Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fear factor

Domestic dogs
Crazy people

That's my list of greatest fears when running/biking. Notice that bears are number one. I've lived around bears all of my life, and I know all of the things that you're supposed to do when you come across one, but for some reason I'm terrified of them. What, then, could be scarier for me than coming face to face with a black bear in the middle of the woods at sunset?

Coming face to face with four black bears in the middle of the woods at sunset.

That was the scenario I found myself in yesterday as I enjoyed my second bike ride of the year.

It was a perfect day with temperatures in the lower 70s and lots of sun, and because it would have been a crime not to, a friend and I took our bikes to the trail for a ride after work. My legs were feeling a little tired, so we stopped quite a few times during the first half of the ride. Around the midway point we took a long break sitting down near a lake to have some snacks, and I realized at that point that it was getting late and that we might not be able to get back to the car before the sun set.

So we set off at a faster pace and started to make pretty good time. It was getting steadily darker, though. At one point, I looked past my friend, who was in front of me, to see two black shapes ahead up the trail. They were walking toward us as we rode toward them. I asked if they were bears, and almost the moment that I did, my friend stopped, jumped off his bike, shouted, and waved his arms. The two bears took off into the bushes to the right of the trail, but another bear ran from the bushes on the left across the trail and to the right. He raised his bike above his head and shouted more. I believe that at this point, another bear ran from the left to the right across the trail. I, of course, was paralyzed with fright and just watched. Since when do bears travel in packs of four? I've never seen more than two together, so this really shocked me.

After being sure that there weren't any more bears hiding in the bushes, we continued on, making lots of noise as we did, and we continued to push the pace to get back before it got really dark. We were biking faster at the the end of our 15.5-mile ride than at the beginning. Considering how tired I had felt at the beginning, I was surprised by the strong finish. It felt great, though. This time I wasn't worried about going slowly through the mud puddles (or small lakes, as it seemed sometimes) and ended up soaked and muddy, but I felt really exhilarated. It turned out to be a great ride.

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