Beware The Desert Bear Sticker

The story of our first night camping in our truck camper and how we met our first desert bear.

Beware The Desert Bear Sticker

It feels like Val and I have been overlanding in our truck camper for forever. But it’s actually only been five years since we picked up our Hallmark Guanella and headed out for our first truck camping trip. It was a warm sunny spring afternoon as we headed across still snowy Colorado into the desert and red rocks of Utah. We decided to explore some new places on our trip and wanted to test out the Hallmark on some new terrain, learning about traveling with a truck camper. And we sure learned something that day. We learned to beware the desert bear.

I remember turning off the Utah highway onto a dirt road heading towards a landscape of sand and stone. I remember feeling the anxious excitement of trying something new. I remember Val spotting as I drove our rig across a river, our first water crossing in the truck camper, and worrying it would be too heavy. I remember slowly crawling over rocks not yet knowing about airing down tires. We drove 30 miles of dirt that day, stopping here and there for a photo or a short hike to explore our new surroundings. After a long day of traveling and exploring, we made camp in a small clearing of juniper bushes. A perfect dispersed campsite to celebrate our first day in the truck camper.

We quickly set up, opening the roof latches and raising the camper top. We set up our tiny home, toasting victory beers as we started cooking chicken fajitas. I remember feeling a sense of relief and accomplishment at our dream of having a truck camper turning into a reality. I felt light and at ease. One of the things Val and I love about our truck camper is the many windows that let in the light and help us stay connected with the surroundings where we’re camping. One that first night in the camper, all the windows were open letting in the glorious evening sun and juniper-scented air. And through those junipers, I saw a large black animal in the distance. And it was coming straight towards us.

I frozen. I remember thinking “Oh no, it’s a bear”. But I couldn’t seem to form those words. I just started out the window not moving or uttering a sound. Val noticed my odd behavior and asked me what was going on. But I was still frozen, freaking out inside. “What do we do? Should we put the top down? The bear spray is in the truck!” I was still panicking and the bear was still moving closer. At some point, I managed to start communicating with Val that a bear was heading right towards us and that I didn’t know what to do. And then the bear got close enough to see it in all its fearsome detail. And I saw that it was a black cow. Three black cows in fact.

The cows continued meandering among the juniper, turning to give us a curious look before passing by and disappearing it the shrubs. That was my first encounter with the desert bear but certainly not my last. After having traveled hundreds of miles of dirt roads and dispersed campsites I now know that cows are ubiquitous in the Western United States. Most public land has cows grazing on it. In fact, I often joke that you’re not really out there unless you’re out there beyond the cows and cow paddies they leave behind.

In honor of these desert beasts, this month’s Storied Sticker is Beware The Desert Bear, a reminder of our frequent traveling companions found out there in the middle of nowhere.

See you out there,