More bears, and 25 miles

Well, it’s been quite the weekend.

It started on Friday, when I stuffed my face with my homemade bean dip and half a bag of organic corn chips (organic = no guilt). I stayed up ridiculously late writing, and Saturday I popped up all excited. Because it was my Long Run Day.

I don’t know about you but I look forward to my long run. I think about it and obsess about it and worry about it. It thrills me, in an odd sort of way.

I planned on running the Turnagain Arm Trail, from Potter all the way past Rainbow and then back again for about 16 miles. This is a tough trail, with ruts and roots and iffy footing, and lots of killer hills. The total elevation gain is about 1,300 feet, one-way. Which means over 2,000 feet roundtrip.

I secretly enjoy hills, enjoy the pain and the struggle and the muscle burn. What makes the Turnagain Trail so obstinate, however, are the oh-so-many rocks and roots littering the trail so that you have to pick up your feet higher than normal. It might not sound like a big deal but trust me, after about 10 miles it kind of is.

Roots, just waiting to trip me.

It was cloudy as I drove to the trail and drizzling by the time I arrived. I wore a short sleeve shirt, shorts and my arm warmers, with my Nathan hydration pack strapped my back. The trail was pretty much empty. I passed two people the first half mile and then no one else for over three miles.

By then it was raining, hard, and by the time I ran down the big Rainbow hill (wheee!), over a mile and about 1,000 feet elevation drop, I was soaked and cold. Really cold. My shoelaces were loose but I couldn’t work my hands to retie them.

I warmed up on the mile of switchbacks back up, up, up the hill. By the time I reached the top, it was hailing. Hailing, for christ’s sake. I was miserable yet strangely exhilarated. Because everything was wet and the air smelled good and the footing was soft and no one else was around. I didn’t see anyone until I hit McHugh Creek, over four miles away. By then it had stopped raining, and my shorts were almost dry. And I passed, no lie, a guy wearing a puffy winter jacket, winter hat and gloves. And I had on shorts, hee, hee. He gaped at me as if I were crazy.

View from the top of the McHugh Creek hill.

As soon as I hit the Potter section of the trail, I cheered up. The footing was better and the sun peeked out and I felt so happy that I couldn’t stop smiling.

Then I saw the oddest thing: A man in shorts and a white doctor’s jacket sprinted out of the brush. Close behind was a guy in a suit and a hardhat. I couldn’t help it, I had to stop and ask.

“Excuse me, are you filming a movie?” I said.

“No,” the suited guy laughed. “We’re on a scavenger hunt.”

I loved it! A bunch of geeky people out on the trails looking for treasures. I wanted to take their photo but they hooted and ran back into the brush.

A mile later I came across a black bear at the top of a hill. It looked at me and scampered off toward the woods. By then the sun was out again and I was almost finished with the run and life was good.

Guess who’s waiting around the corner?

Then I came across a bear that wasn’t so accommodating, a blackie sow with two cubs. I ran around a curve and there they were. The cubs scurried up a tree but Mama Bear wasn’t having any of that. She stood her ground. I backed up. She moved toward me. I backed up some more. As soon as I was out of sight I stopped and gave them time to get off the trail. I ran back around the curve again–Mama Bear was still there, and she was sitting in the middle of the trail as if to claim it as her own (a bear, sitting in the middle of the trail!).

When she saw me, she got up and walked toward me again. I back away until I was around the curve and I waited, longer this time.

The thing is, I had to pass that section of trail in order to get to the trailhead where I parked my car. I couldn’t go around, since the brush was thick and I didn’t trust the bear. So I waited. And waited. I was hungry and cold and my legs were beginning to tighten so finally I ventured slowly forward around the curve again. I was sure that they would be gone.

Mama Bear peeking staking out the trail mere moments before walking toward me.

They weren’t. As soon as the sow spotted me, she came toward me again and this time she meant business. She walked fast. It wasn’t a charge but it wasn’t a lumbering gait, either. I booked in the opposite direction. I walked fast but didn’t run because you are never supposed to run from a bear. When I looked over my shoulder, she was gaining on me. I was so scared my legs wobbled. As soon as I got around another corner, temporarily out of sight, I sprinted like hell. I didn’t look back for about a quarter of a mile. When I did, the bear was no longer there. I was so relieved that I cried.

I ended up running back to the previous trailhead and getting a ride to where my car was parked. This cut 1.5 miles off of my run, which really bummed me out. But being charged by an ornery black bear would have bummed me out even more, so I think I made the right call. Still, it shook me up. Except for when a bear charged my dog a few years back (that one was kind of my dog’s fault), I don’t normally encounter assertive bears. Usually, they scamper off as soon as they hear or see me.
When I got home, I told the story over and over to MM until I know he was sick of hearing it, poor guy, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how damned big that bear look, and how damned small I am. (I had bear spray with me but it was a little canister, probably too little to have don much good. I’m totally buying a larger canister before venturing out on that trail again.)

Sunday I had 10 miles scheduled so MM and I hit the Campbell Trails for an easy-paced run. It was close to divine, one of those runs where we talked and laughed and enjoyed ourselves and each other’s company. We didn’t see any bears but we did come across three moose. I didn’t take their photo, though. Sometimes I like to pause and savor, without interruption. So that’s exactly what we did.

Brown Bear trail–pure heaven.
View from the trail

Hope everyone has a great week.

Last week’s stats:
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 7 mile tempo run
Wednesday: Race!, 4.75 miles
Thursday: 6.5 miles
Friday: Rest–weights, upper and lower body
Saturday: 14.5 miles
Sunday: 10.5 miles
Total: 42.5 miles 

3 thoughts on “More bears, and 25 miles

  1. Rebecca

    I think I ran into the momma bear and her twins Friday morning, coming down the south face of flat top. I was moments into a fast hike up the mountain with a goal of running ridge lines to Peak 3 and then down! I decided to wait her out and see if she moved over the saddle, which she did. I still ran my route and no bear sightings! I was holding my breathe as I read your post! Happy you ended the run safely and your post has encouraged me to dig out the “big can” of bear spray! Happy running!


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