Who Would You Rather Meet Alone in the Woods? By Linea Jantz | Tales from the Trails: PNW High Country

Who Would You Rather Meet Alone in the Woods? By Linea Jantz | Tales from the Trails: PNW High Country

Who Would You Rather Meet Alone in the Woods? By Linea Jantz

*Ride occurred on trails along the Kettle Crest in Colville National Forest (WA)

Click click click. WHOOSH. The stove flamed blue, tarnished kettle hissing in the dark. The morning smelled of burnt coffee, smoky with hints of last night’s campfire. I cradled a metal camp mug between my cold palms and tried to inhale some of that heat into my stiff joints.

The wind swayed grown trees, bowing side to side, sighing beside the river’s muted roar. The cool of the forest waited with me for sunrise.

The kids and my husband were still asleep in the tent. I already had my bike clothes on; legs bare and brush-scratched, a couple days of stubble lavishly coated with dried sweat and dust. I was sunburnt, bug-bitten, and having an absolute blast.

Once I could see the trails, I climbed on my bike. Muscling my tires over roots and granite, my heartbeat thwacked at my eardrums with the steady thump of helicopter blades preparing for takeoff.

I flowed through a cedar grove dappled with shadows, each meadow strewn with a different variety of wildflowers. Then I came around the corner into a clearing to see glistening black fur…round ears…a snout–a bear!

“Shit,” I hissed, leaping off my bike and hauling it in front of me to use as an impromptu shield.

Thankfully, the bear was just as horrified as I was. It crashed up the hillside.

I stood for a moment in the sunshine, heart slamming against each individual rib as I tried to get myself back under control.

My senses abnormally sharp with adrenaline, I slowly came back to the present moment. The creek splashed merrily at my side, fiery paintbrush and wild tiger lilies leaning over the sparkling water. Trilling birdsong from the forest laid a comforting hand on my cheek.

I closed my eyes and took a moment just to breathe with the surrounding mountains, with the cloudless sky. What a beautiful morning to be alive (and not bear fodder).

To avoid activating the bear’s prey instinct if it was still hanging around, I walked my bike down the trail for a bit, having a friendly conversation with the surrounding blackberry bushes. “Please don’t eat me. I’m not a threat. I’m sure the berries taste better.”

Once I reached a section of trail with better sightlines, I swung a leg back over my bike and pedaled on. When I got back to camp, my husband had settled the kids with some breakfast. Handing over the proverbial parenting baton, he started pulling on his gloves and helmet.

“I ran into a bear on Sherman Tie,” I told him, tearing open a granola bar. “Enjoy your ride.”

“I’ll be careful,” he said nonchalantly.

We never saw him again.

(Just kidding.)

Author: Linea Jantz

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