I went camping the other day, only to find out — after I’d returned home — that a black bear and her cub were spotted in the campground. We were lucky not to have crossed paths, but believe it or not, that would not have been my first close encounter with a black bear.

This brings us to a segment I like to call “That one time my mom thought I was mauled by a bear, and why I will owe her for the rest of my life.”

It all started when I was in Steamboat Springs, Colo., for a writing retreat. The authors and I were out to dinner in a place that resembled a Park City resort, but I had stepped out of the restaurant and onto the pavilion to take a call from my mom.

The sun had just set, so it was, in the very literal sense of the word, dusk.

My mom and I were discussing plans for a family trip to Washington, when something caught my eye on the mountain.

It was bigger than a dog, but smaller than a megalodon (which is an extinct shark that had an average size of 10.5 meters, #themoreyouknow) and it was black and hairy and running straight down the north face of the mountain and heading right toward me.

I commented to my mom.

“Something’s coming toward me.”

Her: “What’s coming toward you?”

Me: “It’s black... and it’s bigger than a dog.”

Her: “But is it bigger than a megalodon?”


Her: “Are you OK? What is it?”

Me (finally realizing what it was): “It’s a black bear. A black bear. A black bear! Heading straight for me!”

Her: “Can you run away?”

But there was nowhere to run. The restaurant was too far away. There was no other shelter.

I thought fast to my bear attack training (which consisted of a short Google search when I was doing background for a scene in my latest book).

The top three internet tips were:

  1. Try to appear larger than you are.
  2. Try to hold perfectly still.
  3. Try not to act like food (i.e., don’t run).

In light of these tips, I put my arms out and acted really really big. I also hung up on my mom, so I could hold perfectly still. And I meditated on what I would look like if I didn’t look like a Big Mac.

Thankfully, the bear ran right past me (I felt the breeze of his hair) and dove into a large blue dumpster at the back of the parking lot. Apparently, he thought that the dumpster held more appeal than I did. (Settle down, ex-boyfriends. Nobody wants to hear how you already suspected as much.)

At that point, several of the restaurant patrons, having seen the whole thing happen, came pouring out and the next few minutes were spent getting pictures of the bear in the dumpster.

Do you want to know how long a few minutes can seem? Ask my mom, who spent that time thinking I’d been attacked by a black bear.

When I finally called her back, I was laughing.

“You’ll never guess the craziest thing that just happened,” I said. “The bear ran straight past me!”

I heard a heavy sigh of relief, and then the click of my phone letting me know that my mom had hung up on me.

Apparently she thought that getting pictures of a bear should be my second priority, just under letting her know I wasn’t dead.

And if you don’t believe me about the bear, here’s a grainy picture. It’s grainy, because fear.

(Photo courtesy of Brodi Ashton) This black bear ran past Brodi Ashton, getting so close that she felt the air shift as it ran by. It went to a dumpster and started looking for food.

Brodi Ashton is a New York Times best-selling author who lives in the Salt Lake City area. She’s also an occasional columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.