Bear-anoia

Our home this week has been the chill little mountain town of Crested Butte where we’ve been riding the classic single track from town. I (Josh) have been eagerly anticipating this stop all summer as these are some of my favorite trails in the west, including #401, pictured below. Shout out to Big Al’s Bicycle Heaven for their friendly service.

There are many joys of mountain biking: fast downhills, uphill grinds and scenic vistas. With so many joys, it’s hard to think that mountain biking has a darker side such as overcrowed trails, guys in tight spandex and the occasional meat-head intentionally racing everyone up the hill. There is one byproduct of mountain biking however that sits in the back of most cyclists mind. This, my friends, is the “superman.” The superman is the most feared action in mountain biking. It can strike when you are the most prepared or the least.

On one section of #401 downhill I found my self enjoying the wildflowers while racing down an exposed, and tightly groomed singletrack. As I was smelling the wildflowers, I noticed that my right hand was no longer on the handle bar. I thought to myself, this is not good! By the time I was ready to place my hand back on the handlebar, I had a sudden light, airy feeling like I was being lifted up into the trees. And it was then that I fully realized that I had indeed become superman. Looking forward now I could see my aerial course in front of me as I effortlessly glided through the aspens in pure superman form. What a thrill to experience the joys of flight without all the waiting in line and sitting next to people who you do not know.

Then suddenly I heard the fasten seatbelts sign turn on and I new it was time to land. So I stretched out my landing gear and braced for impact leaving the joy of the superman behind. I woke up a few seconds later in the fetal position with my bike wrapped around my body, everything hurt, but my mind was at peace, thank you superman.

(Neither Josh nor his bike were seriously injured by this fall, the likes of which he hasn’t taken in more than 10 years)

Boy was this view well-earned, at 11,000 feet
Boy was this view well-earned, at 11,000 feet
Rockin' the catwalk
Rockin’ the catwalk

We’ve scored a scenic campsite in a free campground where we’ve had (mostly) the most courteous, friendly neighbors one could hope for. The neighbors causing the biggest trouble are the local black bears – “third generation garbage bears” as described the local ranger. They make their rounds through the campground each night creating quite the stir as they paw vehicles and knock over whatever gets between them and their food; coolers, boxes of silverware, empty cans. All followed by campers’ various methods of scaring away the animal; shouting, growling, setting off the car alarm, even firing a shot gun. (a little extreme and definitely annoying at 4a.m.)

One particular bear became quite well known to the entire camp population when one camper caught site of her lounging by the creek during the day. We returned to camp that evening to find ourselves in a strange version of the childhood game of telephone. Our neighbors quickly informed us that the Texan family on the other side of them had heard from the camper further down the creek that a “1500 pound brown bear” had been spotted just 100 feet from the camp. The individual who had made the sighting was circulating a blurry, sasquatch- like photo from his digital camera as proof.

“We’re leaving tonight!” exclaimed the Texans loudly to each of their fellow campers. “We’ve never seen anything like it! We’re terrified and want to let everyone know of the danger! 1500 pounds! Brown!” (implying a possibility of it being a grizzly, the more aggressive breed, as opposed to the common black bear)

It was difficult not to get caught up in the drama and since we would like to enjoy the rest of our trip, we took some time to consider this new development. (Josh does know a few things about bears from his may backcountry adventures) We ultimately decided that we could comfortably feel that staying put was a prudent decision but that we would extra vigilant in taking steps to make our campsite unattractive to the bears.

The next day I (Aminda) did some additional research on bears to make sure we were truly sane and so we wouldn’t sleep in fear the rest of the week. So our mothers also know that our decision was justified, I’ll share those tidbits of information.

*the last grizzly bear reported in Colorado was seen in 1979. *Western black bears come in various colors including brown and cinnamon.

*The average male black bear weighs between 300 – 500 pounds (the record is 880) and can reach about 7 feet when standing on it’s hind legs.

*Since 1900 there have been only 61 known deaths from black bears across the U.S.

*While black bears are powerful and can be destructive in their quest for food (like ripping doors off cars), they are also known for being so timid that they can retreat from something as small as a butterfly.

taken from http://www.bear.org and from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Dept.

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