A 25-year-old Monmouth County hiker has been dubbed the "Calm Queen" by internet users after a video of her slowly walking away from a black bear on a Sussex County hiking trail went viral.
Julia Tupy of Eatontown was sitting on a lookout along "Stairway to Heaven" in Vernon when the bear came out of the woods, then went back in last Wednesday. Tupy and her three friends didn't think the animal would come out again.
But moments later, Tupy looked up, and her friend Joe Kun, 24, also of Eatontown, looked stiff, she said.
"I think we should move now," Kun said from behind the camera.
Kun's video was posted to Barstool Sports' Instagram page, where it had garnered more than 3.2 million views as of Sunday.
"The video shows that as long as you have the right reaction and stay calm, everyone can come out okay without any problems," Kun said.
Before they started the hike, Tupy, Kun and their two other friends joked that they should have a plan in place in case they encountered a bear. They didn't think they would -- the chances were so slim, they said.
"We knew there was a chance because we were going into wildlife," said Tupy, who grew up visiting Vietnam frequently, and has spent a siginificant amount of time on the north shore of Hawaii and in Puerto Rico.
"It's their home -- not ours."
And so, as the bear reemerged from the woods, Tupy and her friends -- also avid hikers -- knew exactly what to do, she said: Just stay calm.
"Bears tend to get startled if you start running," she explained. "Their instinct is to want to run after you."
With her back to the animal, Tupy had to swiftly decide if she was going to turn and face the animal, risking falling backwards down a rocky cliff, or remain calm with her back to the bear.
She chose the latter, moving slowly, quietly and calmly -- warning other approaching hikers on their way up.
"I was so scared," Tupy said. "We do go hiking a lot but I guess you don’t really realize what you’re capable of or how to handle things until you’re in the situation."
Kun suspects the bear may have been more used to seeing people, as the trails have been more populated with hikers since the coronavirus outbreak.
The incident has not deterred Tupy or Kun from hiking, they said. Instead, they are telling their story as a cautionary tale.
"We were educated," Tupy said, "and that just helped us so much."
"It was really rare," Kun added, "and shows as long as you have the right reaction and stay calm, everyone can come out ok without any problems."
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