April 29th: For some reason I have developed into this person who is afraid of almost anything. Im really afraid of moose, and I am really afraid of bears. I have also noticed that I restrain myself from doing really (in my view) risky things. Is this a sign of me getting old? When I was younger I was not afraid of anything, or so it felt like. But now, growing up I feel more scared of trivial things.
I am afraid of falling while climbing. When I took my lead climbing class the instructor had us climb up farther away from our last clip in, and do a free fall, just to see what it feels like. I liked it, the feeling of falling, and I even asked to do it again. But when I do climb I never let myself fall, ever. When I climb with W I say "you got me"? And I wont allow myself from falling until I hear his reply. Which basically mean that I never allow myself to actual push myself to the limit. W says that if you don't do mistakes and fall you will never improve. When we go skiing I always do an easy or slow ski down, I never let myself go too fast to loose control. I think it's healthy though to loose control. When I did that 25 mile ski race there were sections with a very gentle slope to it, but the distance of that gentle slope made you gain so much speed to the point where you could not control your skis. I remember me actually loudly saying to myself (even in english) "Oh my God, I cant control the skis, I can't slow down". After some time (who knows how short or long depending on how you see it) it took before I forced myself to sit down instead of actually doing a serious crash.
When W took me kayaking the very first time in my life, kind of, we did the delta clearwater....which basically has a stretch where you paddle upstream, yes, upstream (what a great first kayak you might think...well I thought the same). It scared me a lot! Because I got really close to the edges of the stream, and a lot of debris from tree branches. I was scared that I was going to get caught under some of those branches. I was exhausted by all the paddling, and as soon I lost energy I floated down even further than what I was before. This fear of hurting myself.
Back to the bear story. Last year me and W went biking in Denali. We wanted to do something like that the year before, but a rainstorm held us back that time. So last year we had a really late breakup and we didn't get to it until May, and even then there was a lot of snow on the ground. I asked a friend of mine about bear encounters and according to what I heard, he said: "it is not that likely to run into a bear on a bike", I wrote about that adventure here: Friday Theme * 3 again.. – Water, Right Now, and Green is Delightful
Basically it turned out that my friend told me that it would be surprising if you DID NOT run into a bear while biking in Denali. Go figure.
After that I swore to myself that I would never go biking in Denali again. Until last weekend. The night before leaving, another friend, D, (who also were going biking in Denali, but camping overnight) came by and gave me a drawing. She said: "You know I thought about you while drawing this, and I know that you have been talking about my drawings and how you would like one, so I made this for you....I don't want to rub this whole bear thing in, I mean it could have been a moose drawing too I suppose, anyway here it is"
I guess I am the "mom" in our lab, because I am the one who always reminds everyone that we are in bear country, and we should have bear spray and so on when we go out into the field. And with the amount of bear-tracks we have, you should be worried in the field.
I told E who I was going to go biking with: "well I don't really think we will run into any bears", just because I really didn't think so. We met up with another friend of mine in Denali and drove out to Teklanika. Right now before the tourist season they have the road open to mile 30 for personal cars, which is Teklanika. When me and W went biking last year we went from Savage river to Teklanika, so I hadn't been biking pass that point before.
We biked less than 0.5 miles until my friend said "it's an animal, an animal, there" And I was thinking where, where is the animal, searching for a moose or something in the bushes. But further down in the river valley was a bear.
I felt calm though, because this bear was so far down below that I didn't feel that he/she was a threat. I half serious asked my friend so, what is the probability of actually running into a second bear, now when we already seen one, that must be pretty low right (and I knew right as I said this that, that is not how the statistical probability works..), She turned to me and said...eeh no i don't think so.
We continued biking, across the river, continuing up, up, and up. Bear and wolf tracks on the side of the road. We talked about everything between the earth and heaven. Lynx-snowshoe hare cycles, musk-ox giving birth, reindeer calves, boys, long-term relationships with life, the park, and boys.
I was tired, but continued biking because I knew that we would have some kind of "reward" in the end. Our goal was only 9 miles in, but it was uphill and it was enough, for at least me to get really tired. We decided to leave the bikes and hike the rest of the way to Sable pass. After each corner another stunning view was visible, just like the whole bike ride had been so far.
We were definitely not the only ones biking, a lot of people had the same idea. One thing I am really happy/proud about is that almost everyone were wearing helmets. My friend even said, well I think i lost my helmet so I am not sure I can go.
So finally we reached Sable pass, and it turned out that the more awesome view was even further away. We hiked a bit further until we could see Denali again, before we turned back to our bikes again.
I, of curse, had to do my regular handstand before returning.
On the way back we ran into the bear technician, he told my friend that the bear is now closer to the road and he is sleeping, so we should keep our eyes open. GREAT, is exactly what I was thinking, a sleeping bear close to the road.
The rest of the way back was so easy, and that is when I actually really realized that we had been going uphill the WHOLE way to Sable pass. As we approached the bridge, right before the final uphill towards Teklanika, my friend said, ok are you guys ready, and I was like haha...yup ready to encounter the sleeping bear. We got to the bridge and I saw this other biker halfway across the bridge taking pictures. I looked out on the river bed, and thought to myself "what is that big thing, is that a Musk-ox?", until I loudly said Oh my God it is the bear. I just don't know why but it made me so scared. Now thinking back about it I think it is because I haven't had that many bear encounters, so I haven't had a chance to study the bears. This bear though was huge, and we all thought it was the same bear as we had seen earlier, until another pair of bikers came and I heard them in the background "Oh wow there is another bear". Well there goes my little theory about probability statistics. This bear did not seem interested in anything else other than the stream bed, and he kept walking up and down, digging. He didn't run per see, but bears are so big, especially this one, and it didn't take long until he/she had moved from one side to another. My friends felt more calm, but said that if I didn't feel comfortable we could wait a while longer and study him to see what he is doing. By that time lots of spectators of course gathered, on the other side, and also on "our" side. I am always so surprised how close people get. How close can you get? Sure, I love taking pictures of bears, but I rather be further away, and protected while I do that.
After a while we decided to bike, the bear had moved aways a bit from the bridge, but was still pretty close to the other side. As we biked uphill we passed several spectators, watching and admiring the bear. And all that I could think about how badly I wanted to get away, I couldn't even get myself to shift gears because I felt worried that the bear was going to hear it an run for me. Which obviously probably would never happen, especially considering the amount of people in that area at that point. But it really made me think about my fear. Where exactly does it come from and why am I so afraid of things like this? I thought about the drawing that my friend gave me. I guess I really am THAT afraid of bears.
"Fear comes from uncertainty. When we are absolutely certain, whether of our worth or worthlessness, we are almost impervious to fear. Thus a feeling of utter unworthiness can be a source of courage" - Eric Hoffer