A Bear in our Car, Oh My!

June 2, 2018

We were Gatlinburg bound and couldn’t be more excited as we hadn’t been to the Smoky Mountains since the summer of 2008! We rented a chalet in the Chalet Village on the Ski Mountain area of Gatlinburg. Little did we know what a harrowing drive it would be up to the chalet or that we would have a surprise visitor greet us!

We arrived in Gatlinburg in the afternoon and decided we would go to the chalet to unpack then head into town for dinner. We had been driving in the mountains the last few hours but the mile and half up the to the chalet from downtown was very different. I’m not sure how to describe it other than narrow roads that were very steep, with big drop offs, some on curves, some with no guardrails, and several hairpin turns!  It was crazy! I’m not always a good passenger, but I can say for sure the first time driving up this stretch of the mountain, I was a horrible passenger! It downright scared me, and I know I didn’t help my husband any because I was gasping and telling him to move away from edge, etc.  My stomach was in knots and I wanted to close my eyes, but I couldn’t because I had to see where we were going. My husband didn’t care for the drive either. I could tell because he was firmly holding the steering wheel with both hands as he drove. Thankfully, we made it up to the chalet without incident! As a matter of fact, we made it down and back up every day with no incident! I’m sure this drive is NOTHING to those that are used to it, but I was ready to get back to my flat Florida roads, ha!

Now, let me tell you about our surprise visitor. When we arrived at the chalet, the plan was to go open the door, turn off the alarm, and check out the chalet then we’d come back out and bring in all our luggage. We decided to grab a few things to carry in with us. My husband retrieved the bag of wet clothes and towels from the hotel the night before, so he could put them out on the deck to dry. That bag was in the back of our vehicle. I grabbed a few things from the front where I was sitting. Our teen boys, naturally, didn’t grab anything, lol.

We get inside, and my husband proceeded to the deck. The boys immediately went downstairs to check out the game room. I simply dropped what I had in hand and decided to get a jump-start on unloading the car. I walk out the front door of the chalet and I immediately see movement at the back of our car, which my husband left open! (Not sure what he was thinking or maybe he wasn’t thinking)  Well, you guessed it, it was a bear! The bear was standing up at the back of the car and as I walked outside, he was climbing into the car!  I yelled to the guys inside, “Bear!!!” They heard me yelling but it didn’t quite register what I was saying at first. I remember reading about what to do if you see a bear in the wild and so the first thing I did was start to yell at the bear.  “Get out of my car bear!”  At this time, my husband and boys came out.  The bear was not listening, and we didn’t know what to do, so we ran back inside the chalet and closed the door behind us. We watched out the window and thought about what we were going to do next. During this time, the bear climbed out of the car and walked around to the passenger side.

You are not going to believe what happened next! The bear used his paw and opened up the passenger side door! He climbed over to the back seat and started to ravage through stuff to see what he could find. Oh no! When we came in we didn’t think to grab the sack full of snacks in the back seat. The bear of course helped himself to some snacks. He also climbed back into the front passenger seat and he not only finished off my husband’s half-eaten bag of trail mix, he ate the entire bag of unopened trail mix (we found one of the empty bags later). We were not happy at all about this bear being in our car. I was worried he was going to tear up the seats!

My husband and I decided to go back out and see if we could get the bear out of the vehicle long enough to shut the car doors and lock it.  We stood side by side to make ourselves look bigger and we yelled at the bear together.  Nothing.  The bear stayed in the car. Then we hear this snorting sound, as if the bear was giving us a warning to back off. The bear exited the car all of a sudden. We thought our yelling worked, but we were wrong. He charged towards us, not afraid of us at all. In fact, I think he was mad at us because we were getting between him and his conquest of food.  Survival mode intact, we ran for the chalet and closed the door behind us. We watched through the windows to see what would happen next.

My brave husband decided to go back outside while the bear was still in the vehicle. He stayed close to the door in case he had to come back in quickly. He wanted to be prepared if the bear came out of the car, so he could shut the doors.  I think at one point he was able to shut the back door (trunk area) while the bear was still in the car.  Of course, our boys and I were worried about him out there. Finally, when the bear gave up, he walked across the road to a grassy area and my husband was able to shut the passenger door and lock the car with the fob. The bear looked our way and had a bag of Chex Mix in his mouth, for the road, lol.

Well, guess what, the ordeal wasn’t over yet. The bear came back across the road toward our car. I guess he didn’t get enough food! We watched out the chalet windows to see what would happen. He walked around to the driver side of our vehicle, stood up, and used his paw in an attempt to open the door! I couldn’t believe my eyes! What a smart bear.  We were laughing, partly because we were relieved he wasn’t in our car anymore, partly from the adrenaline, and partly because it was just so unbelievable what we were viewing. Finally, he realized he wasn’t getting back in and he hit the road.

We were all ready to go down to town and get some dinner as we were hungry after a long drive.  However, we were afraid to leave the chalet. At the time, we didn’t know what to expect. Was this the norm? Do bears just come up to cars? Cabins? People? We thought about how we were going to get to the car. We needed a plan. We needed something that would make a loud noise to scare the bear away if he came back. I went to the kitchen and found a pot and a big spoon. This was our plan … when it looked clear, we would exit together. I would lock the chalet door, while my husband opened the car and we’d all run to the car, get in and lock the doors behind us. I had the pot and spoon in hand just in case.

We did it! We made it to the car safely.  My husband started the car and we took a sigh of relief.  (Note before leaving, we did have to clean the seats, the bear had muddy paws … at least that’s all he left behind!) As we made the scary drive back down the mountain to town, we talked about what just happened and what we to do about it.  We found a place to park in town and decided where to eat.  As we were walking down the street, we couldn’t stop discussing what happened. We decided we needed to report this incident because the bear was not afraid of us at all.  What if it happened again?  My husband looked up the phone number for TWRA. Unfortunately, because it was the weekend, they were closed. So, he called the non-emergency number for the police in town. The guy he talked to basically told us if something happens again to call 911.  Great … just great.  During dinner, I decided to text the owner of the chalet to tell her what happened and see if she had any suggestions. I accidentally texted the cleaning lady instead, so I didn’t hear back naturally.

After dinner, we just wanted to go back to the chalet, no more adventures for the day. First of all, we didn’t want to make that terrifying drive back up in the dark and secondly, we were tired and a little bit crazed after the incident and we were ready to get back to relax … possibly a soak in the hot tub would help.  We made the drive back up the mountain, pulled in front, and surveyed the area. Looked clear. With pot and spoon in hand, we ran to the chalet door and made our way in safely.  Phew!

The rest of the evening was fine, though it took a while to unwind. All I kept thinking about was what we would do if this happens again. The next day I heard from the owner and she said this has never happened at their chalet.  They see bears go by often, but one has never explored someone’s vehicle, so she was genuinely surprised. She seemed to think we’d be fine the rest of the week. She just recommended making sure there was no food in the vehicle and we kept all the doors locked. We made sure to do both of those things the remainder of the week and she was right, all was fine.  We did see a bear one morning while driving down to go to breakfast, but he moved out of the road into someone’s drive and another night while eating dinner at the chalet, we saw an entire bear family walk by the chalet in the road, one by one. That was pretty cool to see!

Looking back now as this happened over a month ago, I think, how funny! At the time, I really didn’t feel that way. Between the mountain driving and the bears, I was ready to head back to Florida. However, I must say, this part of Tennessee is truly beautiful, and we really enjoyed our visit there. This was our second time to the area and I’m sure it won’t be our last! (I just won’t stay that high on the mountain next time, lol).  Here are some photos of the bear incident and a couple of our view from the chalet.

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Not a great photo, but this is the bear in our passenger seat, see the ear?

It was hard to get good photos through the window but you can see how he was standing up and attempting to open the car doors (this was after we locked it).

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The name of our Chalet was Cloudy Dreams, such a fitting name, breathtaking view!

13 thoughts on “A Bear in our Car, Oh My!

    1. There were a lot of bears this year. Someone else in that area also has a bear get in their car. They didn’t leave door open or have food in there, but their doors were unlocked. The bear opened the door and got in. Also, there were news stories last month of a bear on Ripleys movie theater roof and two that walked though town in the middle of day around tons of people. Just crazy!

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    1. Yea it was a bit surprising but we found out after he trip it was happening to others in that area as well. Sometimes people leave out trash, so they are essentially feeding them and then they want more and get aggressive about it, not good. I’m just glad Bear didn’t tear up my car and we didn’t have any issues after that.

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