bear-op

BEAR ON THE OP

 
 
Today, I hiked down-mountain to the Humptulips
where I meant to reach a bank of sprawling rocks and sand
and slow eddies where I’d have a good view of game trails.
But I took the wrong path off the wrong road in the wrong drainage.
I didn’t recognize the error until I was overlooking the river—
such is the overgrown nature of the country
that one trail can look quite like another.
This was a tight clearing on stretch of fast water
where a creek cascaded deafeningly upstream.
Had I arrived providentially? Would a black bear
happen by me, rewarding my mistake?
I sat on the bank in the rain
with a tarp on my legs,
a rifle in my arms.
Water seeped in my jacket cuffs,
soaking my shirtsleeves.
Hunting in the Olympics
is like diving in a pool—
you’ll never come out dry.
Dawn turned to day and I
scrambled up the slope,
slipping in the mud, scraping through brambles,
my heart rate doubling, sweat seeping
into any clothing not already wet.
Why hunt on days like this?
Why hunt here at all?
I knew a man
who was lost two nights in these woods,
in this interminable downpour.
And it’s not like I’ve had much success,
not like animals keep bounding into my lap
and meat freezer.
But fall after fall after fall,
the Hump draws me back
like a salmon that just won’t die. 
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