Lake Isabelle

Lake Isabelle

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tuesday, 09/13/11 Green Mountain/Bear Sighting

Up/Down Front 4 miles/2,281 vert./1:01 (37 up/23 down) 142 avg. HR Garmin Data

I felt somewhat sluggish and my legs were a little heavy, so I paced myself accordingly and ran a mellow-ish/moderate effort on the up, then easy on the down, stopping occasionally to do a little impromptu trail work on upper Greenman.

I was running on lower Amphitheater, ~30 seconds or less from finishing my run at the Gregory lot, when for some reason, I averted my normally focused gaze from the rocky/technical trail, looked up the hillside to my left and saw a reasonably large bear (certainly larger than most people at least and a lot bigger than I). Yes, that is right, my first bear in Boulder OSMP and 3rd that I have seen in Colorado.

I stopped a 'safe' distance below and watched it chewing on some low hanging fruit and it seemed to not be at all bothered by my presence. After about a minute, it sauntered down the talus to the trail (diagonally away from me) and began walking up Amphitheater, so I of course followed (again, at a 'safe' distance).

After it had walked about 50 or so feet up the trail, it ambled off into the bushes on the left and found some more berries to eat. Now only about ~30 or so feet away, I carefully peeked at it, very much on alert, but at the same time, feeling a surprising sense of peace. After a few minutes (seemed like longer), I felt as though I had intruded enough and headed back down the trail, giddy and excited about having seen this amazing animal up close. Almost back at the TH, an older woman was walking up the trail asking if I had seen the Bear that some people in the lot had informed her of. I told her of its location (still VERY close to the trail) and advised her of an alternate route. At that point, she did not care about her planned hike and just wanted to see the bear.

I offered to join her for the minute or so walk back up the trail, where it was still there, now on its’ hind legs, trying to reach something that smelled good up in a large pine tree. We watched for a few more minutes and I was comforted by the fact that I could run much faster than this lady. She snapped a few pictures with her phone (none of which came out, despite our proximate distance and largely unobstructed view) when her phone made a beep that caught the bear’s attention. The bear then made some sort of loud huffy hiss noise and pounced a bit. I hardly saw any of it, as I was focused on getting out of there.

Fortunately, the bear was just telling us to go away in a nice way and that is exactly what we did. I bid adieu to the woman and ran back down to the Gregory lot, where I stopped to tell some climbers about the bear, but soon heard a woman yelling and screaming just up the trail, so I ran back up a short way to find the woman running down. She stated that she had gone back up to try and fetch her poles that she ditched in the trail (and presumably catch another peek at the bear), when it started walking down the trail straight toward her and it freaked her out a bit.

I learned a few obvious lessons today. First, after seeing the aggressive rattlesnake on the trail on Saturday and reading Joe’s report of the mountain lion stalking him recently, I was reluctant to wear my headphones before the run. I really only wear them, maybe 10-20 percent of my runs and that is only listening to NPR or other various podcasts on a low volume, but for the most part, I want to be fully in touch with my surroundings. As if the first two things (the snake and Joe’s run in with the lion were not enough), this was the final straw. I am not sure I would have heard the bear either way, as I just happened to look up and see it munching, but had it been a few minutes later, I could have surprised it in the bushes next to the trail, where every millisecond would count. You need to be able to hear what is going on around you.

Second, even though I thought the bear was un-bothered by my presence and I did keep a respectful distance, I should have just paused to look once and kept going. I felt bad that I had gone back up with the woman and ultimately caused it a bit of distress, or at least annoyance with us. I know they see a lot of people on these trails, but keeping it to a minimum for them is much to their benefit and is really not safe for us (though at the time, the temptation to watch was great and it seemed quite benign, like a large dog or something).