The Bear Tree

By Lindsey Faith Hoyt

Photo by Dreamstime

When I was a teenager, my parents, twin sister Laura and I lived in a 100-year-old, remodeled ranch house on 40 acres of rolling hills at the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. The drive home from town took an hour on a long, winding road through the mountains. The four of us saw lots of wildlife, especially on evening drives. Creatures always seemed to appear in those twilight hours.

Most people get anxious when they see animals dart onto the road, but we loved it. We spied everything from raccoons and bands of coyotes to red foxes and bobcats. Once, we even spotted a mountain lion. I remember one late summer night vividly. We had turned onto the last stretch of road, four miles of gravel that led up to our house, but we had yet to see any animals.

Knowing how disappointed we were not to have spied an animal, dad prayed out loud, "Father, we ask that you would bless us with a sight of Your creation, Amen."

As he prayed, I silently added my own request to see another mountain lion.

From our less-than-ideal vantage point in the backseat, Laura and I huddled together with our eyes fixed on the illuminated portion of the road. As we wound our way through forest and field, however, we did not spy a single solitary creature.

Odd, I thought, we’ve always seen something by now.

Then, as our gray car rounded a bend, I spotted a dark figure to our right.

“What’s that?” I asked, leaning forward to point at the rounded shape outlined in the ominous darkness.
“It looks like a big bear!” Laura chimed in excitedly.

Our parents started to chuckle as the bear shape morphed into an old oak log, and Laura and I sat back in disappointment.

Now we were halfway up the gravel drive lined with the darkened silhouette of oak and pine trees, and I tried to concentrate on looking for animals. My eyes felt weary of staring and I wondered if God would answer our prayer that night.

We rounded another long bend in the road. Then another. Still nothing. Climbing up a short hill, we could see the roof of our two-story white home.

Then, less than a quarter mile from home, Mom gasped, "Look, girls! Black bears!"

In a tall, shaggy pine tree on the lefthand side of the road, three furry faces looked down at us. Laura and I sat speechless. She and I turned to each other, our jaws dropped in awe.

It was three bear cubs.

Dad stopped the car in the middle of the road, and we sat with our headlights on bright about 20 feet from the base of that lodgepole pine. The cubs were one-fourth of the way up the tree and looked a little bewildered as they peered out at us. We sat and stared at the three cubs for a couple of minutes. Bears usually have two cubs in a litter, so seeing three felt especially remarkable.

At one point, Dad peered over the steering wheel to look for the mother bear. As far as we could tell in the pitch black around us, mama bear wasn’t nearby. Just three cubs who now seemed anxious to move out of the limelight.

Finally, dad put our car into drive and we continued on. We talked about the bear cubs the rest of the drive home. A neighboring rancher had told my dad that bears occasionally roamed the area, but we had never seen any before. We definitely did not expect to see triplet cubs.

That night as we pulled in front of the house, my dad remarked on how God loves to bless us, and how that bear sighting was another reminder of God’s faithfulness. We never saw bears again, but every time we see that tall, shaggy pine tree, it reminds us that God answered our simple prayer.