Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Core and mental toughness training with a bear

My kids, Will and Libby, and I recently visited Yellowstone National Park to visit my niece who is a rafting guide in Gardiner, MT.  We were looking forward to an active, adventured-filled week, but we got more than we were hoping for. It was our second day in the Park. We awoke to light rain, so we decided on two shorter distance hikes.  We didn't want to be too far away from the car in case the weather turned severe.   Our first hike was Bunsen Peak. It is listed as one of the top 5 most popular hikes in Yellowstone by the Lonely Planet Guide Book. The trail head is close to the main road. The type of trail where you'd expect to see more people than wildlife. 

We were about 1/4 the way up the mountain, when the open terrain quickly changed to a densely wooded area. Libby was leading, I was behind her and Will was bringing up the rear. Suddenly we heard a couple of grunting sounds coming from the woods. I knew immediately it was a bear. Before we could react, we heard branches and trees coming down in our direction.  Then a large black bear jumped in front of Libby on the trail and started to growl at us.  Libby screamed and begin to sprint in the opposite direction down the trail. The bear followed in pursuit.  As the bear begin to charge at me, I put my hands up above my head and took a wide stance to appear larger. I also started to roar back at the bear. In my mind, I was thinking "Ok, this is one of those bluff bear charges that I've read about." At some point as her open mouth with sharp teeth and claws got closer to my face, I realized this was no bluff. It was the real deal. 

I needed a plan B.  I wasn't sure exactly what that was going to be. Thankfully, my instincts took over.  I tucked my head in between my forearms and leaned in towards the bear's chest.  As I made contact, I pushed as hard as I could on the bear's chest.  She seemed a little surprised and stumbled backwards, back onto all fours. Then her yearling cub emerged from the trees. The bear and I both looked directly at the cub and then they both retreated back into woods.  

We regrouped and thanked our guardian angels for watching over us. Then we got our bear spray out of the bottom of our backpack. We didn't want to test the higher spirits again. We continued up to the top of the peak and back down, singing loudly the whole way with the bear spray in hand. Our songs were a variety of pop, camp, Christmas,  improv and Sound of Music melodies.  We were quite an earsore to all creatures around us.  We opted to get the cowbell out of the car for our second hike of the day, to Osprey Falls.  Thankfully, there were no other close range bear sightings the rest of the trip!
 5 minutes before the bear!
Lower Falls from Uncle Tom's Cabin trail in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.