Head out from the cabin with Nala. Turn right. Go down the long hill that follows the path of the river. The roadway is empty. Cabins mainly vacant. It is off season. The county is just coming off of an executive order banning Airbnb rentals due to the pandemic.
It is a cloudy but pleasant day. We reach the end of that road. Turn left and begin our way up Kinnikinik street. The river is now off to the right. Reach Chiwawa Loop road and make a sharp left. Down a dead end lined with cabins. River to our left. The weather has been unseasonably warm. The snow melt almost complete. The river roars.
Nala is fluffy and looks twice her normal weight. She hasn’t had a trim in four months. Am listening to Diane Von Furstenberg’s memoir. Jogging. We round the bend. And there he is. Brown. Huge. Gigantic. Bigger than Nala plus me times four. Staring right at us. Maybe a hundred feet away. Two driveways to be exact.
Now last week, I almost ran into a deer. It bounded off right before would have plowed into it. That’s how observant I am. But today for some reason my eyes are looking forward. Am alert. Even so. It takes a good second to understand what this big thing is.
It is a Big Brown Bear.
As a child, my sister Debbie and I played for hours and hours in these woods. We searched everywhere for signs of wildlife. Had to make do with chipmunks and garter snakes. It used to be so exasperating. But so far this year, living mainly at the cabin, have seen not just deer, but a bobcat, a black bear and now this fellow.
Well it is one thing to see a bear from the car. It is another to have it facing you straight on. Two driveways away.
Turn around. Kick legs into high gear. And Run. Nala does not want to follow. She is pulling. Wants to go say hi to the bear apparently. Have to pull her forward. She keeps trying to slow down to have a look back. Am towing her along. Have not run this fast in at least several years. Maybe a decade. Maybe ever. But not way too fast. Because not sure for how long am going to need to keep it up. Run fast enough to be able to breathe.
Brain prevents hyperventilation. It says – find a house that’s occupied. Not easy. Run. Run. And then near the entrance of the dead end there’s a garage door open.
Look back. Brace for the sight of the bear. But no bear.
Run to the driveway of the house and yell – Bear!
Gray haired slim man with glasses stands up. Wearing white and gray plaid shirt with jeans.
What did you say – he smiles.
Bear! There’s a Bear! – I pant.
Am looking back the whole time. It doesn’t come around the last bend.
His wife pops up from a crouch. Or chair. They were working on something in their garage. She is also slim and gray. Wearing a white T-shirt. Says – where is it.
We all look. It doesn’t come.
They tell me they haven’t seen any bears for a long time. But garbage day is tomorrow (Sunday). The bear may have come for someone’s garbage.
Am shaking just a little. Standing close to the garage. Ready to rush in.
They ask where I live. Am thinking – how can you chit chat at a time like this. Later realize they just didn’t want me to faint.
Tell them the old cedar cabin down at the other end of the neighborhood that’s been worked on for the past 4 years.
Do you know Matt Axelson – I ask. He’s been working on it.
They smile and gesture towards their pretty also gray home on the river’s edge. And say – Matt built our home.
We all laugh.
They say – you’re the lawyer.
Yes I say. I’m the lawyer. The lawyer that almost got eaten by the Big Brown Bear.
Photo: Nala and I on our typical mountain running route.