i never return from a bike ride without something to share. today i have many things i want to share before i forget them.

the weather has been very chilly and cloudy here of late. when the blue sky and sun showed themselves this afternoon, i decided to make a break for it and head out on my favorite bike ride, to chilkoot lake.

as i’ll, hopefully, soon fill you in on, there have been many bear sightings outside the usual riverside hangouts on this route. a pair of three year old cubs, on their own for the first time this summer, raised amongst fishermen and photographers, have little fear for people and cars and meander all along the roadsides between the ferry terminal and the river. they hide out (not really, they’re just unseen) in the bushes along the road, then emerge into full sight, apparently out of nowhere, crossing at will.

having witnessed this multiple times firsthand from the safety of a car (while my wildlife-magnet sister was here), i knew i had to be on my guard as i cycled. and it of course didn’t hurt to return to my routine of singing songs to myself as i pedaled, to make possible bears aware of my approach. in fact, i composed quite a catchy little tune (we’ll save the melody for later):

no bear in the bush
no bear in the bush
no bear in the bush near me
no bear, no bear, no bear, no bear
just fishermen out to sea
to see, to see what it is they see
and bring back home what they’ll bring
up to the table, fresh to the table
fish for all to eat

i really hoped that the gill netting boats couldn’t hear me. the colour of the water was that unclassifiable swirl of blues and turquoises and muddy greens that happens at lutak inlet, where salty ocean water, mountain snow melt, and glacial silty runoff converge. the sun came in and out from behind clouds and the mountainside. my bike was in perfect working order.

i made it to the lake without great incident (not counting being in alaska a great incident). as i sat and ate my picnic lunch, i watched lines drop into the water, kayaks come ashore, and speedboats speed off for family outings. except i mostly watched the way the shadows of the clouds played off the mountains. i could watch that all day. every day. focus. okay, so i packed up and started walking back to my bike. that’s when i noticed the little blue hatchback in a line with tour vans and trucks with boat trailers. it had a NEW HAMPSHIRE license plate! my old man in the mountain surrounded by alaskan mountains, live free or die in the last frontier! i tried to take a creeper picture with my 4 year old tracfone, but the results aren’t too promising. if i’d had a pen and paper i totally would have left them a note :)

back on the road, refining the lyrics to my bear repellent tune, mixed in with bits from “do-re-mi”, “the song that never ends”, and “this land is your land”, i bent my body into the head wind and kept scanning the road for fuzzy wuzzy.

i made it to the ferry terminal without incident, so i was in the safe zone, only 3 miles to go til home. a crow jumped out of my way into a tree, and i (naturally) turned to make a weird noise at him. my exclamation made that poor bird loose his shit. literally. it wasn’t until i saw that and burst out laughing that i realized i’d never seen a bird relieve itself that close to my face before. i mean, come on, cranky crow with a jet of white falling behind him as soon as he lands on a tree branch that you personally made him flee to? funny stuff. yes, this is who i am. i’m sorry.

revelling in the absurdity of nature, i kept making my merry way. after about another mile, i saw a car pulled over to the side of the road with the directional going. my first thought was to wonder why they didn’t just wait for the next pull out to take a picture. i slowed down a bit, preparing to ask if they needed help. just then, on the other side of the road, my side of the road, BEAR OUT OF THE BUSH.

i’m on a bike going probably 15-20 mph towards a juvenile bear who just appeared approximately 15 ft in front of me. slam on brakes, turn around, head for the car and beg for entry? luckily, the bear’s reflexes worked faster than my brain. luckily, bears that aren’t afraid of cars and cameras are still afraid of innkeepers on bikes. he turned and bolted back into what turned out to be a driveway. i decided (if you can call it that) to just zoom by as quickly and as far from that side of the road as possible. right before i passed him, there was a rustle in the bushes. my guess is that it was the other one he’s always seen with. then, immediately AFTER i zoomed past the BEAR, a woman holding a camera, leaning out an upstairs window of the house belonging to the driveway, helpfully called, “bear!”. i turned and gave her the thumb. i could have given another finger to the car people who didn’t think to flash their high beams at a lone girl on a bike hurtling towards them and the bear they were watching which was obviously out of my view. i pedaled fast, and checking behind me revealed the bear to be wandering back out to the road, headed for the car.

1) the bear was probably just as surprised by me as i was by him.
2) i am seriously lucky there was no momma bear involved.

i had a bowl of ice cream when i got home.