The two women told me about the bear when I was on my hike.
They were on trail bikes and saw the bear in the direction I was headed. “It was scary!” one of the women said.
We were all a little nervous. There had been a bear attack just a few weeks earlier up on the ski hill. A couple had gone up to see the comet. They didn’t bring food. There were no bear cubs. There was no reason to think they were in any danger. They were just sitting and watching the sky when a bear attacked, seriously injuring the woman.
Their dog ran away, and folks assumed she would not make it through the night. Miraculously, the dog was found by some hikers the next morning, still trailing her leash. The woman was still recovering, and it was expected she would be for a full year.
This was on our minds, even though we were nowhere near where it had happened. We talked about how terrible things can happen, out of the blue, when no one is at fault.
“It’s scary to know something like that could happen!” the biker said.
I agreed, but asked her, “What are the options?”
If I’m going swimming in the ocean, I will research to see if there have been any sharks in the area. But if no one has been bothered in 100 years, I figure I’m not likely to be the first.
“It’s like getting hit by lightning,” I added. “We know it can happen, but we also know it is a small chance. I can’t remove all risk. I can just be smart, research the dangers, and live my life as safely as I can.”
The two women agreed. They were going to keep riding their bikes. But they were also going to keep their eyes open. I thanked them and said I would too.
I discovered the limits to my rational approach about 30 minutes later when I came upon a surprisingly large black bear.
First, I saw a deer take off right in front of me. It was scared of something and it wasn’t me. I looked up and saw the bear sitting quite close, right on the trail. The bear looked at me.
When I’ve seen bears before, they immediately run away. It’s good to know the bear is as scared of me as I am of it. The bear directly in front of me did not move.
I looked at the bear. The bear looked back at me.
I backed up, slowly, until I was several yards away. Then I made my way up a hill, to the cemetery, so I could do a big detour around the bear. The bear did not move.
“There’s a bear on the trail!” I told a man riding a bike, once I got to the cemetery.
“Really?” he said, then fell off his bike.
“Darn these toe clips!” he laughed.
We talked about how food was scarce for bears in the forest. I felt a lot calmer, just talking to someone about the bear. The next day, I was on the trail again.
But if I am going to tell the truth (and I try to) I was a little afraid. Because I do my best to be smart and be careful, and I count on my cleverness to keep me safe. And, of course, I never really am.
It is probably a good thing to remember — no matter how clever or careful I think I am — the bears are always there.
Till next time,
Carrie Carrie Classon’s memoir is called, “Blue Yarn.” Learn more at CarrieClasson.com.