The absolute best thing about Monkey Valley is running with the bears. (The worst thing is the cell reception, but I won’t go into that now.) It has not happened often that I’ve had the chance to run with bears here—only a few times in nine years—but it happened today.
I went for a nice, long Sunday run, heading out along the old dirt road, overgrown with grass, on the other side of the creek. I forded the swollen springtime creek by climbing along an old fence that has half fallen over, and followed the road up to the gate at the south-east edge of my property—a 20-minute run from the house to the gate, all on my own land!
This is one of the things that drew me to look for a remote property—the desire to run on trails where no cars were—breathing exhaust fumes while out for a run is the worst!
I climbed through the wooden rails of the gate, and followed the track up to Galena Creek Road. Along this stretch I thought about bears, wondering if they were finished hibernating. I realized it was a very warm May day—surely they were out of hibernation, and had been for a while!
At Galena Creek Road I headed north-east, going uphill past the 14K marker, and decided to go as far as the 15K marker. At that point I greeted the trees, offered Reiki to the land and all her creatures (as I usually do at the turn-around point of a run in the woods), and headed back.
On the way back I was watching out for a marshy section, which has been a breeding ground for mosquitoes. I’d found it on a medicine walk a few years ago, which had begun with a moose sighting, followed by a remarkable, magical encounter with a bear. So bear was really on my mind today, and looking ahead from the top of a hill, I saw a bear friend looking for greens in the clearing that led to my land!
I immediately stopped at the crest of the hill, and sat down in the middle of the road to watch the bear. He was some distance away—probably about 200 yards—but I had a good view from the top of the hill. I don’t think the bear noticed me. The wind was blowing from Missezula Lake to the bear and then to me. I could smell the lake smell, and I heard grouse drumming out their spring mating dance. In fact, I accidentally ran one off the road during this same run.
But now I was competely absorbed and fascinated by the bear. He was black, and looked quite small, perhaps because of the distance. I wondered if he might be a cub, but there didn’t seem to be any other bears around. He was browsing for new grass to eat—still a sparse commodity in this neck of the woods in May. After a minute or two he ambled east, crossing the road well ahead of me. He looked very thin in profile, and seemed to have a long tail. But what struck me the most was he looked like a human in a bear suit. The way he walked, with purpose and a sense of direction, conveyed the sense of him as an entity with his own business to attend to. Usually when I’ve seen bears they have been running away from me, which is very different from this one who was simply going about his business.
When he didn’t reappear I resumed my homeward run, looking for tracks or scat when I got to where the bear had been. I couldn’t see any signs, though my own tracks from running were plainly visible in the gravel of the logging road. The poor thing must have lost a lot of weight over the winter, to step so lightly that he left no tracks. I climbed a nearby hill on the side of the road where he’d disappeared, hoping for another glimpse, but didn’t see him. So I offered him some Reiki for protection, and the prayer that he would find lots to eat this spring.
Then I headed home, feeling blessed by this encounter with wildness.
There are so few of our wild friends left. Don’t hurt them! Stop hunting bears. Stop hunting the wild creatures.