January 7, 2013
As I was ringing in 2013, I found myself contemplating the best adventures of 2012. By far, at the top of my list was the big adventure in my own backyard: a self-contained (together with Bill ) bike-packing trip to the top of a few high points near Missoula, MT. (I blogged about the first part of this trip in The first 90 degrees .)
But, when I tell people the story of the whole trip (all 360 degrees of our loop) I actually start with the end of the trip (trust me, it's way more interesting). So in thinking about the end of 2012, I also started contemplating great bike adventures I am going to plan in 2013, but more on that later ...
During the best adventure of 2012, we traveled a total of 160 miles through National Forest, skirting one wilderness area, and I reiterate this fact only to note that in those miles we didn't see very much wildlife, just the usual: a few deer, several squirrels, a couple of crows, a few song birds. Of course it was beautiful and even an early blizzard showed up one day, so it's not that it wasn't exciting. As is typical, we finished the trip like we finish most trips: in the dark, hungry, and exhausted (and, yes with dead headlamp batteries), but certainly elated from the adventure and the accomplishment. So after celebrating by gorging on pizza in town, we headed home (just another 400 more feet or so of climbing) and flopped into bed. Zzzzz.
Then, around three o'clock in the morning, I awoke to what sounded like gravel falling. In my sleepy state I wondered why my housemates were moving gravel at this odd hour. Our garage was under a major re-model so it was certainly in the scope of house events, but why at 3:00 A.M.? I went back to sleep. At around 3:15 A.M. I was awoken again by a similar sound, but I also noticed a suspicious draft. Uh oh. My brain said "something is UP." I got out of bed to check it out. The sound seemed to be emanating from the garage so I opened the garage door, which was right next to my bedroom. I couldn't quite make out what I was seeing: The freezer door of the downstairs fridge was wide open and what looked like all the contents of the freezer were on the floor. The next thing I noticed was that the sliding garage door to the outside was open. My brain immediately said, "BEAR!"
Nope, this one is way too small and in its natural habitat.
At this point in the story I need to tell you that my partner just thinks I have gone to the bathroom and everyone else seems to have slept through the noise of the entire contents of our freezer being spilled onto the concrete floor. Yup, I am alone in the garage with a potential 'bear situation.' I usually embellish the story here by saying that I immediately started expertly sweeping the place, James Bond style, by checking my blind spots and moving like a cat, but really it was more like creeping slowly, feet wide and arms ridiculously extended out, toward the open door, one tentative footstep at a time, listening.
The garage was strangely quiet. I got within about 10 feet of the open door and then saw the glowing eyes. The shape of the bear turned slightly. It was outside (thank goodness), but looking towards the garage (yes, at me), and seemed to be deciding something. "SCAT! SCAT!" I yelled (I have no idea why I choose those words), amazingly the bear sort of shrugged and then just loped off.
I find a few components of this story to be amazing, with one heart-breaking piece:
After riding 160 miles through some of the more remote terrain bordering Missoula, we encountered the most impressive wildlife in our garage.
The bear was able to come into the house, open the freezer door, and avoid the giant piles of construction equipment and tight corners without knocking over or destroying anything! Seriously nothing was destroyed or harmed in the bear entry, investigation, or devouring of all the food in our freezer, nor in the telling of this story.
Only two chicken pot pies, one pizza, and one bag of trash actually went missing in this 'incident,' although reports from the house on what exactly was in the freezer are suspect.
The bear did not even destroy the freezer (everything was in working order), he merely opened the freezer door. I put the untouched food, including a giant frozen ham hock, back in the freezer for later consumption (by us, not the bear).
After the fact, the only evidence that the bear was even in the garage was of course the spilled and missing food from the freezer, one giant, muddy paw print, and maybe a few claw/teeth marks on top of the freezer door. I kid you not.
The sad part: Due to human error (yes, us), this is one of a few incidents that may lead to this bear's eventual demise. This bear seems way too adept at navigating a developed neighborhood in search of its spoils. Lack of bear-proofing knowledge and bear-proof trash containers, etc. in the area may lead to this bear being put down.
Oh yes, the trip. Well, we did eventually make it to the Rattlesnake for a splendid evening BBQ hosted by friends and long-time supporters of Bill's RMVQ adventures. We had some yummy food and a hula hoop contest. But the highlight of the trip (yes, it was almost the hula hoop contest), was going up and over Sheep Mountain on the third day. We started around 3:00 P.M. and finished just as the the sun was setting. We also endured a major thunderstorm and a late-afternoon blizzard on Day 4.
Here are a few adventurous and early tours that still have space:
Southern Sampler, Self-Contained - May 11 - 22
Sierra Cascades, Self-Contained - May 25 - July 30
Bar Harbor Maine, Inn-to-Inn - June 8 - 15
Underground Railroad, Van - April 14 - May 24
Cycle the Gorge, Fully-Supported - June 15 - 22
Freedom Flyer - Fully-Supported - June 26 - July 4
Also, I am looking forward to some more Adventure Cycling Bike Overnights posts, another of my 2012 bike-adventure highlights. I'm thinking about the bike adventures to come in 2013!
Photos by Mo and Bill, but the Hula Hoop photo by Lydia Larson.
ON THE ROAD is written by the tours team -- Mo, Paul, Madeline, and Arlen -- tours specialists and intrepid bicyclists, covering all things related to Adventure Cycling's tours Department. Check out our 2013 Tours!