I'm not sure if it's my weakness for ice cream or those beers I've allowed myself on Fridays and Saturdays, but I've been having trouble moving my weight downward toward my new "skinny" goal of 230.
To combat this, I've added a 2 mile hill run to all my other activities, heading out to one of the fire roads I've been mountain biking this last summer, with the dogs loaded in the truck and a knitted cap pulled down over my ears to combat the new, cold, foggy reality.
I drive UP the fire road to an expanded parking spot two miles up moderately steep road terrain. Then I park and jog DOWN the road two miles. When I come to where this road connects with two other roads, I turn around and do the hard tucker run back up to the truck.
By running away from the truck, it forces me to run back to the truck.
See. Not so dumb after all...
I get a four mile run in, two of which are HARD, and I'm unable to not finish the run because then I'd be stuck in the middle of nowhere where there are bears.
Oh yeah. The bears.
This is where this gets mildly interesting. Yesterday, I drove up the road and parked, tied my shoes and started jogging down the road toward home. About a mile from the truck, I heard a vehicle coming from BEHIND ME, which was weird because this road forks off into some very rough going. Someone had come out of steep hillsides and ruts to get on this road, and I called my dogs and got out of the way to let them pass.
It was a family of dudes in a well-used 4wd king cab. Grandpa, two brothers, and an eight year old boy.
And I know they were family because... well... you can just TELL sometimes.
These were the males in a local rural family sans a few teeth...
I smiled and waved and they smiled and nodded as they drove by me. The eight year old plastered his face against the glass and looked happily down at my dogs who were all sitting obediently at my feet like I taught them.
And that was that for another half mile.
As I continued to jog down this road, I started hearing dogs way up to my left on the ridge that ran parallel to the road. They were about a mile away, definitely a small pack of hunting dogs, and they were on to something. "Good thing," I remember thinking, "they're way up there."
I then heard voices up above me to the right of the road. (The road runs literally at the base of two hills and follows the creek) I had no idea whose voices these were but I called my dogs by name just to make noise in case they were eager hunters.
It was at this point I realized that I was wearing dark brown sweats, a black sweatshirt, and a black woolly pulled down over my ears. It was at this point too, that I realized I could look very bear-like to an over-zealous hunter type with bad eyes...
I whistled and yelled some more for my dogs. Perhaps the near-sighted hunter had decent ears?
"Weeeeeeeeenzel! What're you dooooing girl? Baaaadooooooooo badoooooo! Come come! Bubeeeeeeee! Come on girl!"
I wasn't shot at, so apparently it worked.
Down from a very steep side road came the truck and the family of local men. The young boy had climbed into the back and was standing up, holding on to the roll bar with a giant grin on his face.
I called my dogs back out of the way, and the truck pulled onto the road just ahead of me. Then they backed up like they wanted to talk to me.
I jogged on.
An old man stepped out of the driver's door and pulled up the back of his jeans to cover his crack and adjusted his belly around his giant silver belt buckle.
He spit through two missing front teeth and wiped his sleeve on his red and black plaid hunting catalogue jacket.
"Howdy." he called out.
I stopped jogging and nodded as I approached him.
"Howdy." I smiled.
"I just wanted to let you know I'm running my dogs this mornin' and we're out huntin'. There's six of them out there somewhere (he pointed up the ridge to my left) and I think they're onto a bear.
"You're huntin' bear?"
"Oh hell no. Law says you can't hunt bear with dogs anymore, but try tellin' that to my dogs. They're supposed to be after coons but these woods are thick with bears. It's hard for me to convince them coons are legal, bears are illegal, know what I'm sayin'?"
I smiled. I could see how that would be hard.
"I figured that was what you were doin'," I said. "I've been listening to your dogs for the last couple of minutes. They're way up on that ridge over there."
"Damn fools are onto a bear, I'm sure of it," said the old man.
"Well I hope they chase it the hell away from me!" I told him with humor. "Look at what I brought for protection."
The old man looked down at my snuggle-on-the-sofa dogs and smiled broadly. It wasn't just the two front teeth he was missing.
"You're not carryin' a gun?"
I shook my head. "I'm just a guy tryin' to lose a beer gut out here joggin'."
The two brothers, who had come out of the truck, both smiled and subconsciously patted their beer guts as if to protect them from the vagaries of the thought of exercise. Between the two of them, I calculated one full set of mustache and beard.
The dogs on the ridge grew louder.
"Do you know how to get up there?" I asked. I learned these roads the hard way, by pedaling up them, and I was anxious to share that valuable knowledge.
"Oh hell," said the old man, "I've been huntin' these woods for well over forty years. I know these roads well enough, I reckon. But thank ye for the kindness."
I continued on with my downhill jog and the family of four all climbed back into their truck and drove slowly past me to connect to other fire roads that led up to where the dogs were apparently on to a bear.
"A bear..." I thought. "Good. Scare away the bears..."
The road I was on finally ended, tying in to two other roads. Here I stopped at a small bridge, knelt down and tightened my shoes. In the silence I could hear the hunting dogs baying excitedly up on the ridge, comfortably far, far away.
I also heard the sound of another vehicle. Two vehicles, it turned out. Two hunting quads with good mufflers and lots of camouflage. Atop these two quads were two men, also fully greened out and missing a few teeth.
"Uncles," I thought. "They have got to be uncles."
They smiled broad, gapped smiles and nodded and waved. They were friendly uncles out huntin' with they're brethren.
Then the truck came round and the old man rolled down his window and nodded at me again.
"Dogs got a'hold of a big male bear." he said matter-of-factly. "Saw the prints crossing the road up there."
He pointed with his one good eye and his two sons held out their hands and made rings with their fingers and thumbs. Big rings. It was a big, male, black bear, indeed.
His dogs sounded way far off and I nodded. I was just a guy out jogging, trying to lose a beer gut...
So I slogged up the road for about a mile, all the while tuned into the sound of the dogs on the ridge. They were on the trail of something, were far off, and my truck was only a mile away...
But as with all things hilly and woodsy, sounds can be deceiving. When they crested the ridge and got on MY SIDE of it, I realized the dogs were much closer than I had imagined. They were also GETTING CLOSER with every jogging step I took. I realized as I trotted, that those dogs were on a collision course with my truck, and if I just kept jogging at this slow pace, I wouldn't get to the truck before they did.
AND THEY WERE CHASING A BIG MALE BEAR.
This realization effectively influenced my pace substantially.
I was now running double my usual speed. My heart rate was climbing and my legs were having trouble keeping solvent with oxygen.
"Good lord," I thought. "This is no way to set a pace."
My dogs started to react to the sounds of the hunting dogs running alongside us on the opposite side of the creek. The hunting dogs and the bear were running across the hill, up the way the creek originated, and they were still on a collision course with me and my truck...
I had to keep calling my three dogs to stay close and not run off to "join the hunt".
My dogs joining a hunt would be like Peewee Herman joining a gang fight.
"Wenzel! Bubbeeeeee!! Badoooooo!!"
I hoped the ferocity of their names would cause the bear to veer away and head off to deeper woods.
One very steep hill and I would see my truck on the road ahead...
I ran. Oh boy did I run...
As I crested the hill and topped it, the road flattened and I could see my truck about a hundred yards away. I could hear crashing across the creek and dogs barking and howling.
The race was going to be won by a bear and a pack of dogs so I stopped, grabbed my cramping gut, and got off the road and underneath a tree.
I happily watched as a big black furry thing ran across the road not more than sixty feet in front of my truck. It was high-tailing it for high country. About a minute later, a big assortment of dogs crossed the road too and ran up the hill away from me.
Another minute after I got safely in my truck and hung around to see what else would happen, the two uncles came riding wild-eyed down a very steep logging road, and turned sharply and headed up another, trying to catch up to their barking and baying dogs.
Boy am I sore this morning...