Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Bear, a Butt and a Titanium Snow Bike

Many of you have see pictures I have posted when we rent a yurt in Eagle River (see July 2006 and July 2007 archives for pictures) while backpacking. This yurt is our home base before moving back further into the valley and where we meet up with one or two of our friends and have a pretty active night of drinking, eating the tons of food the guys pack in (lightening up our load), bald guys wearing moss wigs reliving their hairy glory days, bike boys wearing moss moustaches dreaming of manhood, telling lies, etc., under the midnight sun.

We always seen bears on these trips, some quite close up, all black bears so far. We now always have a gun and bear spray, try to make adequate noise but with a 35 lb pack on my back, I get into a zone where I don't want to be talking or making lots of noise. The tinkle of our bear bells isn't really very loud, especially when hiking in the rain or wind, as in this case. But this is the risk we take whenever we go out mountain biking, hiking, camping, whatever. I was also surprised of the bear activity still going on this late in the year. Life in Alaska. I'm glad this girl is OK but I don't quite agree with her conclusion. A bluff charge is a warning, a bite is aggressive.

Jogger survives bear by seat of her pants
EAGLE RIVER: Sow grizzly bites woman in rump before being run off by a protective pooch.
Published: October 27, 2007 If there's an ideal way to be mauled by a bear, Sarah Wallner lived through it Thursday.

Wallner, a 32-year-old Anchorage nurse, was sore but otherwise fine Friday, one day after a grizzly bear attacked her about two miles from the Eagle River Nature Center in Chugach State Park.
Everyone from the victim to state biologists to the person who carted the injured woman to safety agree the encounter near the Rapids Camp yurt took every good turn imaginable -- other than the part where the bear took a bite out of Wallner's butt.
The grizzly was a sow protecting a cub rather than a fresh carcass, and she fled the area after the attack, Fish and Game biologist Rick Sinnott said.
The victim was a Providence Medical Center nurse who, despite the shock of being mauled, remained calm because she knew her wounds weren't life threatening.
"I knew I wasn't gonna bleed out from a wound on the butt," Wallner said.
The first person on the scene was a man on an all-terrain vehicle who is trained to respond to wilderness emergencies. Paul Hanis got Wallner safely away from the scene of the attack, stopped about a mile down the trail to check the wound, and decided emergency treatment could wait until they reached the visitors center.
Topping the list of best-case-scenarios was the presence of a genuine hero: A year-old husky-shepherd mix named Genaro (pronounced Hanero).
Genaro belongs to Hanis, but the medium-size dog was running on a leash with Wallner, who said she was about 20 yards from the yurt when the bear attacked.
"She was about 25 feet away on a bluff, and in a blink of an eye she was on me, just like you read about," said Wallner, who came to Alaska five years ago to attend nursing school and decided to stay.
"I was just trying to get down on the ground. I was turning to go down, and that's when she bit me -- that's why she got my butt, because I was turning.
"During that, the dog got loose and got between us and the bear let out this roar, and she went after him. He's really the little hero, because she ran after him."
Wallner propped herself up against a rock but was afraid to stand up, because she thought the bear might be guarding a kill nearby. After what seemed like an eternity to Wallner but was actually about five minutes, the dog returned, unharmed.
"I couldn't believe that a dog was able to get that bear distracted," Wallner said. "If I had really been alone, I think the bear wouldn't have lost her focus on me."
About 10 minutes later, Hanis -- who, like Wallner, is a volunteer at the nature center -- arrived on an ATV filled with firewood for the yurt.
He drove Wallner about a mile from the scene of the attack, toward the visitors center, before stopping to check her wounds.
"Judging by the rip in her pants I didn't think it was that bad, but then upon seeing the wounds, it was a little worse than I thought," he said.
They continued to the center, where Hanis washed two deep punctures. Wallner then drove herself to an Eagle River clinic, where she spent about four hours getting four puncture wounds, two of them quite deep, cleaned.
"The doctor said 'I can't believe you're not just shredded.' Even where she bit into tissue, she didn't hit the hip bone or joints," Wallner said.
Sinnott said park rangers and state biologists followed tracks that indicate the bear was a sow with a cub.
Some brown bears are already hibernating, he said, but it's not unusual for them to stay awake and on the prowl this late in the year.
What's keeping them up?
Salmon that a couple of months ago migrated up creeks feeding Eagle River and have since spawned out.
"They're not finding live ones, but there are certainly dead ones that they weren't willing to eat a month ago that look pretty good now," Sinnott said.
"We haven't had a cold snap or a deep snow, so they're hanging out," he said.
The Albert Loop Trail, which crosses the river in several spots near the visitors' center, is routinely closed each fall because of bear activity, Sinnott said. But Wallner and Hanis weren't on that trail Thursday.
Strong winds probably played a part in the attack, Sinnott said. Wallner was downwind from the bear, and the wind was loud enough to obscure any noise she was making.
Had she not been jogging, she might have noticed bear tracks, Wallner said. But she runs on the trail often and said she's never had a scare.
"It's one of my favorite places to run," she said. "I've spent the last couple of years making myself brave enough to go out there by myself.
"Usually I have bear spray with me, but I didn't that day because I wasn't thinking they'd still be out and about."
And even if she had bear spray, the bear charged so quickly she likely wouldn't have had time to use it.
Sinnott said the main trail remains open, and Hanis said anyone with yurt reservations needn't worry.
"I'd not be nervous at all," he said. "Fish and Game didn't find a kill, and they think it was just a sow-cub issue, which could happen anywhere."
As for Wallner, she plans to return to the trail soon. She doesn't think the sow is an aggressive bear, just one protective of her cub.
"I think she was just warning me," she said, "and then the dog nicely distracted her."

And on a bike note, I went into Anchorage this weekend and stopped in Speedway Cycles and checked out the titanium FatBack snow bike....sweet! Way light. If I was going to buy a specialized snowbike, this would be it. The Bike Dude got it down to 25lbs. I heard Surly Pugsleys average around 35 lbs and I imagine it takes a lot of strenght to push those fat tires and rims around on the snow. I don't think I would last long on a Pugsley. Of course, a featherweight isn't cheap, about 5000 smacks. The Bike Dude said he would let me take it for a test ride when we get some snow, how COOL is that! I will drive back into Anchorage just for that ride (Anchorage traffic really sucks)!

Check out the FatBack HERE


Jeff said...

That's a pretty wild story. We were going to do a family bicycle camping trip, but decided not too with all the bear stories. We're saving it for Spring time instead. Crazy year for bears! The captured 80 in our area this year. I had no idea there were this many in the mountains behind us!

oldmanandhisbike said...

The thing I like most about riding my bike here is nothing in the woods wants to take a chunk out of my butt.
$5000 for a snow specific bike? In Alaska, it makes sense to me! Go for it.

A Midnight Rider said...

Yurts and drinking. It's like peanut butter and jelly. The perfect complements to each other. Guys in mustaches nowday though reminds me of the Village People or motorcycle cops.

Michelle said...

Jeff: 80 bears! What's going on??!!! That's kinda scary

Old Man: no rabid raccoons there??

Midnight: The bike boys REALLY did a good job at those 70's moustaches. Village People...HA!

oldmanandhisbike said...

No, sorry. Not even venomous snakes. Really is a pretty tame, lame state for all the nature around us!
Actually, we did have a bear in the vicinity not that long ago but it was hit by a car, so I guess the threat level is back down to green now!
Enjoy the snow! :^)

Snakebite said...

What's this about a bare butt?

Michelle said...

Snake - Wasn't there some of those on that video you posted on your site not to long ago?? Your such a guy :)