Like an expert tracker I can sense if new logging has begun by looking at the road conditions. The more packed down the gravel the more likely serious work has started deep in the Coastal Mountains.
It’s a telltale hint. Well, that and the huge orange sign that says Active Logging Ahead.
So I was on the lookout during my first ride deep into the woods this spring. Sure enough, a massive bulldozer and logging crane stood idle off to the side across from a well-worn side road heading up the mountainside that will soon be stripped clean of timber.
I rolled on and just around the bend I startled a black bear on the edge of the road about 50 yards ahead. A big one, about the size of my garage fridge. It raced quickly across the road and disappeared into the thicket, obviously displaced and searching for new turf to call home.
It’s the first bear I’ve seen back on these roads, unlike the three cougars I’ve stumbled across. It gives me a measured sense of relief that they all skedaddle when we meet — but not as much confidence as my false sense of security.
I carry a bottle of bear spray and a six-inch blade on my backpack, as opposed to inside my backpack, where I might have a super slight chance to use either under attack.
I’ve run through my reaction scenarios countless times in my head if an encounter takes a turn for the worst, always ending with a gallows humor chuckle at the end knowing the odds of having the opportunity to react will probably be near zero.
My knife is new, having lost my previous blade taking a tumble down a steep pitch about five minutes after hearing a bear bark at me deep in the woods of Washington last summer.
When we return this year I’ll have to worry if that bear is now armed with my knife.
But I digress.
I also carry my emergency kit if I happen to be stranded in the woods overnight: matches, a flint, starter kindling, emergency blanket, LifeStraw, first-aid kit, rope, extra knife, knit hat, Sharpie (if you get bit by a rattlesnake immediately draw a circle around the wound and write the time so if/when you get medical attention they can see how long the poison has been in your system) …
This week’s question: What safety gear — including bike repair tools — do you carry in the woods?