Plenty of excitment for one day

January 21, 2014 

This will be the beginning of another early morning conditioning hike within our area mountains. Not many vehicles on the road for this morning drive to the Thornberry Mountain trailhead.

At the trailhead, while I was getting out of my Jeep, overhead against the blue sky I watched a Red Tailed Hawk circling lazily, catching the warm thermals created by the rising sun. Without warning, a large doe followed by two fawns crossed the path in front of me. As quickly as they appeared, they disappeared into the forest to the protection of its thick foliage. While hiking the trail it is always interesting to watch the movement of those morning shadows looking for a hiding place until evening.

Now to follow this old fire road that would lead me to a mountain summit. From our extremely dry fall and winter season, gone are the colors offered by the late blooming wild flowers. Even the red berries associated with the Manzanita bushes have disappeared early. Maybe the blackberry bushes located deep within the canyons will still have their fruit?

As I approached one remote canyon loaded with blackberry bushes, three black bears jumped out to my surprise. Now this encounter has no association with the story book version of the three bears. This is momma bear and her two cubs. They dashed from the blackberry bushes to the nearest pine tree. Mom sent her cubs scurrying high within the tree for safety. She never followed, just stood at the tree base and keep a close eye on the intruder that surprised them.

With me being the intruder, what is mom going to do now? Mom's attention was focused back to the safety of her cubs. I took advantage of this situation and slowly backed out of this blackberry patch and took another route to the summit. Finally, and happily, I reached the summit with no bears in pursuit.

Now I'll just relax in the shade of this large Jeffery Pine tree before starting my bushwhacking descent to locate another abandoned logging road. While climbing over fallen trees, ducking under and through Manzanita bushes I finally located the trail that would lead me to the logging road.

This must be my day for bears because all along the trail were paw prints ranging in size from five to eight inches and tracking in both directions. This remote path must be their direct route circling the mountain. While I trekked long this remote trail I would hesitate and listen to every sound or movement within the underbrush.

Even a small gust of wind blowing through the trees can dislodge a small pine cone. During its rapid descent, striking branches before coming to rest at the trees base, a pine cone creates many strange sounds that will catch your attention.

Only a few minutes had passed before I heard something large crushing leaves with each footstep, followed by the sound of branches breaking. Then the sound of deep-breathing continued from the ravine on this canyon hillside. Looking through the dense underbrush I could see a large dark object running in the opposite direction. It stopped at a small clearing, and then I could see this large beige colored bear. Before I could remove my camera from my pack, the bear disappeared over the hillside.

In my opinion this is enough excitement for one day. Four bears, two adults, two cubs, two separate sightings and all within two hours. It's time for me to locate the trailhead and depart for home.

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