I have heard coming between a bear and her cub is one of the most dangerous wildlife experiences a person can have out on the trails. I’ve read, and have common sense enough, to never go near cubs if you see them, so I think to myself, how can a hiker/runner just happen to separate a bear and her cubs? Answer: while running the fire roads to the Pacific Crest Trail.
Brooke, Kouba, and I were out for our usual Sunday long run. Two weeks out from the SOB 50K, we decided to head up to Mt. Ashland and do some training on the course. We may have been a bit quieter than usual and a little more out of breath at the higher elevation, but we weren’t silent. Just over a mile in to our planned 10 mile run, I heard some leaves rustling on the mountainside above us. Something was coming. I assumed it was a deer or even a squirrel can seem to get quite loud when running around in the brush. I glanced over my shoulder. Something was coming – was right. My first thought – it’s not a cougar. My second thought – that’s a weird looking dog. I heard Kouba yell – BABY BEAR! and watched her take off in a sprint. Finally, it registered, baby bear! It was probably only two seconds, but it seemed like that glance over my shoulder lasted minutes as I watched the cub sliding down the hillside trying to do a u-turn. The fuzzy, little “beast” came within about 30 feet of us and scrambled back up. The biologist in me wanted to stand there and watch, observe, and see what it did next. Reality kicked in and I didn’t look back – we all just ran. We never saw mama bear, but I’m sure she was watching. Our thought was we had separated them – and that’s why baby bear was running down the mountain side. I’m glad we never saw mama bear.
So now what? We were only a mile in to our run, and the trail had a switch back to the direction of the bear. We re-grouped a bit, had some nervous laughs, and decided to press on – talking overly loud, clapping, and making noise the whole way. We didn’t see any other wildlife the rest of the run.
After our bear cub encounter, it took us close to two hours to run about 10 miles. There is still a ton of snow up on Mt. Ashland and the Pacific Crest Trail. We hiked over huge snow banks, lost the trail, and decided to stay on the fire roads for the rest of our run. We made it to the 15K turn-around (click here for the map) – played in the snow, took in the view of Mt. Shasta, and headed back to the car. We didn’t push too hard, just enjoyed being on the mountain, learning how our lungs felt and breathing changed in the higher elevation, gaining the confidence we needed to know we’ll be able to finish the 31.07 miles of the SOB race in two weeks. I think we all agreed – we’re ready.
Kouba, Brooke, Laura at the 15K Turnaround & Brooke and Laura building a snowman
The official CWO snow-woman of the SOB 50K
(Mt. Shasta in the background)
All pictures this run taken with Kouba's AT&T Motorola Backflip - which had service most of the run too!
Coming up: Reviews on Gu and Shot Bloks!
For more information on what to do if you see a bear: click here.