I've been losing weight! Yay! It's been steady and I even skipped right over 157, bam! Just right on to 156 for me. One reason for my recent success is that I've been a hiking fiend the last few weeks. 11 miles, 7 miles, 8 miles, give me miles, these are not for the faint of heart or those whose mantra is not “I think I can, I think I can...”. I've got mountains of great hiking right out my back door and it's the kind with calorie burn extra credit because it's uphill, both ways. Ok, I know you think that's just an old saying and I caught some pushback on FB for saying that, but I've got the snaps to prove it!
I've been hiking by myself lately because: A) Hubby cannot handle the distances I need to get that ridiculously high calorie burn my stingy body requires before it'll give up a pound, B) Hubby is out of town right now in the cement forest, poor thing, C) I have no friends up here that I'd care to have witness these personal vendettas against my past, over-indulging self, and D) ”The mountains are calling and I must go.” -John Muir, hero. So, I'm out there, heading into back country, miles from trail heads, with only my wits to stay the course and return unmolested. Molested?? By what? Bears, my friends, bears. There's bears in them there mountains. (There's also tons of birds, bunnies, and deer and per pics from the motion-cam, mountain lions. (!)(another post?))
Have I ever seen a bear? Not here. Not yet. But I know they're out there both because of signage (ha ha, by brain, lovely jokester that it is, every time I see a sign about the dangers of wildlife on the trails, it always thinks “Carnage!” instead of “signage”. Isn't that a fun thing it does?) and evidence. Yes, I have evidence.
Exhibit A- Bear Poopie. Yes, it is. Coyote poopie is longer and has fibers in it.
Exhibit B- Bear Print (The clincher! And see how it's ON TOP OF the print I'd left earlier? Both of these pics are from today!)
Also, on a hike a few weeks ago, while I was dodging traffic on the way-over-populated part of the trails, just full of amateurs dying for some drama (nature is so cool how it sucks all the drama right out of your tiny, insignificant life, no? Nature = drama gone), I heard, repeatedly and with excited, gossipy voices, how everyone had just now, “just a minute ago!”, spotted a bear, “over there” “back there” “up there” “right beside the trail” “heading uphill” “above those rocks”. Cool. I'm scared to death of them, but wouldn't it be neato to see one, finally, especially with all of these potentially helpful and adrenaline-high, just dying to DO SOMETHING people nearby? But despite my eagle-eyes and best effort, I didn't spot him.
But it did get me thinking. I'd never considered the foothills where I hike to really be “Bear Country”, despite the carnage, I mean, signage. And as much as I'd hate to start fearing the beautiful and great outdoors and those wonderful trails and dreading all that time I spend by myself out there, I started, that very day to do something I'd learned in Alaska. That's right, I did “hhhHHHEEEEYYYAAAYYY BEAR!!!!”. I shout it, loudly, in the deeper end of my range, every time I enter a new area, come around a corner, enter a densely vegetated area, see a cave, spot bear poop or a bear print, or if I hear something or just get that funny feeling that *something* is out there. (For those of you who never get that last one, really?? Are you that dumb?)
The idea behind “hhhHHHEEEEYYYAAAYYY BEAR!!!!” is simple. Bears do NOT like Surprise Encounters. That's right, it's capitalized like that and should probably also always have quotes- “Surprise Encounters”. I recently visited Alaska, home of not only the smaller black bear but also to that one remaining vicious monster of North America, the Grizzly bear. They kill people. Regularly. Now, when I was in Alaskan, I noticed how beautiful it was and their mountains were also doing that calling me thing and my kids were at work most days so I wanted to hike by myself. So I kept asking people, “Is it safe? By myself?” and honey, the looks I got. From my own kids (one of whom, and she's my fearless one, chilled me thoroughly by doing ““hhhHHHEEEEYYYAAAYYY BEAR!!!!” on a trail not a stone's throw from their main street!), from their friends, from people on the street, and from the rangers at the station I purposely stopped at to ask that very question. And they almost without fail proceeded with those same excited voices enlighten me about the dreaded “Surprise Encounter”. Seems bears are cool, usually. And bears are out there. And yes, they might kill you. You are trespassing on their turf. They are cool with that, usually. But do NOT, DO NOT, in your stumbling, sweaty, gawking ignorance, create a “Surprise Encounter”. You will die. And not just from Grizzlies, from the black bear too. And the only way to avoid such a showdown is to make noise, let them know you are there AND that you are people- nasty, foul, ornery, fighting-back people. Supposedly, and to me, it's a HUGE supposedly, they will avoid you if you make your presence known and thus, “hhhHHHEEEEYYYAAAYYY BEAR!!!!”. I did try the other suggestions: jingling my keys, singing in a loud voice, clapping hands but they all were deficient compared to the simple act of yelling out. The keys and clapping ideas failed because I like to use walking sticks, so my hands are full. Singing was fun the one hike I did it (I had a great time coming up with 'please don't kill me bears' songs, let me know if you'd like the playlist.) but I huff and puff and wheeze (my lovely, smoking parents!) so much when I hike that it was HARD to keep a steady sound. It was like this- “One is the- huff huff – loneliest number that you- puff puff- ever knew. Two can be -huff huff wheEZE– as sad as one- puff huff huff puff -it's the loneliest number...” you get the picture. So I perfected my “hhhHHHEEEEYYYAAAYYY BEAR!!!!” and now I use it here.
(You may be wondering if it wouldn't be a wiser tack to just try to tippy-toe sneak through the woods quiet-as-mouse-like so those carnivores aren't even aware of my wanton encroaching. The answer is just as simple as why I do “hhhHHHEEEEYYYAAAYYY BEAR!!!!”, I'm LOUD. I'm a chubby, older woman with no balance skills using poles to stay upright and wearing big ole hiking boots who swears out loud with each stumble. And let's not overlook my breathing difficulties (HUFF HUFF PUFF PUFF WHEEZE) or the fact that I occasionally let out a “Woohoo!” after a particularly cruel uphill (either way) and also am known to compliment the deer. I literally crash, clunk, sputter, babble and curse through the woods. They hear me coming and to make sure they know what I am, it's “hhhHHHEEEEYYYAAAYYY BEAR!!!!” for me.
No one else does this. I am truly a renegade, lone soul telegraphing my coordinates to all and sundry who can hear. The mountain lion must hide. The deer seem to stick around more to see just WHAT that is coming up the trail. I've gotten some great shots since I started the “hhhHHHEEEEYYYAAAYYY BEAR!!!!” program.
These three, I heard and they got “hhhHHHEEEEYYYAAAYYY BEAR!!!!” ed!
Other people? Well, I tend to hike the long, tough trails and don't see many people. I don't “hhhHHHEEEEYYYAAAYYY BEAR!!!!” until I'm up where I might be and probably am truly the only biped (birds do not count!) out there. Today, on the way down, while going uphill, there was a woman sitting with her back to the trail, off about 10 yards and I got all sheepish and embarrassed and was trying to think up a smart quip to explain my public caterwauling, but she didn't hear me and didn't even SEE me pass because she was wearing ear buds. I could've been a bear!
P.S. I haven't seen any bears. I did not see any in Alaska either to the point where I started joking with my kids that it was all a story the state and locals were in cahoots on to keep out the visitors. And that they trucked all that bear scat in. From Colorado.