Andrew, Age 12, Inver Grove Heights, MN
It was a bright sunny morning and my nine-year-old sister Brooke and I were out in the woods on a walk along our path. My sister was skipping down the path putting small pretty flowers in her hair. I, however, came looking for animal tracks, scrapes, rubs, and deer horns. I am really interested in this kind of stuff, but I also like to walk with my little sister. We walk down this path a lot. My sister and I also both love nature and looking at trees, tracks, and different little flowers. However, we hardly ever see animals on our path, which I think is kind of weird.

“Jason, I love our path and walking in the woods,” said Brooke. She looked at me and smiled. She thought that I might just love the woods, but she also thought, I like that he talks to me and spends time with me.

As my sister and I walked, we went deeper and deeper into the woods, so I said, “Hey, Brooke, maybe we should head back.” Before she could answer, we heard a grunt and a rustle come from a batch of huge pines. A huge black bear emerged from behind the pines, growling. It stared at us with its big brown eyes and I saw it moving toward us. I grabbed my sister’s hand and turned to run. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the bear starting to run towards us. I yelled, “Run!” I could hear Brooke’s shrieking. We ran hard, and I could hear thrashing and thumps from behind us. I felt brush and twigs hitting my face like whips cutting my skin. We had to keep running, but I was worried my sister wouldn’t be able to keep up this pace much longer, so I had to find a place away from the bear. As I ran, I looked down and finally I saw a stream and a patch of thick woods. I headed toward it hoping he wouldn’t want to follow us through the stream.

“I’m not sure how much longer I can keep this up. Jason, I’m scared!” gasped Brooke.
I thought they were both getting tired. “We just need to get across the stream, Brooke,” I shouted.

We raced into the stream and waded across as fast as we could. The icy water stung like rubber bands being snapped against our legs. After we dragged ourselves from the stream, I glanced back to see the bear had slowed to a walk and did not appear to want to get in the water. We dove into the thick brush and kept running. Brooke tripped and I felt her hand being ripped from my grasp. I felt panic and franticly reached for her hand, dragging her in my panic. She got up, we hid behind a tree. I still heard the thudding, but it was my heart beating so hard I felt like it would pop out of my chest. The bear was gone.

Hopefully the bear was still way back by the stream. I looked around, and I noticed it was dark out. I had no idea where we were. I looked at my sister, and she looked tired and scared. Brooke had tears in her eyes that flowed down her face. She looked hysterical and I knew she needed me to say something. But I didn’t know what to say. I had to come up with a plan, but first we needed rest. I saw a small cave on the hill. We walked over, stepped inside, and dropped down in exhaustion. Brooke squeezed in next to me and wrapped her arms around my waist. I could hear her crying. The last thing I remember was looking at the cold damp dark ceiling of the cave and feeling darkness closing in around me.

The next morning I woke to the feeling of warmth on my face as sunlight seeped into the cave. Brooke was still sleeping, so I figured I would go look for something to eat and see if it was safe outside the cave. As I walked around I could smell the pine trees and the damp dirt smell of the forest. For some reason, the smell of the forest was calming as the sun warmed me like a mother’s hug. I saw a blueberry bush. I walked over and examined them carefully to make sure they weren’t poisonous. “Yup, these are blueberries.” I thought, good thing I studied berry types in the Boy Scouts as I filled my hands with them.

I walked back to the cave trying to figure out where we were. Brooke was still sleeping. I gently tapped her on the shoulder, and she woke up with a start. I smiled at her and reassured her that she was safe. After I gave her some berries, she quietly ate them. The whole meal was eaten in silence and I wondered what she was thinking.

“What are we going to do?” asked Brooke.

I did not know what to do yet, but I had to give her an answer.

“I mean Mom and Dad will look for us right?” asked Brooke.

“Absolutely,” I said.

However, I worried that they would not check out here for us for because we were so far away from the flags that mark our path, and they told us never to leave the path.
We both sat there quietly waiting for the other to talk until I said, “Maybe we should just start walking back the way we came.”

“What about the bear?” asked Brooke.

“We’ll just have to figure that out,” I said.

“Didn’t you used to shoot bow and arrow?”

“Yeah, so what?” I said.

“Can you make a bow and arrow?” asked Brooke.

I thought about it because it wasn’t that bad of an idea. “Wait, even if I could make a bow, the best I would be able to kill would be a rabbit or a squirrel, not a humongous bear.” We both sat there quietly until I said, “Come on, let’s just start walking.” So we did.

Once we made it to the stream, I climbed a tree to check and make sure that the bear was nowhere in sight. I grabbed the top branch and slipped my foot between two branches to get a good view. All I could see was the sun shining bright and the green of the forest. I guessed that it was afternoon, so we’d slept for a long time. At first, all I could see was green, but out the corner of my eye I could see a small bit of orange that was part of our path.

”Brooke, I can see our path,” I said.

I climbed down the tree and told Brooke, ”I saw our path, so we should go that way.”

“Did you see the bear?”

“No, it’s gone, but we have to be very careful. Let’s go. It’s only about a mile away and we could be there by the end of the day”.

After we started walking, Brooke and I were absolutely silent. Brooke and I were so uneasy we were jumping at every small sound, thinking it would be the bear. The shining leaves in the forest felt like eyes watching us. I usually love watching the branches move, but every movement felt like the forest was angry and closing in on us. It took a long time because we were going so slowly, but we finally made it to the path. It was maybe 4:00 and was starting to get dark again.

”Brooke, we have to be careful because this is where the bear attacked last time,” I whispered. Again we started jumping at everything hoping the bear wouldn’t attack if it was here. We were about ¾ of the way down the path, and I started feeling a little bit safer since the bear attacked farther down last time. We picked up our pace and soon we could see the end of the path and our house in the distance. Suddenly, I heard a rustle and a low growl from the bushes behind us. I didn’t hesitate. I grabbed my sister’s hand and ran wildly. Everything was a blur, but I just kept running, half dragging my sister behind me. I listened to the sound of the bear behind me. We were almost there. I could just see my house, but I could feel the bear right behind us. Suddenly, I saw two large black lumps in the path. I jumped over them as I yelled for Brooke to do the same. I couldn’t hear the pounding of the bear’s paws against the ground. Once we made it off the path, I turned and looked to see where the bear was and I realized it had stopped by the black lumps. It was licking the black lumps. I was gasping for breath as I stopped and realized the black lumps were balls of fur. They were her cubs, and I realized she was just trying to protect her cubs.

I told Brooke to turn and look, but when she did the bear stood on its hind legs and let out a ferocious growl. We turned and ran to the house like our feet were on fire. Mom and Dad were waiting for us in the living room with a police offer standing next to them. They didn’t even ask what happened as they grabbed us. Mom was crying and so was Brooke. I was so glad that we were home. Although I don’t think my sister and I will ever be the same way again, I wouldn’t change what happened or what we learned. I see why the bear attacked. It is survival and we must all learn this.
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