My Bear Encounters in Sequoia National Park (Part II)

In Part I, "Overcoming My Fear of Bears," you read about my extreme phobia of bears, a fear I’ve had since birth as the result of a past-life, unfortunately deadly encounter with a grizzly. It’s a fear I’ve worked on slowly over the years, preparation for my day of testing: If a bear suddenly emerged from the woods now, would I be able to stay calm and stay alive? Or would I scream? run? faint? vomit? die of heart failure on the spot? all of the above?
You learned about my bear-expert sister’s advice, about my reliving of the past-life death and how it related to my husband, Joseph, as well. You’ve heard me mention my use of the newest, most effective form of post-traumatic stress treatment presently known: energy psychology (acupressure tapping) techniques. And now you’re going to read what happened when the moment came, with pictures and video.
When Joseph proposed a trip to see the giant sequoias for a couple of days in November, it sounded like a beautiful destination. It only took me seconds to realize there’d likely be bears involved. We joked about this photo he snapped of my reaction:
This is when my energy tapping began in earnest.
I also honed in on my inner broadcasts, those messages of Light-energy that come from one’s highest sources and resources: one’s own higher self and the multitude of associated Light Beings who are available to a questing heart and aspiring soul. These combined resources have pulled me through challenges and dangers and potentially fatal incidents all my life. I knew intellectually that they wouldn’t fail me.
Yet my own physical courage fluttered and tremored, shaking me to the bone. So the energy tapping helped remove these physical echoes and symptoms, remnants from my past-life encounter. The rippling sine waves being recreated from the old energies of the past, which remained in the higher frequencies of my eternal energy-body, were resonating down into my present physical body. The energy-psychology tapping worked beautifully to calm my stomach and sooth my heartbeat, by retraining my body’s energy-response from fear to peaceful respect. (Links about this marvelous new psychology at the end of this story.)
I did the tapping routine several times, visualizing different elements of potential bear encounters each round, until we actually arrived late on a Thursday night, in the pitch dark, at KingsCanyonNational Park where we’d be staying in the John Muir Lodge.
The final visualization for my energy tapping? Getting from the car in the dark, deserted parking lot safely into the doors of the lodge with all of our gear, most especially with the bags of smelly food Joseph had packed! (I never would have put ripe bananas and homemade sausages in that car, believe me! But what can you say when the gourmet cook in the family wants to feed you so well?)
Every bit of signage and literature throughout both of the adjacent national parks stresses the need to keep human food from bears. If they get a taste of this sugary, high-calorie stuff, they never get over it. Especially right now, when their primary mission is to lay on fat for the long winter hibernation. They are eating machines, and nothing adds fat faster than sugar-saturated human food. (!!)
But the park management is also concerned about having to deal with troublesome bears year round. Those who become accustomed to human food lose their fear of the humans who bring it into the park. They steal food from packs laid on the ground to take a photograph. They break into cars. They get a little too aggressive when running in and out of stores in the central villages within the park, knocking over visitors and scaring the pants off bystanders with “bluff charges.” (Bear runs at you full speed, then stops about five feet away. Hopefully.)
In the past, they’ve had to kill bears who took this unfortunate pathway through life, and that’s a terrible task for park ranger. So it’s up to we humans to behave properly, store our food in provided metal bins in campgrounds, carry lunches in bear canisters, etc. And so on and so forth. I found nothing in this advice to calm my fears, but a lot more information to add to what I’ve learned from my fearless older sister, the bear tracker, author, and expert.
I saw not a single bear in my nervous dash from car to lodge doors, and the next morning we awoke to a spectacular woods dotted with ancient sequoias, the largest living things on earth. In the crisp November weather at 6600 feet, we appreciated every bit of warmth our good counselor (Linda Jo) had taught us to wear: neck gaiters and waterproof brimmed hats, Smartwool socks, waterproof foot gear. It didn’t rain or snow the first day as predicted, but the dense fog rolled in, obscuring trees late in the afternoon. And the next day, when it did snow despite predictions that it wouldn’t, we were amply dressed, dry, and comfortable.
But nothing could really comfort my uneasiness in the woods except my years of preparation for this moment, and Joseph’s mutual agreement to “keep a weather eye” on the woods around, above, and below (bears do climb trees, we’d been advised).
We planned, for my sake, to avoid any stand of trees that included oaks, since we knew bears would be feasting on their acorns. So our first outing was a relatively short trip away from the safety of our car to see the General Grant tree: tall as a 27-story building, wide enough for a three-lane freeway with a forty-foot diameter, the world’s second-largest living thing, discovered in 1862, dubbed The Nation’s Christmas Tree in 1956, and old enough not to care about any of that, at an estimated 1,650 years old.
Personally, I was grateful for every other soul who shared that trail with us that morning. But the first thing I saw out of the corner of my eye, less than five minutes down the trail, was a bear at some distance, standing among the massive trees on his hind legs to scope us out!
Okay, so most of you probably realize it's nothing more than a burned-out stump. But it was the first test and I passed! I didn’t scream, run, or panic. I simply sucked in my breath a little until I could look and determine that it was absolutely static and just a trick of perspective. But it didn’t do anything to improve my nervousness.
A little further up the trail, after gawking at unbelievably huge trees, we walked through the hollowed out Fallen Monarch, which hit the ground centuries ago but didn’t shatter. They speculate that the innards were consumed by fire long before it fell. It’s been used as a hotel, saloon, 32-horse stable, and private home for pioneers, woodcutters, and probably Native American summer residents. It was awesomely cool to walk through the inside of a tree!
Then Joseph  and I veered off the trail to explore a little stream emanating from a sequoia not fenced in; one we could touch and explore up close. I believe it was calledDelaware.
Nearby, we took pictures of the Vermont log. Can you believe the roots of these giants are no more than five feet deep? They survive many forest fires, and then, since the uphill sides collect the most brush, burn more on those sides, weaking that side of the tree over the years. When they crash, they plummet to the forest floor uphill! This tree was 246 feet tall, sixteen feet in diameter before it fell uphill in 1985. We could only see the bottom section; the rest was lying up over the rise.
While taking these pictures, Joseph remarked about a nuthatch chattering persistently in a tree somewhere high up above that slope. He merely said something like, “I’ve never heard a nuthatch make such a racket.” But when I wanted to linger and climb further up the hill to see the rest of the fallen giant, he gently urged me not to. I still didn’t get it. Finally he repeated, “That’s where the nuthatch is giving its warning.” Oh! Second test!
Our years in the foothills east of San Diego and a small wooded part of Michigan have trained us to listen to all forest-dwellers, seen and unseen. Among the seen residents, birds often announce large predators or other problems, and you can learn to decipher their meanings if you pay attention. I hadn’t been paying attention, but Joseph, who remembers every bird call as well as he remembers phrases of music, had read the message and didn’t want to alarm me until I was venturing exactly toward the area the bird warned against. I finally got it when Joseph at last used the words, “possibly a bear over the hill,” and we hastened back to the main trail toward General Grant.
That was Test Number Two. My heart may have beat a little faster, but I felt relatively safe. Warned. And guarded. But as we moved away from the spot, I remembered that I’d just stared right at a small area of another fallen log, on the other side of the Vermont Log, which had been clawed at, the fresh sawdust and shards falling onto the ground.
I’d had one of those thoughts that doesn’t arrive fully in your conscious awareness, one of those that slips by below the surface and you log it into your subconscious system just well enough to recall it later. Like when someone talks to you and you’re not listening, but you can play it back later in your mind when they say, “You’re not listening to me!” and you repeat their words, actually “hearing” them for the first time yourself. But of course you don’t admit that.
So I’d looked at the freshly crumbled wood and the thought ran under the surface of my consciousness, “A bear was clawing at it to get insects out of the wood, termites or something.” It didn’t alarm me enough to say loudly in my conscious mind, HEY! A BEAR WAS HERE! I just tucked it away in my subconscious, knowing it was a common sort of bear activity. And after we took heed of Joseph’s warnings, the sight of the log resurfaced visually in my mind and I told him about it as we moved expeditiously back to the main trail, thinking, Right. I knew that there’d been a bear in that spot. Wow. I wasn’t afraid!
We enjoyed the rest of the trail, took a little video, and still couldn’t capture the tremendousness of General Grant.
Many times I placed my hands on a tree and where I can usually sense the travelings of energy up and down a tree, this time I felt only a very deep and distant energy, slow-moving and totally disinterested in me. Already drawing down and inward for the season? Or simply too old to bother about the relative “insect” brushing against its countless layers of spongy bark? I’ll never know. But we did notice that these trees have Ent feet:
And aside from chattering birds, Joseph also tuned to the forest layer that had many Others flitting around us. If you’re a disbeliever, you can write that off to the books we were reading on the trip, where the Wildfolk are real enough and play important roles in the story, although invisible to most. Yes, we’d come to a perfect setting for reading the Deverry series by Katherine Kerr—so perfect that after we got home, I realized the cover artist for the volume I was reading had painted California sequoias into the scene! Serendipity? Or all a part of the cycle we’d entered, where I would face one of my greatest fears? I leave that for your personal pondering.
Can you see the spiral, vortical pattern the branches make as they weave up toward the top of the tree?

After lunch and about an hour before sunset, we decided we hadn’t had enough of the woods despite the fog and cold moving in rapidly from the west. So we headed back to the same area to pursue a trail that broke off from the parking lot in a different direction, called the North Loop Trail. When we arrived, the woods were starting to darken beneath the swirling fog and the parking lot was completely empty. Piles of old snow remained in the shady places, and we got out of the car to look over the banks into a deep ravine before we entered the trail. When we turned around, I stepped over a smashed green pile, thinking it must be from the trail horses (forgetting they’d been retired for the season) and noting subconsciously that it didn’t smell like horse manure—or anything at all, for that matter. It was Joseph who pointed out that it was bear scat.
I didn’t believe him. I went back to look, to see if something in the pile looked like dismantled bear food and all I saw were green things, little bits of weedy looking stuff.  It definitely did NOT look like horse manure. Apparently someone’s vehicle had run over it, but Joseph pointed out that bear scat was in little unsquished piles all around the area. He reminded me of something Linda Jo had said the week before: “People always ask the question, Do bears sh*t in the woods? The real answer is, No; bears sh*t on the trail!” A tracker’s truism. Something like pawing their big ugly noses and saying, “I was here, you silly humans.”
I still didn’t panic, for some strange reason. Yet I felt very uneasy being in such a deserted spot. This was a primary trail in the partially closed, winterizing park. Where was everybody else? Still, we gamely stepped past the vehicle barrier onto the marked trail and only got a few feet. I think I was still saying, “Don’t you think we should just go back?” and when Joseph said something in disagreement, I said without thinking, “Well, look over here—” and walked over to the edge of the trail, just above the ravine, where I could see the ground was marred. But I was completely shocked when I got there and sure enough, it was a bear’s paws that had marred the ground!
Using what I’d learned from my professional-tracker sister, I could see that he had broken through the quarter-inch wet surface crust and revealed the dry sandy dirt beneath. They were fresh tracks, not marred by a vehicle’s passing wheels this time. He’d climbed up out of the ravine and onto the trail.
How fresh, though? My limited skills could only tell me it hadn’t been long. Perhaps fresh from that morning, when we were walking the other trail just yards away and I saw the “standing bear” stump? Or—by now we’d noticed the squawking crows sounding the alarm in the ravine, not far at all from where we were standing.
Crows, we believe. Last time we heard this call in our suburban back yard, a few moments later a very unlikely little fox-predator came strutting toward where we sat enjoying an alfresco lunch, startling all of us! Except the crows, who’d already warned the neighborhood that a predator was on the move.
So, okay, no panic, but the crows convinced Joseph. I got back into the car in a big hurry, having refused to go further down that trail. Bear sign, recent, area deserted, crows sounding the alarm to show everyone where the bear was—I knew it was his time, not ours, and after all, it would be dark very soon and very fast, and a lot colder.
Now we both regret that we didn’t get photographs of these signs, but I couldn’t go back to do it, and I wasn’t about to urge Joseph to. He would have been willing, but I would have felt guilty sending him where I feared to tread! Just as we drove off, a ranger cruised through in his pickup truck, but we felt silly telling him we’d seen bear sign, so we didn’t flag him down. To him, it would have meant nothing. To me, it was Test Number Three: using knowledge to avoid unpleasant unexpected encounters on both sides—from the bear’s perspective and ours. We maintained our relative positions in life and all was well.
But I must admit, once I was inside the car, it was surprisingly exciting to finally see and recognize the signs of a real bear, above and beyond any old phobias. I healed a little bit more.
But by the time we drove to HumeLake (our consolation for not being able to walk the trail), my fears came back full force. After a long twisty drive in the rapidly falling dusk, we twirled around a narrow switchback and Joseph came to a sudden stop. Six mule deer moseyed across the road, posing as does are wont to do while he took pictures, taking their time on their way to the lake.
We arrived at the cold lakeside just before dark to find it deserted. The cars we’d passed coming back from the lake were long gone and it was just us, the wind in the trees blowing across the empty water, and a few ducks still fishing out in the middle. And a hungry grey squirrel we’d passed on the way in. But I was terrified.
Instincts and intellect combined told me that the few other tourists had left now and all the animals would naturally come to the water’s edge in the quiet dusk, including any bears in the area. To get to the water, Joseph quickly walked down a long, sloping bank and I followed reluctantly. Then he jumped off a little ledge of tree roots, strolling out across a sandy beach to take pictures, many yards from the car, parked above and behind us in an empty parking lot, with the woods beyond that. My mind began to race. If a bear came out of any of the woods surrounding the lake on his nightly trek to the water’s edge, he could easily be between us and the relative safety of the car before we spotted each other, and then both humans and bear would be trapped with few avenues for avoidance.
It just felt stupid to be where I was standing, and even worse to be where Joseph was. I felt as if we were the intruders and any unhappy encounters would be entirely our fault! I followed Joseph toward the water nervously, my voice rising in pitch when I couldn’t convince him that this was a bad idea, no, a terrible idea, and couldn’t we go now, pleeeeze, it’s getting dark and this isn’t safe and … you get the idea. Total panic. Which meant he wouldn’t listen to a word I said. Which only made me more panicky.
Test Number Four? I don’t know. We didn’t see any bears (probably heard my commotion), and after Joseph convinced me to apply some energy medicine tactics to quell my panic (panic helps no one), he agreed that we could go. Whew. A great relief. Energy Medicine works!
But Joseph had asked me to go against everything both my instincts and my intellect told me, and that will always be “wrong,” whether my fears were justified or not. That was my most frightened moment of the entire woodland adventure, and not a bear or bear sign in sight! I believe that if the situation arose again, I would still feel the same about it. But it wasn’t bears per se that I feared; it was human misjudgment.
The brief disagreement didn’t ruin our happy trip, thankfully, and after a lovely warm evening reading books by the lodge fireplace, the next day we set off in a wet snowstorm to drive the short distance to SequoiaNational Park and the General Sherman tree in the GiantForest. General Sherman is THE largest living thing in the world, so we didn’t want to miss it.

Along the way, we stopped at a lookout point. Since it was too foggy to see anything beyond the narrow roadway a hunch (or an inner prompting) sent me over to a bear-proof trash receptacle to inspect the patches of unmelted snow from the last storm. I didn’t stop to think consciously why I was doing it. But sure enough, bear prints! And that other local forest inhabitant, what I believe were cougar prints as well! (We’ll have to wait for confirmation from the tracking expert, who is busy tracking scorpions in Baja at the moment and out of computer reach.)
Test Number Five: I wasn’t even mildly frightened, only excited to have found the tracks and proud to recognize them. (Maybe because they were old?) The time we’d spent in the visitor’s center playing with the track-making blocks in the sand surely helped, although we’d seen cougar tracks before while hiking in San Diego.
Cougars are rarely seen in the Sequoia park, we’d been told, but of course we knew all the safety tips in case you did spot one—or more to the point, if she spotted you bending to tie a shoe.
Rise up, look scary, be noisy, never turn your back, never squat or bend, pick up small children, fight back if she pounces, etc.
Whereas with bears, for the record: don't make eye contact, move back slowly, don't run away, keep a few hundred yards between you, and don't attack unless you are definitely being attacked.
If it’s breaking into your car and you can’t scare it away from a distance … call the insurance company when you get home. :)
We stopped for lunch at the lovely but fogged-in Wuksachi Lodge, where I thought this was the only bear I'd see this trip:
Then we drove further in the dense fog to arrive at the GiantForest to seek out General Sherman.
Wet snow and bitter cold hanging in the trees made the walk a bit creepier. With the mists swirling around us and the snow falling on us in the darkening wood, we climbed up the trail behind the parking lot leading to the famous tree, Earth's largest living organism, only to be hit by a wall of stench. Ugh! Joseph teased that it was “bear poop,” but I knew it had a lot more to do with the human latrines nearby than bears. My earlier encounter had already told me that bear scat doesn’t smell so foul, so his big-brother teasing completely failed. Or did it?
Everything looked like a scene from a scary novel.
Then, at the edge of my right peripheral vision, behind a boulder on the slope above us and about four feet away, a sudden movement of black startled me! I jumped and scurried away from the movement to cling to Joseph’s side.
Oops. I ran! I failed Test Number Six!
It was only a black raven, flapping and flying away.
This frightened me even more. I’d failed the test! If it had been a bear, I would’ve run! Sigh. Such a strong instinct, to scuttle away from strange sudden movements and flashes of black. How would I survive a real bear encounter? I’d done all that tapping about, If I do see a bear, I will react calmly and intelligently and I won’t run. I suppose I could argue that if it had actually been a bear, I wouldn’t have run, but ravens and crows I hadn’t tapped. Hah. Pretty frail.
I was grateful that there were plenty of visitors joining us in the area, although I felt sorry that so many were freezing and unprepared. We traded snapshots of the famous tree with a couple of Navy guys who’d driven up on a whim, shivering in their sweatshirts.
General Sherman is not the tallest, or widest, or oldest tree on earth, but according to Wikipedia, “With a height of 83.8 metres (275 ft), a diameter of 7.7 metres (25 ft), an estimated bole volume of 1,487 cubic metres (52,513 cu ft), and an estimated age of 2,300 – 2,700 years, it is however among the tallest, widest and longest-lived of all trees on the planet.”
Further the hillside trail, I thought I saw another log freshly scraped by a bear, but human boot prints all around looked pretty guilty. Trying to see just how soft the sequoia wood really is? But we made it safely back to the parking lot and turned sadly for home. Hard to leave this incredible forest, bears or no bears.
By the time we were winding and turning our way down the slow trip back to the foothills and the San Joaquin valley, I was saying, “Now I’m disappointed I didn’t see a bear. I want to see one now, safe from the car, in that woods right there! Or down that slope!” We were driving south through more spectacular sequoias, white fir, incense cedar, and ponderosa and sugar pines, with steep dropoffs on the passenger side.
We sat for a while at a construction project, waiting twenty minutes for our turn through the narrow passage—now that’s scary! Shoring up a mountain road with nothing but thin air on the side you’re trying to widen. Yikes. I also felt for the poor workers out in the frosty-wet snowstorm, directing traffic when no snow had been predicted. In front of us were two touring bicyclists we kept running into, a young man and woman. They’d ridden down from British Columbia, on their way to “somewhere in Mexico.” Hardy souls!
We also kept running into a German wife and American husband who were taking their four-year-old son to see snow for the first time. We first heard this little boy speaking fluent German, and a little later he spoke to me in English with such clipped and educated tones that I was stunned for a moment. Lucky little soul; his mother said they speak only German at home so he’ll remain bilingual, and he’s clearly going to be a well-traveled individual. Of course he also volunteered to throw a snowball at me if he could find any snow. I told him not to take the paper bag of jelly he’d collected from the breakfast table out into the woods. “Why?” he asked immediately. Hm. I need more experience with super-smart children.
As we drove lower in altitude, the fog stayed above us and more of the trees became deciduous, beautiful in their autumn yellows.
We started noticing a fruit on a bare tree that looked very much like a pear. Wild pears? Never heard of them. “What is that?” we kept saying as Joseph maneuvered the 15-mph switchbacks.
The trees were everywhere. “That must be bear food for sure,” we said, fondly recalling a Bosc tree that grew at our back door in Michigan, which a particular fawn had chosen as his very own dessert supply, visiting us often. Finally, we came around a corner and I said, “Look—it’s a turnout! Pull over!” And Joseph did.
I was busy looking at the side of the road on my right, looking for pears, when Joseph saw why a lot of other people had also stopped in that spot. Bear, not pear!* The bicyclists soon joined us.
I was so happy to see that bear! I couldn’t believe it! My only moments of fear were when Joseph tried to get me to stand in front of our car for that picture with the bear in the background. Our headlights were on, so I thought the car was running, and we were parked at the end of a blind corner where any car traveling our direction could rear-end us and push the car into me.
You can watch the video of me passing Test Number Seven, and wonder with me over the forces in the universe that propelled us to the side of that road at exactly that time, in that precise location, at the very last opportunity to achieve my full healing.
But the poor bear! See how the bear trail leads straight down that slope to where the cars are parked across the road from us? Too close to him, in my opinion. He’d been working his way down that hillside, but they were blocking his path. So he merely ignored them and went on his busy way, trying to eat enough to keep himself (or herself) alive all winter. Thrilling to see, when all was said and done. Simply thrilling.
It was so awesome, I just kept exclaiming over it all the way down the foothills to the valley. The last fear-energy drained away through my eyes in healing tears of joy, excitement, happiness, gratitude, relief, and, well, simple healing. If you’ve ever experienced that kind of energy release, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, I hope you will someday.
And when I uploaded our videos to YouTube and saw the welter of bears-in-Sequoia videos, shot up close and personal, I didn't feel a single drop of fear or anxiety! That is a first in my entire life! (But if I'd seen those before the trip, yikes. I probably would have begged Joseph for an alternate destination. I'm so glad I didn't!) Now I can just enjoy those videos, and marvel that many of them were shot on some of the very ground we walked.
I can’t wait to go back! And thank you, Joseph, for choosing our vacation trip. You are the most incredibly patient, sensitive, tuned-in polarity companion a girl could want! A joy to travel with! And a stellar photographer and energy medicine practitioner to boot!
Thank you also to my Cosmic Co-Authors, with us every step of our journeys.
And to Thomas, the San Diego Highwayman, who gave us a good laugh, some tearful stories, and wonderful snow-chain instruction and tire advice before we left San Diego, a real gem we’re happy to have been guided to on the eve of our departure. Not surprising, since he works with some pretty powerful "Co-Authors" himself, rescuing strangers by the side of the road. (No doubt working out some past-life karma of his own, as the other kind of highwayman?)

But especially, thank you to the bear who gave me this ideal bear test! Not too close, not too scary, not too far from the safety of the car. I can't help thinking it was all arranged somehow. But that's a subject for another lengthy blog post!
* * * *
* Turns out those pear-looking things aren't pears at all. They're California Buckeye trees, and these are the seeds that cling long after the leaves drop in the dry California summer. They're "mildly toxic," the park's FB page says, so I'm guessing the bears know that.
Photo credits: Joseph Downey, Lianne Downey, and two friendly but freezing-cold Navy guys
Links for more info:
Speed Your Evolution: Become the Star Being You Are Meant to Be by Lianne Downey, a classroom-in-a-book about reincarnation and healing past-life traumas.

Cosmic Dancer by Lianne Downey, a fantasy novel about past-life healing Lonesome for Bears: A Woman's Journey in the Tracks of the Wilderness by Linda Jo Hunter Energy Medicine by Donna Eden and David Feinstein The EFT Manual by Gary Craig The Infinite Concept of Cosmic Creation by Ernest L. Norman, the ultimate textbook on reincarnation and all things interdimensional Daggerspell by Katherine Kerr (Book One, Deverry Series), another fantasy author writing about past lives and interdimensional science Links to Custom-fit snow chains and Thomas, the San Diego Highwayman