Read an Excerpt
The Growling Bear Mystery
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Charles Tang
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 1997 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
On Top of the World
The four Alden children posed for a picture in front of a log sign. The sign was tall, even taller than Henry, the oldest of the children.
The youngest Alden, six-year-old Benny, sandwiched himself between his two older sisters, Jessie and Violet. He smiled for his grandfather's camera. "Cheese and crackers," Benny said, breaking into a grin.
"Hold those smiles," Mr. Alden called out. "I just ran out of film. Stay for a minute while I reload."
Jessie said to Henry, Violet, and Benny, "Let's move aside so these other tourists can take pictures in front of the sign, too."
Benny asked Jessie, "Why does everybody stop here to get pictures taken?"
Jessie was always full of information. "Well, Benny," she began, "we're standing on the Continental Divide. It runs along the top of the Rocky Mountains. On one side of the Divide, streams and rivers flow west to the Pacific Ocean. On the other side, they go east toward the Atlantic Ocean. The Continental Divide is famous. That's why people have their pictures taken here."
Benny squinted at the log sign. "I get it. If I pour my water bottle out right here, half the water will go one way, and the other half will go the other way."
"Why don't you try it and find out," Henry suggested.
Benny poured his water bottle onto the dry ground. "Hey, all my water disappeared into the ground!" he complained. "Which ocean would I go to if I rolled down this mountain?"
"I wouldn't try that, Benny," Violet said. "This mountain is pretty steep. My ears have been popping ever since we got off the plane."
Mr. Alden noticed that Benny was getting restless. He knew his grandson always wanted to get wherever they were going. "Hang on, Benny. We'll be in Yellowstone National Park shortly. Mrs. McGregor said she wants us to bring back plenty of snapshots from our trip. Let's stretch our legs a bit until it's our turn for pictures again."
The Aldens strolled to the edge of the lookout where they were parked. In front of them, the Rocky Mountains stretched in every direction.
Violet took a deep breath of air. "I love the smell of all these trees. I never saw such tall, skinny ones before."
Benny wanted to be walking through the trees, not sniffing them. "I wish we could try out our new hiking boots right now on this big mountain."
Henry gave Benny a friendly punch in the arm. "No chance of that. There's a chain across the trail. See the sign?"
"Lost Cabin Trails Closed," Benny said, proud that he could read every word.
Mr. Alden came over to see what Benny was talking about. "What do you know! This is the end of a trail I hiked with my own grandfather when I visited Yellowstone as a boy. We never made it this far, though. I wonder why the trails are closed."
"Maybe they're not." Henry pointed down the dirt path. "Look below. There's a backpacker climbing up this way. See? He's wearing a bright orange hat."
The Aldens peeked over the edge to see who Henry was talking about.
Mr. Alden removed his sunglasses to get a better look. "I'd like to have a chat with the fellow and find out what's going on with these trails. I'd give anything to go down a ways. I wonder if we're anywhere near the famous lost cabin."
Violet was curious, too. "What lost cabin, Grandfather?"
"Well, Violet, years ago, when I was about your age, I heard all kinds of stories about some California gold miners," said Grandfather. "They got stuck in Yellowstone because of an early snowstorm and had to spend the winter here. The story goes that they built a log hut for themselves, but no one ever found it. There were all sorts of tales about how they may have left behind a bag of gold nuggets."
The children wanted to know more, but Mr. Alden had nothing else to share. "Maybe that hiker knows about the lost cabin," Benny whispered when the man finally reached the lookout area.
"Did you ever find the cabin, Grandfather?" Violet asked.
"I'm afraid not," Mr. Alden answered in a disappointed voice. "We never had the right maps or enough time. But looking for it was a fine summer adventure. Maybe this hiker can tell us something."
The Aldens greeted the man in the orange hat with friendly smiles.
The hiker seemed annoyed by the attention. "Tourists all over the place!" he muttered when he saw the children with their grandfather. He grew even grumpier when he had to squeeze by them to get to his truck. "This isn't a shopping mall, you know," he said to no one in particular.
Mr. Alden heard this but spoke to the man anyway. "How do you do, sir? I notice you just came up from one of the Lost Cabin Trails. But there's a sign saying they're closed. Do you have any idea why?"
The man stared at Mr. Alden, then turned away without answering.
"Sir! Sir!" Mr. Alden continued. "I'm just curious. You see, I hiked some of these trails when I was a boy. I'm hoping my grandchildren here can do the same. Is there a problem?"
This time the man stopped. "Bears everywhere," he said.
Benny shivered at the thought of bears. "But what about the lost cabin?" he asked. "The one with the gold in it."
For a few seconds, the man was silent. Finally he spoke directly to Benny. "Never was any such thing as a lost cabin. Just a lot of silly stories and fool hikers looking for something that never existed."
With that, the man threw his backpack into his pickup truck and drove off.
"That's strange," Henry said. "If the trails are closed, why was he was hiking on them? He said there were bears, but he was hiking alone, something hikers should never do around Yellowstone."
"And he wasn't wearing any bear bells, either," Jessie added. "The guidebooks say it's a good idea for hikers to wear bells or make a lot of noise to keep bears away. Bears don't like noise."
Mr. Alden put his hat back on. "That's good advice, Jessie. Well, this isn't where the Lost Cabin Trails start anyway. The trailhead is inside Yellowstone."
Benny looked disappointed. "But that hiker says there wasn't any cabin or anything."
Mr. Alden patted Benny's head. "That's one man's opinion. Some of the rest of us have a different one."
"Right," Benny said, perking up again. "They couldn't call the trails Lost Cabin Trails if there wasn't a lost cabin, right?"
Mr. Alden smiled. "Good point, Benny. Now, everyone, line up again. I'll get a picture for Mrs. McGregor."
The four children scurried back to the big log sign.
"Say cheese and crackers," Mr. Alden teased.
"Cheese and crackers," everyone said.
"And bears," Benny added, shivering just a little.
Mr. Alden snapped several pictures, then waved Benny over. "Okay, okay. Now we really can go, Benny. Hop in the car."
"Grandfather, do you really think there are any bears in Yellowstone National Park?" Benny asked.
"I don't think there are bears in Yellowstone, Benny, I know there are," Mr. Alden answered as he drove up and up the twisting mountain road. "When I was a young boy trout fishing out here, I saw a grizzly bear or two. And plenty of moose and elk and buffalo, too. You'll see some wild animals in Yellowstone, no doubt about it. But bears don't usually bother people in groups, especially noisy people. So I don't think you'll have a bear problem, Benny!"
Benny's eyes were round and bright. "Look! There's a sign that says 'Watch Out for Buffalo.' I'm watching, but I don't see any. Where are they?"
Mr. Alden chuckled. "Be patient. We're not in Yellowstone National Park just yet. First we have to stop off in the little town up ahead. It's the last good place to stock up on our hiking and fishing supplies."
"And bear bells," Benny added. "We can't forget those."CHAPTER 2
Too Many Questions
The Aldens' car climbed even higher into the mountains leading to Yellowstone National Park. The road was narrow now, and traffic moved slowly.
"Are we almost there?" Benny asked when the Aldens' rented car got slowed down behind a big trailer.
"Not yet," Mr. Alden answered. "Just one last stop for gas and last-minute supplies. There's a general store in this town that you won't want to miss."
"If they have lunch there, then I know I won't want to miss it!" Benny said.
The Aldens were used to hearing about Benny's appetite. No matter where he traveled or how much food the Aldens' housekeeper, Mrs. McGregor, sent along, Benny was always thinking about the next meal.
"Elkhorn's General Store hasn't changed a bit," Mr. Alden said when he spotted a large log building near the Yellowstone gates.
Mr. Alden pulled up to an old-fashioned gas pump. "Except for these gas prices, everything looks almost the same as when I was a boy. We'll get gas here."
"What I need is one of those famous ice-cream sodas you told us about, Grandfather," Benny announced.
Jessie began reading from the back of an old postcard Grandfather had given her:
"Before entering Yellowstone, be sure to stop for an ice-cream soda at Elkhorn's famous soda fountain built in 1912. Many tourists travel miles out of their way to visit this old- fashioned general store with its tiled soda fountain and swivel stools."
Inside, Elkhorn's was filled with tourists. Hikers were trying on hiking boots and backpacks. Other visitors were checking out fly-fishing rods.
Henry and Benny stood in front of a display of handy pocketknives.
A friendly white-haired man behind the counter looked at Benny. "Where are you boys going hiking?"
Benny's head barely reached the top of the counter. "How did you know we were going hiking?"
The older man's tanned, leathery face crinkled just a bit when he saw Benny waiting for an answer. "I noticed your brand-new hiking boots. And I see you have a water bottle hanging from your backpack. That's a good pack for a hike, young man. Do you need any supplies to put in it? You never want to go hiking in Yellowstone without a few things—a trail guide, a rain poncho, water, some bear bells, and—"
"Food!" Benny cried out.
"Exactly right," the man behind the counter said. "I recommend trail mix. It fills you up, and it gives you energy, too. I can make up a special batch for you."
The man stepped from behind the counter. He waved the children over to a row of bins, each one filled with nuts, dried fruit, or small candies. "Grab a bag, and I'll scoop in a few days' worth of trail mix. By the way, I'm Oz Elkhorn. I was practically born in Yellowstone National Park. Now tell me who you folks are and where you're from."
Jessie answered first. "We're the Aldens. This is my younger sister, Violet. She's ten. We're only two years apart. This is Benny, who just turned six. And that's Henry, our fourteen-year-old brother. We're from Greenfield, back east."
The man put down the scoop for a minute. "Alden? Greenfield? Hmmm. I had a boyhood friend named Jimmy Alden, younger than I am. Used to come out here with his grandfather every summer for the trout fishing. We lost touch, but I'm pretty sure he was from Greenfield. Any relation of yours?"
Benny nearly dropped his bag of trail mix. "Our grandfather's name is Alden, too! And he lives in Greenfield! And ... and ..." Benny gulped some air. "And he used to come here trout fishing, and he saw grizzly bears! Only his name isn't Jimmy. It's James."
The children heard a person clearing his throat behind them. "Did I just hear my name?" Mr. Alden asked.
"Why, Jimmy Alden!" Mr. Elkhorn said, holding out his right hand. "You're white on top like me, but I know you just like yesterday."
Mr. Alden shook the older man's hand. "Ozzie Elkhorn?" he asked finally.
Mr. Elkhorn broke into a grin. "One and the same. Only I haven't been called Ozzie for quite a few years."
"And I haven't been called Jimmy since I was a boy."
"Those were good summer days, Jimmy," Oz Elkhorn said.
"The best," Mr. Alden agreed. "I've brought my four grandchildren out here so they can have some good summer days, too. They're going to do some hiking while I go fishing. My grandchildren know all about the woods."
"We used to live in a boxcar in the woods after our parents died," Violet told Oz Elkhorn in a soft voice. "Then Grandfather found us. Now we live with him in a real house."
"But we still like the outdoors," Henry added.
"You'll get plenty of outdoors in Yellowstone," Oz Elkhorn told the children. "But first I want to outfit you with everything you need."
Benny tugged Mr. Alden's arm. "I need lunch," he whispered.
Mr. Alden laughed. "All the way through Wyoming, I told my children about this store, Oz, and your famous soda fountain. Can you still get a grilled cheese sandwich and an ice- cream soda?"
Mr. Elkhorn waved everyone to the other side of the store. "You sure can, but not for a quarter anymore."
The Aldens followed Oz to a long marble counter that stretched out before a long mirror. Old-fashioned ice-cream dishes and colored plates filled the shelves next to the mirror.
"You haven't changed much in all these years," Mr. Alden told Oz.
In no time, Oz set down five foamy chocolate ice-cream sodas in front of the Aldens. "These haven't changed, either. Give me five minutes, and you'll have grilled cheese sandwiches to go with your sodas. Now let's catch up on the last fifty years."
The Aldens finished lunch quickly. Then Mr. Alden checked his watch. "I could sit here all day talking to you, Oz, but I see how busy you are. And it's time for us to get started on our vacation."
Oz removed his white apron. "Before you leave, I want to show you Aldens some beautiful new flies I made for trout fishing," he said. "With the store so busy, I don't get much of a chance to tie many flies anymore. Still, I'd like to give you a couple of new ones I just finished. Follow me to the back of the store."
Benny looked up at Oz. "You keep flies in the back of the store? Why don't you shoo them out or try to smack them with a fly swatter?"
Oz grinned. "See these?" He pointed into a drawer under the counter in back of the store. "These are handmade flies. They look like real flies, don't they? The trout think so, anyway. We just tie them to the end of our fishing line. Then all we have to do is hope that the fish bite. The better the fly the better the fishing."
Benny laughed. "Now I get it," he said. "They're pretend flies, not real ones."
Violet was even more interested in Oz's handmade flies than Benny was. "They're so beautiful and realistic. I can't believe you made these."
"If you get a rainy day on your vacation," Oz told Violet, "I'll teach you how to tie flies."
After giving Mr. Alden two of the flies as a present, Oz unlocked another drawer. "Here's something else that might interest you," he told the Aldens. He unrolled a yellowed sheet of paper. "It's an old hand-drawn trapper's map my granddad kept under lock and key until he died. Remember, Jimmy how he used to bring you and your grandfather up to the Lost Cabin Trails, but he'd never let anybody see this map?"
Mr. Alden put on his reading glasses. "He drove my grandfather wild holding onto that map. Did anything special turn up after you finally got to see it?"
Oz laughed. "Believe it or not, I just got my hands on it. Granddad left a lot of old things to my cousin, who left them to me after he died last year. Lo and behold, Granddad's old trapper map was mixed in with some of my cousin's papers. I haven't had a minute to check out some of the places on the map, not even the lost cabin. See this arrow? It shows the area where the cabin might be. Some of my old guidebooks show the trails. But, far as I know, this is the only map that shows any sign of that old miner's hut."
Mr. Alden and Oz bent over the map. They couldn't stop talking about their boyhood hikes searching for the old cabin.
"You know, by the looks of this map, your grandfather steered us away from the lost cabin," Mr. Alden said. "The cabin seems to be toward the far end of the trails on a different branch."
Oz smiled. "Granddad had a lot of secrets. He knew about places in Yellowstone only wild animals have seen. Anyway, as far as I know, he never found the cabin, either. Otherwise, he might've died a rich man instead of a store owner."
"Tell you what," Oz said to the Aldens. "Not too many folks hike the Lost Cabin Trails anymore. They're not shown in most of the new guidebooks. How about if I make you Aldens a copy so you can go exploring? Maybe on my day off we can all go searching for the lost cabin together."
Benny looked up at Oz. "Know what?" he asked. "We met a man who said there's no cabin. He was hiking all by himself with no bear bells, either."
"Was he, now?" Oz said. "Well, I'd wonder how much a fellow hiking alone would know about lost cabins and such. Just because nobody's ever found it doesn't mean it isn't there."
Benny's face lit up when he heard this. "I bet we can find it. We have brand-new hiking boots and your map and lots of trail mix. And we're going to get bear bells, too!"
"Then you're in good shape for the Lost Cabin Trails," Oz said.
"There is one thing," Mr. Alden began. "I stopped to take a few pictures of my grandchildren in front of the Continental Divide sign—you know the one? Anyway, while we were looking around, we saw a sign that said the Lost Cabin Trails were closed."
"Nonsense!" Oz Elkhorn cried. "Parts of the trails need work—fallen-down trees and such. You just climb over them."
Excerpted from The Growling Bear Mystery by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Charles Tang. Copyright © 1997 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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