13 Aug 2010

Close Encounters

Posted by mercieb

I’ve been in Alaska now for 5 days and, aside from 1 bald eagle, I have not seen one single animal of the wild sort. Kind of disappointing. That’s not to say this trip has been void of excitement. No, not at all.

Greg, the owner of Speedway Cycles (home of the Fatback), offered to hook me up with a bike and take me out to Kincaid Park in Anchorage. I love riding in new places with new people so I jumped at the opportunity. We headed out at 7pm after the shop closed. With no worries about it getting dark, (even now the sun doesn’t go down until about 11pm), we took our time getting things together.

Bike adjustments made, gear sorted and loaded up, we headed over to the park. It really is “park” riding. Being a world-class nordic ski area in the winter, most of the trails are wide smooth tracks. The single track trails are short, root jammed jaunts between all the double track but being guided through I felt like I was getting the best of it. The perk of riding with a local.

As we were riding through head-tall brush, I was just about to ask about bears when Greg happened to mention they do see some bears out there every now and again but qualified that with the fact that they are black bears. Ok, black bears. No biggie. In the back of my head I wanted to ask about the likelihood of running into a grizzly but not wanting to sound paranoid, I kept the thought to myself.

We headed over a couple of small ridges and I could tell we were getting closer to the bluff that overlooks the top of the Cook Inlet and the head of the Turnagain Arm because the trail was starting to get sandy and a little loose. All of a sudden I hear this incredible crashing sound. It sounded like the whole forest was coming down around us in one piece. I rolled up on Greg as he was yelling, “Get back! Turn around! Huge fucking Grizzly!” So I did. As I started off in the direction we’d just came from, I realized the crashing noises coming from just off the trail beside me were going the same direction I was now going. I stop, listen for one second and decide to flip it again and head back to Greg. I’m imaging the moment when the bear loops back onto the trail to come back to what it was doing before we almost ran into it.

This decision was met with approval by Greg and we hi-tailed it out of there as fast as we could, yelling the whole way to let any other bears know we were coming. He relayed to me the moment he came around that sweeping corner and almost ran head long into the 600 lb grizzly. (He would know… he’s been in AK for more than 30 years). This guy was a monster of an animal and Greg was shaken for sure. We rode hard and fast for a while to get clear of the area.

Later over a bunch of beers and dinner, out the blue Greg got real quiet and whispered to me, “We dodged a fucking bullet today.” Indeed. The good news is no one got mauled by a bear but I never did see the thing. Just as well.

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5 Responses to “Close Encounters”

  1. Duuuude! So rad! I’m sorry you didn’t get to see him though and I’m glad you didn’t see him up close! I’ll bet you guys were riding -a little- faster than you thought you were, being all juiced on adrenaline as I’m sure you were. I’ve got a feeling that part of the story was under exaggerated just because you might not have noticed!
    I had to read it twice. Rad.



  2. I know. I feel the same way… I’m as bummed I didn’t see it as I am relieved I didn’t see it.

    Apparently, I did ok as Greg agreed to ride with me again next time I’m up here. I’ve also put the Soggy Bottom 100 on the calendar for next year. Remember the Resurrection Trail? The Soggy Bottom is 100+ miles of “racing” between Cooper Landing and Hope. Sounds great.



  3. Wow – that’s some story.

    It would be cool to see a Grizzly – hopefully not as you endo into his chest – but from a safe distance.

    Kinda like the zoo, but no fence….


    Dan O

  4. Hey Dan,
    Scott and I had the pleasure of seeing a griz up close when we were cycling through the arctic in AK. I’ve never been so nervous. We later found out the bear was know as “the Ice Cut bear” to the locals who run the Haul Road and would most likely be the biggest bear we’ll ever see in our lives. Definitely an unforgettable moment.

    The reality of it is that they are so much better off not having contact with us. I’m content with knowing they are out there.



  5. Holy crap! Now that’s an adventure.

    By the way, it’s awesome that you’re writing more and I’m glad I’ve rediscovered your blog! B and I are frequent readers.



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