I'm leaving for college Saturday (the part about the bear is coming up, don't worry) so today, Monday, was supposed to be a last hur-rah of a trail ride with all my riding buddies...they all bailed on me. It was an overcast day in the mid 70's and I couldn't miss out on those conditions, so I went alone to the New Hampshire cycling mecca of the Kangamangus Highway. It follows the Swift River, with newly paved, hilly, curvy roads that look like they belong in a BMW commercial for the roadies on one side of the river, and miles and miles of "wicked" awesome single track on the other.
So I'm driving down the highway and turn on the Bear Notch Pass (this should have been a warning for me) to get to the other side of the river and the the Nanamocomuck Trail, we call it The Nan because we can't even start to pronounce it right. I've done the 11 mile trail about 5 times before and feel comfortable riding it alone.
My plan was to do the trail 3 times, out, back, eat lunch, out again, and loop back on the road.
The trail is classic New England style, a mix of technical mud/rock sections, and super fast rooty single track. The first eighth of a mile is very hard to pass then it gets in to the fast stuff. I'm cruising along and see some trail workers, we talk for a bit and I grab a shovel for 10 mins or so to help out. They're from NEMBA (New England Mt Bike Assoc) and tell me that they've done a lot of work farther ahead on the trail to make some North Shore style planks on a washed out section, I'm excited to try it out and go on my way.
About two miles in to the trail I see more evidence of trail work and slow down to see what they've done. I hear a strange noise and see some bushes shaking, there's a small creature in the bushes coming toward me. I think it's a hikers dog and yell out "HEY," then I get a glimpse of it in the bushes and at first I think it's a bore or something. I prepare to stand my ground and it comes out, IT'S A BEAR!! A black bear cub, about the size of a bulldog. It playfully crosses my path about 3 feet in front of me. My heart is racing, the mama bear can't be far off, and it's probably not to happy that I just yelled at it's baby!
I launch down the trail, the only rational thought in my head was to pedal, and man did I pedal! What are you supposed to do if a bear is coming at you, play dead, right? How the hell do you play dead on a bike? Wait, I can out sprint a bear....Can I? What if it gets me on a climb? If only Moabrider47 were here, or the other guys, I can out sprint them! My mind was racing, and so was my bike. That's all I could do. I flew up a short climb, didn't even touch the brakes on the down hill. Got to a technical section, unclipped, shouldered the bike and leaped over it like a cyclocross world champ. The adrenalin was pumping.
After about 2.5 miles of sprinting I came to a long tough climb and I allowed myself to grab some Gatorade. I jogged up the hill, still paranoid about a bear chasing me and came to the North Shore stuff. With the mental state I was in there was no way I was about to try something I have never done before, so I continued to jog through. About 3.5 miles after the sighting I calmed myself down, this wasn't a grizzly, I'm fine.
The adrenalin was still pumping and I finished the ride one way out 20 mins ahead of schedule. I sat at the turn around point and made the easy decision to get back to my car from the road and then call it a day.
On the 5 mile road ride back I past a group of roadies at least 100 strong going the other way, it must have been a charity ride or something because it was a rather lighthearted group, we yelled greetings and encouragements to each other, some lifted their water bottles in a cheer.
I got back to my car and packed everything up, ate lunch, and realized that was the most fun I've ever had on a ride, I need to see more bears.