In the spring of last year, I agreed to write an article about places to bike along Turnagain Arm. A new trail in Portage Valley takes cyclists and walkers up the glacier-carved valley to Portage Lake and the visitor center opposite the receding glacier. The valley is fairly narrow, but is traversed by the railroad, a road and Portage Creek, which flows from the lake into the saltwater of Turnagain Arm.
|Portage Lake on the Trail of Blue Ice. May, 2011.|
Smaller streams feed into the creek and ponds dot the landscape. Up high are hanging glaciers. Then there's the Trail of Blue Ice. I started at the parking lot near the lake, winding through the forest past a campground, parking lots and ponds. Though never far from the road, it was easy to forget the road was nearby. I saw a family riding the trail that morning. I'd also seen a pile of bear scat near where I'd begun my ride.
After riding to the end of the trail and chatting with some visitors from the Lower-48, I turned around to head back. Though it was late May, the leaves hadn't opened on all the trees and shrubs. Riding into a clearing, I could see a black shape through the brush. I stopped and snapped a photo, not sure of the figure, then it disappeared. I rode a little farther up the trail. Then I saw the black bear in that clearing and I did the wrong thing.
I stopped again, pulled my camera from its case and snapped a few more photos. It was my third bear encounter in two weeks and at the moment I wasn't afraid. Lucky for me, the bear did the right thing and ran back into the brush. It was only then that the adrenaline hit me and I started getting nervous. I needed to get out of there; I hoped the bear wouldn't change its mind and give chase.
|Black bear; Trail of Blue Ice. Portage Valley.|
To clarify, grizzlies and black bears respond differently to any given human behavior. If you're inclined to go into the backcountry, or even one of our municipal parks, it's best to learn to recognize behavior, know how to respond and learn how to use bear spray. Here's a place to start. Be safe.