June 24, 2012

Location =  Sandia Peak Ski Area  
Distance =  9.40
Time =  1:09:59
Ave. Speed =  8.0
Max. Speed =  17.9
Monthly Dist. =    96.51
Yearly Dist. =  495.82

The manager of the ski area asked me if I would help sweep the mountain again and he let me choose which trail I wanted go down, Golden Eagle or King of the Mountain. Having never gone down King of the Mountain I made that my choice and somewhere around 4:30 I took the radio and left the top of the mountain.

The trail makes lots of turns back and forth across the mountain. At one point, while I was going under the chair, I noticed that the chairlift was stopped and there was a couple on the chair with a baby on their lap. A little while later on another pass under the chairlift I looked up and I could see that they were still in the same place. This was longer than a normal stop should have been and I knew that something was wrong. It was too early to have turned off the chair for the night so I was certain that they hadn't been forgotton about. I thought about calling on the radio and asking what was going on, but on second thought decided that it wasn't my problem and I just continued my bike ride. I would find out later when I finally reached the bottom that there was a power failure that was affecting all of the East Mountains. To make matters worse, I had the radio from the top with me for the sweep so the only communication on the chairlift that worked was the sound powered telephone. They ended up switching on the auxilliary power motor and using it to get the people off of the lift.

Meanwhile..... I continued my ride.

There were a couple of guys riding up that I passed who were doing fine. I came down around a curve and I saw a bike standing by itself against a rock. This seemed odd so I called out and a guy answered from somewhere behind the rock. I asked if he was all right or needed anything and he just said no, that he was taking a breather. I continued onward and I overtook a guy and a gal who were on their down. I asked them if everything was okay. The gal wanted to know if they were going in the right direction and I assured her that they were and that there was plenty of daylight left to make it to the bottom. I passed them by and a few minutes later as I was cruising along minding my own business -- there was a bear in the trail with two cubs.

I stopped on a curve about 40 or 50 feet from the bear and there was a tree there that I could use to block the bear's view of me. At first I hid behind it but then when I wasn't attacked immediately I thought that I should show myself and let the bear know that I wasn't a threat. Her two cubs had scrambled up a tree that was right next to the trail and she was standing in the trail next to the tree. I was pinned down. I had already decided that I was going to wait for the two people that I knew weren't far behind me, and we would all try to pass the bear together.

The gal showed up first and then the guy was not far behind. I didn't want to spend any time talking about our situation which would have only increased our fear factor so as soon as the guy reached us I told them both that we were going to try and pass the bear together and I immediately started talking to the bear in a loud voice. I told her that we didn't mean her or her cubs any harm and if she would just move off of the trail a little ways we would pass on by and be on our way. I think she may have understood because she moved downhill away from the tree about 20 feet and that was just enough room for us to ride on by.

I will admit that my heart was beating a few beats faster than normal. Whenever you are within reach of a creature that could hurt you or kill you if it wanted to, and you don't know what decision it's going to make, it's always a rush. It's probably much the same as a swimmer would feel when a shark goes by.

The three of us stayed together until I felt that we were out of danger from the bear and then I said good-bye. They thanked me for helping them pass by the bear. We were all still a little bit nervous about our encounter.

I continued down toward the bottom, walking the few short little sections that required it. I was riding around one curve in the trail when all of a sudden six or seven little quail flew up all around me. After the run-in with the bear I wasn't about to let a few quail startle me.

As I neared the bottom I could hear the chairlift and it seemd very loud. When I reached the lift that's when I could see that the auxilliary engine was running and there was no electricity. Luckily, the tranfer to diesel power worked and everyone was safely unloaded from the chairlift.


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