This story took place about 2 years ago out of my back yard and into Cook Forest.
I got into the habit of riding my mountain bike every morning around 7:00. Mostly on paved and gravel roads but occasionally on off road trails. I’d developed a few loops on these roads that became familiar to me.
Due to a late night out, I didn’t make it up to ride one morning. No matter, I thought: I’ll catch a ride later in the day.
That afternoon was warm and muggy. I took off from my house, down a gravel road, across a farmers field , and onto a paved secondary road. I remembered why I usually rode in the morning - it's just too darn hot in the afternoons. I thought, "If I get off the road and into the woods it'll be cooler." The local boys and their four wheelers have developed some interesting trails only a few hundred yards from my house. That would be perfect.
I had been riding hard for about 45 minutes when I jumped onto an easy looking woods trail leading back to my house. This ride had worn me out and I was ready for a shower. Picking up speed down a slight hill , I dodged a couple of tree branches, and zipped around a turn.
I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the coolness of the woods on a summer day. Sitting in the middle of the trail, back on his haunches like a dog, was the largest black bear I had ever seen. Okay, maybe not the largest, but certainly close. We were face to face. Okay, maybe we were 30 yards apart. But that still felt close!
I locked both breaks on my bike and skidded to a stop. I tried to remember all that mumbo-jumbo about what you should do if you encounter a bear in the wild. But all I could think was "I wonder if I can pedal faster this bear can run." I was also thinking about how hungry that bear might be in the middle of the afternoon.
As I spent what seemed like an eternity thinking hard on this, the bear and I just looked at each other. Perhaps he was wondering if he could run faster than I could pedal! After a couple of minutes of this staredown, the bear showed his complete boredom with me and got up and ambled off. I guess he must have come to the conclusion that he wasn’t fast enough for my bike. He wasn’t so fearsome after all - and I was cool enough to stare down a bear!
He blinked first. He better stay off MY trail next time. What’s so scary about a bear anyway? I rode home and took a shower.
It was 3 months before I rode that trail again.
--Author's name withheld...in case the bear reads this!