caffeine…)
(UPDATE: we found an option for carrying our food that does NOT need to be strung high in the air! We are MUCH happier campers now… Read about it HERE.)