This summer, it seems one of the two bookclubs I belong to has accidentally fallen upon a theme: hiking the Appalachian Trail and encounters with animals (specifically – bears). So far we have read Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King. Take a look at any of these books, especially the last one – and you’ll find a story about hiking in the woods and fearing attack from an unfriendly source who will do more than just raid your picnic basket.
Sure, I thought the fear these characters felt was valid – but in some ways I thought it might be exaggerated – exacerbated if you will – by the strain of the trail and the loneliness of the woods. Even after reading Bryson’s chilling re-telling of how a young boy scout was ripped apart by a bear who smelled an errant Snickers bar – I thought it was a remote, unlikely thing – something to feel horror for, but not to truly fear.
Then, just days after finishing King’s novel about a young girl who gets lost in the woods and is stalked and nearly killed by a bear – I read a story in the paper about an old friend from high school. Kathryn Evans (or Katie LaPlante, as I knew her back in high school) was killed on June 28th. She had been mauled by a bear.
If you want more details you can find them here, I do not wish to get into them myself.
Katie and I were the same age, and I am shocked to think her life has been cut short like this. I admit, though we were buddies in high school – we went our own ways and I had not seen or even thought of Katie in years. Reading of her death, however – images of her bright blue eyes and big smile flashed in my mind, and I could clearly recall some of our funnier conversations. One moment in particular is as clear as if it happened this afternoon, and I can hear her voice and her laugh as we whiled away the lunch hour in the Commons area of our school.
To all of Katie’s family – God Bless, I am very sorry for your loss.