Sunday, September 30, 2007


Do you believe in signs? Omens? I have been a runner for over twenty years. In the previous nineteen I've seen lots of rabbits, the occasional fox, one skunk, and one bear. That bear was 15 years ago in what was then Seymour Demonstration Forest. So really I’ve had 15 years bear free.

This year alone I have come across three bears on three separate occasions. The first was in my home town. I was on a road run coming out of the local sports park, going up Nelson Street

which is fairly wooded a typical bear habitat in spite of the nearby houses. As I turned the corner there it was. It saw me and lumbered back to the woods. As I ran by the spot where he entered the woods I saw it sitting there watching me run by. Good bye bear!

The second sighting was on our family vacation in Whistler. I was on a meandering 8 miler on Valley Trail which encircles Whistler Village. As you get closer to the village the trail branches and forks into a network near Lost Lake. I stopped to get my directions straight and I looked up at this signpost. The Upper Village was a sharp right from where I stood so I turned in that direction. Right in front of me about 6 feet away was a black bear probably a couple of years old. If I didn't know better I would swear the bear was getting his bearings straight too (pun intended). I jumped back and said 'Ooh' and the bear jumped back too. And then for some reason I apologized like I was sorry I scared the bear. The bear shuffled off into the woods. He went one way and I went mine. Good bye bear!

The third sighting was the other week in Kelowna. I travel to the interior for my job once a month and seek new trails at the end of the business day. This visit I wasn’t feeling all that adventurous. I decided on the Mission Creek Regional Park. It’s a nice park but not too exciting because it follows the Mission Creek right through town and drains into Lake Okanagan. It’s flatter than a pancake but it is very pretty because on the running stream, the occasional berry bush and it has a fish ladder because they are trying to enhance the local fish population. Hmm, water, berries, and fish a perfect environment for raising bears.

On the Eastside of the creek the trail is more single track and actually weaves in and out and up and down knolls. I chose to runs the knolls. I glanced at the Bear Warning signs and continued on. It’s not that I’m stupid but I know from experience that once these signs go up they never come down even though the last bear sighting could have been years ago. So like many I become complacent in the warnings and tend to ignore them.

I passed a guy who was on a stroll with a mentally challenged adult. I said my hello’s and still continued on. About a quarter mile later I see something in the creek. My first thought was it was pretty cold to be swimming. Still I ran towards the shape that became more defined as I approached. We made eye contact and I stopped. We must have been about 200 feet apart but it was close enough to tell it was a full grown black bear. This bear didn’t look skittish, in fact he kind of looked pissed that I was in his fishing grounds. He slowly lumbered his way out of the creek and back to the trail I was on and I slowly backed along the trail keeping and trying to gain some more distance.

As soon as I lost eye contact at the first little bend I turned and hauled my tail out of there. Less than a quarter mile later I came across the guy and his adult charge. I told him about the bear and he turned around with me. I continued on by crossing the bridge to the Westside. I ran for another 4 miles and didn’t see any signs of any other bears. Good bye bear!

Do I believe in Omens or signs? Not really but to this point I feel really fortunate with my encounters of bears. Will I be complacent about warning signs anymore? Hell no! Will it stop me from running trails? Hell no! You hear a lot of stories about bear encounters and some of them don’t end happily. I love the trails and will always run the trails but I know the bears were there first. I’ve made a point of educating myself about bears and what to do should I encounter another. If you are a trail runner use the web as a tool a read about bears. Trail Runner magazine had a great article about bears in the September Issue. Read it!

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