The other day I set out to go one place and ended up in another. There was a long drive at the front of the day and I'd left the house at 2AM, not anybody's finest hour. Being half asleep I pulled a rookie move, leaving my phone, gps and maps on the desk at home. Naturally, I didn't find this out until I was hours from home. I decided to give my plan a shot, foolishly trusting my memory of my intended route to get me there. In the end, while cycling through ranch land at 4AM I zigged when I should have zagged and undeservedly ended up in a remarkably beautiful canyon. Not what I'd planned for the day, but a sweet day none the less.
My total riding mileage for the day came to 20 miles, most of it in a beautiful and broad valley. The valley floor hosted what I think has to be the most beautiful forest of California live oak the I've ever laid eyes on. I pedaled through miles of this gorgeous scenery, crossing Tecuya creek numerous times during the gentle climb up the valley. Eventually the road took an insanely steep turn out of the valley and climbed to a powerline road atop a tall ridge. From this vantage I had views down into Lebec and Hungry Valley. Descending that crazy steep track back into the Tecuya required some clever brake work.
|This is obviously an older track but it's reasonable to think this was the same bear I met. These tracks were located very close to my bear encounter. I have a size 11 foot. That print measured 7" across. Big bear.|
The highlight of the day occurred fairly early in the morning. I had my head down, was cranking up a steep switchback in granny gear when I rounded the turn straight into the biggest black bear I've ever met. And we were close! Like 20 feet close. This was one of those "It all happened so fast!" moments. Both of us were uncomfortably surprised. We stared at each other across this narrow distance and I could swear his brain was processing all the same split-second options that mine was. This mutual connection lasted for a three second eternity before the bear blinked, turned, and bolted off the road. I dropped my bike while listening to the bear crashing through the creek a bit below. A second later the bear was literally jogging up a 60 degree slope across the creek, maybe 75 feet away. He disappeared into a one of two small caves on an eye level cliff face. After the bear had vanished I walked a couple shaky circles around my bike. A bit later I located my heart and put it back in my chest. That was a really big bear.
|The bear retreated to the hole on the right.|
|California Thistle, cirsium occidentale var. californicum|
So I guess the lesson for the day is that sometimes even a blind (no maps) idiot (forgot maps) can find a place to explore. My thighs hate me, and I have a new understanding of how pathetically unconditioned I am for mountain biking, but I'm working on that. Between Kings Canyon and the SLP I've seen enough bears in the last 9 months to last me a while. My truest treat for the day was riding through miles of gorgeous oak forest. Viva Tecuya.