Friday, June 08, 2007

Trail Critters and Other Biking War Stories

So after non stop mountain biking for the past week up here at Whistler, I can say with confidence, bears rule the land. A few days back, I was flying through the woods on a cross country ride; I was descending some tight technical single track and ready to shoot out onto a gravel road when I noticed a rather large black bear mulling around in the trail exit onto the road. I stopped as fast as I could, smiled and waved at the bear, and proceeded to back out slowly. He watched me until I was almost out of sight. I then turned my back to him and zipped away -- heart racing of course.

Yesterday, there was a big fella grazing just a hundred yards or so at the top of the lift. I also met a French guy who told me all about his best friends grizzly encounter that had recently happened. Apparently his friend and another friend were mountain biking not too far from here, and a grizzly attacked the other friend. The Frenchman's friend charged the bear to save the other guy, and smacked the bear with his bike. The bear was pushing toward him while he was holding it back with his bike. He then tried to break the bears nose by punching it - to no avail of course. The bear then swiped him with his paw, and apparently ripped deep into his jaw bone. He then passed out, and awoke over half an hour later. Apparently the grizzly left him after determining he was dead, or unworthy. He escaped with only 256 stitches.

This is what riders up here do whenever talk of the furry ones comes up - we all have our war stories. Today, there is a section right above lower Whistler downhill, where you turn a tight corner and launch in the air and down fast into a long open descent. As I was rounding the corner just a moment before committing, I noticed a huge black bear grazing only a few feet from the trail at the bottom. Fortunately I slammed on my brakes and was able to back track out. Another instant and I would have had to race by him praying all the way that I wouldn't blow out a tire or that he wouldn't give chase.

Another rider up here had a mountain lion incident on Tuesday by the mini-disc golf course - he got confronted, and the lion kept pushing toward him. Finally he hopped on his bike and tried to out run the lion. Fortunately for him, he was a downhill racer so he was pretty quick. Apparently the lion chased him for quite a while. The lion story brought me back to my own lion encounter, but I'll save that for another time.

Once this sort of stuff creeps into your mind, its very hard to get rid of the thoughts. The past few days, I've been scanning for critters like mad. Its actually an annoying distraction when there's enough obstacles immediately in your path to pay attention to. Today I was dropping off a steep ladder when I got completely spooked by what turned out to be a life threatening squirrel. Ridiculously, I did end up with quite a crash - fortunately for my ego, it was a tough and terribly slippery spot. Well at least I got to test out my helmet and armor. In any event, I've had enough furry encounters in the past week to last me the year.

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