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Bicycling the Continental Divide—Grizzly Attack

Bicycling the Continental Divide—Grizzly AttackYellowstone National Park: when Gerry and Dave pedaled westward, I felt my heart grow sad.

At the gate entrance of Madison Junction campground, I paid my bill for the “Hike-biker” section. No laughter tonight around the campfire. I pitched my tent. I aired-up my mattress and fluffed up my sleeping bag in silence. I set up my cooking gear and snugged-up my miner’s lamp around my head in silence. Darkness crept in silently. I cooked my dinner. I wrote my notes in silence. Loneliness made its way into my soul.

“Loneliness is the human condition. Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow. Never expect to outgrow loneliness. Never hope to find people who will understand you, someone to fill that space. An intelligent, sensitive person is the exception, the very great exception. If you expect to find people who will understand you, you will grow murderous with disappointment. The best you’ll ever do is to understand yourself, know what it is that you want, and not let the cattle stand in your way.” ― Janet Fitch, White Oleander

Thankfully, I like the kind of person I am. I’ve made my parents proud. As I said at the beginning of this adventure, I broadcast “positive relationship energy” wherever I go. I’ve heard that, if you radiate friendly vibrations, friends naturally gravitate toward you. If you give love, you will receive love in return. Better to share with Gerry and Dave for a week than not at all. They became another thread in the tapestry of my life. I feel rich, funny and more blessed by having spent such a grand time with two Irishman. I count my blessings.

Next day, I pulled down my tent and pedaled onto the highway by 6:30 a.m. I rolled along the Gibbon River to pass by a steaming pond on the opposite side of the road. Very quiet. No traffic. I sensed nature’s rhythms pulsing through the early morning hour. Soon, I viewed 60 feet of descent and the white water of Gibbon Falls. It resembled a bride’s veil. Still no traffic.

Back on the road, I stopped on a bridge with the Gibbon River crossing underneath me. I took a few shots of the rising sun sparkling on the waters. So peaceful. I wrote:

When your loneliness travels with you,
Along life’s highways and by-ways.
Stop at a river crossing or two,
And Mother Nature will bring you peace always.

From racing, raging and cascading rapids,
The waters carry energy and light.
To deep forest green and quiet,
They make everything seem all right.

Once again, I made the adventure my companion. I delighted in sheer beauty all around me. I felt my spirit renewing again at my wondrous journey.

I pedaled with vigor into the clear, crisp morning air, through deep forests and along the Gibbon River about 30 yards away on the west side of the highway. Above the river, a red tail hawk followed the current southward, probably on his breakfast patrol. A big fat buffalo munched grass on the east side of the river. Still no traffic. On my left, on the far side of the river, I noticed a cow elk bending down to take a drink. I love seeing elegant elk, moose and deer. They soothe my soul.

Without warning, I barely caught the big, hairy figure of…oh my God, a grizzly bear…as he crept along the deep grass on the far side of the river until he got within 30 feet of the elk…from out of the grass cover, he charged the elk…she saw him and stood up, startled, and started to bolt backwards away from the river…but within seconds, the 700 pound grizzly ran right into the cow elk and grabbed it by the shoulders with his four inch claws…in a moment, he chewed into the bottom of the elk’s neck and twisted his huge anvil head…almost like poetry in motion, his enormous body rode the elk down to the ground…where he held her until she could no longer struggle…she stopped …fell limp…life feeds on life and death feeds life.

“Good grief,” I exclaimed as I stopped Condor in stunned amazement.

While I probably should have been scared to death, it happened so fast that I just stopped and stared. I stood across the river and 40 yards away from the bear. The grizzly could care less about me. His breakfast laid in a bloody mess in front of him. I ripped out my camera to take pictures. He began feeding on the carcass. He ripped open the belly and took out his favorite parts. His bloody muzzle turned bright red.

I stood behind a tree, but still astride Condor just in case I had to ride like the wind. I even pointed Condor downstream to give me more speed, quickly, should the grizzly notice me and figure me for dessert. Of course, at 185 pounds, I didn’t mean much to his main course of 1,000 pounds of elk meat.

“My God am I blessed with this moment,” I muttered to myself.

Within a half hour, a dozen cars stopped to see why I kept snapping pictures. Soon, a whole slew of cars emptied and folks with 1000 mm lenses snapped pictures off fancy tripods. Shortly, three bald eagles landed by the carcass. The bear walked off a distance and snoozed. The eagles closed in for early morning snacks. Then, Mr. Grizzly woke up in 10 minutes and returned to feeding. Amazingly, he jumped into the river to swat at fish or something. His actions appeared comical from where I stood.

Within the next hour, more tourists arrived. I figured I’d seen the best show of the day and turned Condor northward to seek my fortune around the next bend in the road. I’ve experienced some amazing moments on Condor, and, this one rides up there with the top 10 of my life. As I said in my quote about bicycle touring, “The long distance bicyclist carries an insatiable desire to interact with possibilities that may emerge around the next bend in the road. The bicyclist lives in that moment and then pedals forward to the next moment, always advancing, never in retreat.”

As John Muir said, “How many hearts with warm red blood in them are beating under cover of the woods, and how many teeth and eyes are shining? A multitude of animal people, intimately related to us, but whose lives we know almost nothing, are as busy about their own affairs as we are about ours.”

To that quote, I say, “Holy catfish, what a hell of a start to this day! It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Read more posts by Frosty Wooldridge here. Frosty is a blogger for JenningsWire Online Magazine.

The online feature magazine, JenningsWire.com, is created by National PR Firm, Annie Jennings PR that specializes in providing book promotion services to self-published and traditionally published authors. Annie Jennings PR books authors, speakers and experts on major high impact radio talk interview shows, on local, regionally syndicated and national TV shows and on influential online media outlets and in prestigious print magazines and newspapers across the country.