My take on Tim Treadwell-
By Ralph Maughan
Few stories on this web page gain more readers than those about Tim Treadwell’s death, and that of his girlfriend Amie Huguenard.
In the great scheme of things, the death of two people isn’t much. It’s the way they died. People are fascinated and horrified, but not satisfied. They want to know more because they are hungry—not for flesh, but hungry for the unusual. Their appetite will be satisfied when the story is digested in the juices of their own life experiences and their prejudices. Not many people get eaten by wild animals anymore, so talking about it, writing about it, and watching a documentary is a feast.
Maker of “Grizzly Man,” Werner Hertzog is little different than the rest of us except he has the knack of telling about the unusual in a visually compelling way.
I draw on my experiences as a life long explorer of Western wilderness areas. The best wilderness is where the scenery is magnificent, where human presence is distant, and where death in a violent but unusual fashion is a real, if still unlikely possibility. Death not by cancer, death not in dementia, death not by vehicle accident, death not by mugging, but death instead by a slip, a mistake, a failure to read natural dangers. Most unusual in our overpopulated world is death by what we see as our lessers—big animals.
An unfound body would be best. The saddest thing about the grizzly that ate Treadwell and Huguenard was that it was found, killed, and worse, their partially digested remains were mostly recovered. Would it have been their abandoned camp found and nothing else.
Country with grizzlies has a special tingle. Unlike Treadwell you don’t have see them. I try not to. “Hey bear” I shout when I approach a patch of willows. I don’t camp on bear trails. I carry pepper spray.
I remember every detail of my four close encounters with grizzlies. Only one was truly dangerous. Alone on Hellroaring Slopes in Yellowstone, I crested a rise. About 75-100 feet away was a sow with her two cubs digging for rodents. Their backs were toward me and I was standing next to the only tree in the meadow. Fortunately, it was a Douglas fir with branches like stair steps, which I immediately climbed. So quickly she was just below me. I must have climbed 40 feet and waited, not able to see her, let alone her eyes, for all the foliage. A couple hours later I came down and looked in all directions before I continued along the Yellowstone River.
It’s hard to get people to hike or backpack with you in grizzly country. I want to thank my friends who have, especially my wife Jackie and my friend Lee Mercer, whose ashes now flow down the Greybull and reside in the elk taken by the Greybull Pack and in the bears in this high country.
Mostly I am by myself. This kind of wilderness journey stirs the body and mind. Dark thoughts about the pillagers of the Earth are common when you are out of range of the politicians, preachers, and advertisers. It’s good not to have a video with sound when I think of these purveyors of fakery in the world of hyperreality. Unfortunately, Treadwell had a video his last several years, and Herzog edited it.
I don’t know if there were poachers near Treadwell’s summer home, or if he was just basking in the sun and rain. How real was the story of his past? I don’t know. Did he “get what he deserved” as his antagonists proclaim? After thirteen glorious summers doing pretty much “everything wrong” I’d say “yes he did!” Twelve out of thirteen ain’t bad!
Of Annie Huguenard, I can’t say. But my experience is that outdoors women are as brave, probably more than men, and they are wise enough not to push things.
Before feasting on all the wonderful video Treadwell shot over the years, ethically speaking, Herzog should have been required to camp alone among the bears for a week. Then he would have some status to tell us what he saw in a grizzly’s eyes.
Copyright © Ralph Maughan