On This Date Two Years Ago:
She says to L across the breakfast table, “Yesterday I hiked a ski trail to the Octagon, and as I was coming back down three bears crossed upper Toll Road. They crossed single file about a hundred yards below me. Probably a mother and two cubs.” She takes a sip of black tea. “I froze in my tracks.”
“Were you excited? Let me guess, you were scared,” says L.
“Yeah, I didn’t dare to continue since I’d have to cross their route. But before I decided what to do, they popped back out onto Toll Road going the other way, headed back into Ranch Valley. I’ll bet they got spooked by the snow guns on Liftline. The mother was pulling up the rear and she saw me. She stood up and stared, then followed the cubs into the woods.”
“Mmmmm.” L doesn’t look up from his bowl of “birdseed” cereal, the cooked blend of barley, rye berries, rice, millet, flax,and wheat germ invented by Gayelord Hauser, a health-food guru in the 1940’s and ’50’s.
“So I hiked back up to the Octagon and then down Upper Lord to stay closer to the snow
guns. I sang Sing for your supper and you’ll get breakfast over and over. Just as I thought, the bears had crossed Upper Lord before turning around. The tracks were huge.” She reaches for the jug of syrup to pour some on her hot oatmeal. Cold birdseed cereal dished up from a bowl in the fridge morning after morning loses some of its appeal.
“Then toward the bottom of the mountain, there were two guys doing something near a snow gun. One of them noticed me – he was probably around thirty – so I called out, ‘What are you doing?’
‘Working. What are you doing?'”
“Wise guy. The last thing I was going to say was hiking so I said, ‘I’m thinking about the bears I saw.'”
“‘What are you thinking about the bears?’ he said in that flip tone of his.”
“‘It’s the first time I’ve seen bears on a ski trail, and I’m surprised since I thought they’d have hibernated by now. It was near the top of the mountain, too.'”
“He said, ‘Bears don’t hibernate, not like some amphibians; they go into a state of torpor.’ He kept fiddling with a knot in the rope across the trail. ‘See these beech nuts in the snow? They’re the go-to food for bears, so, no, it’s not surprising they’re still out and about, stocking up on beech nuts.’ I stood there feeling like a fool.”
“Well, it depends on how you define hibernation,” says L. “This guy was using a narrow definition. I’ll have to look that up.”
She walks to the stove and pours boiling water for a second cup of tea. “I got such a bad
taste in my mouth from this guy.”
I wish I’d been there,” says L, animated. “I enjoy these arrogant types. He sounds like Ed [the college roommate L still quotes forty years later]. This guy is just full of himself. Insecure.”
“If I were forty years younger, he wouldn’t have spoken to me like that,” she says. “The other guy, who was wearing a red ski patrol jacket, was smart enough to just keep working.”
“How old was he?”
“I’d say around fifty.”