The Berkshires is made up largely of wilderness, farmland and some small towns dating back to the early 1700s. We stayed in the town of Savoy which doesn't have much other than a few buildings, a general store, and a campground. When we pulled into the campground and saw the warnings about bears, we knew we were in trouble but went ahead and pitched the tent anyway. This campground is huge and was only a quarter filled. We were one of the only visitors camping in a tent, the rest had campers.
The first few nights were uneventful other than some knuckleheads slamming their car doors in the middle of the night. On the fourth night, at about 2 a.m., I awoke to what sounded like the shredding of metal. I knew it was a bear. I wondered if it was tearing apart a camper. I started to contemplate what to do. My wife woke to the sound as well. The kids and the dog continued to sleep soundly.
We heard the bear go through one of those industrial garbage bins about 50 yards from out tent. Then quiet. Out of a tiny window in the back of the tent, my wife saw the bear walk by a picnic table in the adjacent campsite, about 15 yards from our tent. On all fours, the back of the bear was much taller than the picnic table. My wife was freaking out. I grabbed my iPhone and googled "What to do if a bear is in your campsite." I read all sorts of stuff about bear encounters. The thing that struck me the most was a passage that stated that folks injured by bears always acted passively. The website urged campers to be loud and fight the bear if it attacks. I grabbed my trusty aluminum bat... not that it would have done much against this monster but it made me feel like I could fight the thing, if necessary.
As the bear clanged away in the garbage bin, I decided we should follow the advice on the net and not act passively. I determined that we needed to flee the tent into the minivan and get the hell out of the campground. My wife agreed and we worked out a plan where I would race out of the tent, unlock the van, open the doors, go back to the tent and help everybody out and into the van. We woke up the kids. They were groggy and remained calm. The bear continued to clang in the garbage. I unzipped the tent door, with bat in hand, raced to the driver's door and unlocked the van. It was dark and I couldn't see the bear but I could hear him. I opened the passenger door of the van then went back to the tent and ushered everyone out and into the van. I zipped the tent door shut, hopped in the van, shut the door, started the car and drove away.
At 3:30 a.m., I drove south to the town of Pittsfield, one of the larger towns in the Berkshires with about 40,000 people. We located all the hotels on our GPS and the wife called them to see if they had rooms and accepted dogs. Many of the hotels didn't answer. The ones that did answer were either booked or didn't accept dogs. I stopped at one of the hotels that was booked up and the night clerk gave me a list of dog friendly hotels. Only one of the hotels answered our call -- Bob at the Shaker Mill Inn in West Stockbridge. Bob normally charges $200 a night, as is the norm for hotels in the Berkshires, but offered us a room for the morning at $100. He was booked up for the rest of the week. By the time we found our way to the Shaker Mill it was close to 5 a.m. Bob greeted us and kindly showed us to our room. The hotel is in a refurbished circa-1800's mill and only has six or seven rooms. It's a cool old place and our room was modern, bordering on luxurious.
We slept until about 10 a.m. and were on the road by 11 a.m. We backtracked up north to Williamstown where I had observed inexpensive lodging earlier in the week. We spent the next two nights in a little motel, not quite as nice as the Shaker Mill but the price was more in line with our budget. We waited a day to go back to the campground and grabbed our gear in the daylight. I saw a new camper across from our site. They were right next to the bear's garbage bin. I'm sure they had some interesting evenings.
Overall, we had a great trip and am glad that I didn't meet that bear face to face or he would have gotten a thumping (more likely I would have been a quick snack). It's nice to be home. I'm currently working on updating my 1962 Topps baseball binder for the Orland Park show on Saturday (August 11, 2012). Also slated for this weekend is Gonzaga on Sunday. I hope everyone has been having a good summer and I am looking forward to the shows this weekend!! No bears please!!!!