Tuesday, July 6, 1999

The Log Trough Canyon Bear

July 6, 1999 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

High in the eastern portion of the Superstition Wilderness there is a place called Reavis Valley. One of the tributaries of Reavis Creek is Log Trough Canyon. The timber in the bottom of this canyon is so dense that, in some places, it is difficult to ride a horse between the trees. For years I have been told there were wolves, lions, bears and wild cattle in this country. I have seen my share of mule deer, whitetails, coyotes and other animals, but never a bear or a wolf. So, I was somewhat convinced there [were] no bears or wolves in this country.

One summer I spent about a month at the Reavis Ranch. During that time, I rode out of the ranch in just about every direction looking at everything I could find. I found several archaeological sites, unusual plants and even towering cliffs. South of the ranch I found large dense stands of Ponderosa pine. It was in this area that I located Log Trough Canyon one day and decided to explore it.

Getting into Log Trough Canyon from Reavis Creek is no easy task. As I threaded my horses through the dense timber I finally broke into a clearing and found something that looked like a trail. Once Duke, my dog, found the trail, we were on our way to an adventure I will never forget.

Some of the Ponderosa pines in that canyon were at least two feet thick and some were easily four feet in diameter. There was an area where large pines had been blown down making it almost impossible to get through. You could also see where heavy snowfall had broken young saplings. The furthest thing from my mind as I rode up this canyon was any immediate danger. Ahead of me lay a small valley flat that was somewhat cleared of dense undergrowth, and Ponderosa pines towered around the area. I reined Crow in and decided to step down for a few minutes.

As I prepared to get back on Crow, I could tell he was all of a sudden very jumpy and nervous. And Duke wasn’t barking… just whining. Somewhere in the brush ahead of me I heard the noise of small limbs cracking and breaking. The first thing that came to mind was a deer. Soon I realized the animal, or whatever it was, did not seem to be fleeing. As I strained to get a good look of what was up ahead, I heard a roar behind me.

Crow took a jump straight up, and turned in the air. I grabbed the saddle horn and hung on for dear life. Hanging on to the saddle horn with my feet still on the ground, Crow spun to face a black bear sow. She was mad and on the prod. I couldn’t figure out what had infuriated her. Duke took after her like a real hero, distracting her momentarily. She snarled at him and took a swing with her paw and Duke was making an exit in another direction.

I was certain the bear was going to attack. Somebody had told me years ago don’t try to climb a tree with a black bear on your trail because they can climb a tree faster than you can run. The bear was rapidly closing the distance between us.

I let go of Crow and grabbed the first limb I could reach and started climbing, knowing I was making a mistake. Once I was in the tree the sow bear ignored me and headed back to the brush where the original racket came from. As I looked over the brush I saw the problem. She had two young cubs, and had charged us to protect her babies. As she wandered off in another direction I slowly climbed down out of the tree with my adrenaline flowing high. I found Crow and [led] him back down [the] canyon a short distance and remounted. I found Duke down the canyon another hundred yards. He wanted no part of an angry sow bear with two cubs.

Yes, there are occasional bears in the Superstition Wilderness south of the Reavis Ranch, and I can bear witness to this.

Now that the incident is over I can look back and say Duke was brave in the beginning and it certainly gave me enough time to let go of Crow and climb a tree. As I rode back down Log Trough Canyon toward the Reavis Creek and the Reavis Ranch I thought of the story [of] when Elisha Reavis, the Hermit of Superstition Mountain, who ran into a bear with cubs and decided to not shoot her because the cubs needed their mother. Reavis lived in this valley from 1874-1896. He was one of the finest rifle shots in the territory in those days. It was another one of those wonderful life adventures.

Yes indeed, “Yesterday’s bravado is tomorrow’s memories.”