I have a couple of days off. Ah the luxury. I had a leisurely early morning swim at the Rez with the masters group then an even more leisurely breakfast then decided a steep trail run was in order. I settled on my old standby Enchanted Mesa/Skunk Canyon/Mesa Trail loop that starts at Chautauqua Park, a mere 12 minute drive. I takes me just under an hour, I'm guessing it's around 4 miles or so but there are some good steep bits as well as some steady climbs so it's perfect training for my race plus beautiful scenery and most of the trail is in the woods and shaded.
I went back and forth about whether or not I should take Strummer. Dogs are allowed off leash and he's very good on the trails but this time of year there are rattlesnakes to worry about never mind the mountain lions and bears plus it's a bit hot for him. In the end I decided I didn't want to have to watch out for him and worry about him overheating. Sometimes I swear I must by psychic or something. Because 4 1/2 minutes into my run a guy with a poodle coming the opposite way down the trail is waving his arms at me. I assume he's a guy I know from agility and start asking him how he is but it turns out he doesn't know me but he does want to warn me about the bear up ahead. Very close up ahead. Walking right down the middle of the trail. I hesitate about going on. I've spared you the details of how long it took me to park and how crazy crowded Chautauqua was and how oh so wrong I was about how it was going to be empty because it was a weekday. First of all it's the height of tourist season and secondly nobody works in this town anyway so weekday means nothing to the La De Da Crowd. Anyway, I've parked in the next county and braved the throngs of tourists, trust funders and kept spouses to get here, I'm not letting a silly thing like a bear turn me back.
I carry on up the trail at a walk and on red alert for Mr. Bear. I don't see or hear anything for a bit and decide he's probably moved on. I can't count the number of times someone has warned me about a rattlesnake or bear and then I never see it. But then I hear a huge rustling noise right next to the trail about 10' away and sure enough an enormous black bear comes out of the brush and steps onto the trail right in front of me. As he emerges from the brush and hopefully before he notices me I turn around and calmly walk back down the trail. On the one hand you're not supposed to turn your back but on the other hand I want him to know I'm not a threat and that I'm heading out of his territory. When he gets on the trail I turn back around and walk backwards so I can keep an eye on him. He's so beautiful and I feel like I should be more scared but even though he looks right at me he seems relaxed and not bothered. He slowly crosses the trail and ambles down the hill towards the Chautauqua concert and dining halls, perhaps in search of a cheesy omelette and some classical music. I was half expecting him to nod and say 'Mornin'. I can't imagine a more perfect way to see a bear, up close and in the wild but not in a threatening way. I'm glad I didn't have Strummer with me. And I'm very glad the man warned me or I would have needed a new pair of shorts. Of course I didn't have my camera with me.
The rest of the run proceeds without incident. I see bear poop but no more bears or critters of any kind. The hills didn't feel too bad on my legs, maybe there's hope for me yet. Now I have to figure out how I'm going to tire out Strummer for the day. Maybe I'll risk the rattlesnakes and naked hippies out at the north side of the Rez so he can go swimming. Heck I've faced a black bear already today, I suppose I can deal with the naked hippies.