After two years of looking, I finally was reconnected with the bears while on a ride last week.
You know how it is, when you’re riding through the woods and every large root is a snake and every decaying stump is a squatting bear. I’m always on the lookout for an encounter with wildlife and prepare myself emotionally with how to best handle the situation. Peripheral vision offers a dark image, so I look over, hoping it will be something of interest. Generally it’s something that’s been stationary for a hundred years or so and has fungus growing around it.
But last week, at dusk, I looked over to double-check on the stump, and it was looking back at me. I wonder how long she’d been watching me, and at what point she heard me coming. She had a smaller bear with her, crawling up the mountain behind her – toward the trail we were heading.
I’ve sat in the woods before, well off of the trail. What I noticed, is that people hiking along the trail are oblivious of what’s happening just a few feet away. It’s as if the trail is its own planet where nothing can see, hear, or eat them. It made me wonder what it would be like to be a bobcat or a panther. It made me look around the woods a whole lot more while I’m out. I began to understand how those unsuspecting events occur in the woods. However, I believe it’s still safer than the city, where there is far more crime and mayhem.
So the bear was looking directly at me. She was about 20 feet up. I stopped dead in my tracks and shouted to Ben. He’s usually the first to notice wildlife, so I was doubly surprised to see her sitting there, especially since he’s usually in front. I looked at her to see what she was in the mood for doing – chasing or watching. She didn’t look threatened. She was just watching, as the other bear trudged through the ferns. I was still trying to decide whether to walk, ride, go back down, or keep climbing. I decided that continuing on slowly was going to be the most non-threatening option, especially since that’s where Ben was, and that’s what he was encouraging me to do. I pressed on. She continued watching me, but I didn’t look back for long, for fear that I was going to tumble off of the path and become a really fun bear game or toy. I’ve heard of such things – and seen the scars. Generally the person doesn’t quite remember how the gashes got there.