Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Bear Story

When I hit the gravel Mulberry Gap road late yesterday morning I was 52 hours and 225 miles in to the race and was looking for any good excuse to quit. I was tired, that was an excuse, but not a good one. It was raining but I wasn't hypothermic and could always just hold up somewhere and wait it out in my hammock under my tarp but that didn't seem like a good excuse either. I was resolved to try and beat the mental game and finish the race when the car pulled up and told me they were calling the race due the weather. I said okay and let them quit for me and went to Mulberry Gap and had a shower and a beer.

I'm too tired to write up a full Trans Georgia race report right now but will tell you a little story from it:

It was 3am Sunday morning and I'd been going at a steady clip for the past 19 hours when I pulled out my hammock at Hog Pen Gap for a little rest. I'd made it one third of the way to the finish line and was right on track for finishing in under three days. It was a brutal 7 mile walk up to Hog Pen Gap and I was done for the night. After what seemed like an eternity of looking for two suitable trees for my hammock I got it set up and walked up the hill a little bit to urinate when I saw the signs warning against bears. They were very explicit in the warning: Aggressive bears in the area and you should have all odorous items in a bear canister. If you didn't have a bear canister it said you must properly hang anything no less than 12' off the ground.

Fuck! The drunk local guy in the bar in Helen I had been bullshitting with a few hours ago had warned me about bears up there as well. I was tired and was going to crash there regardless. I managed to get most of my food about seven feet off the ground and crawled in my hammock.

I woke up to them around 4:30. No question about it - there was at least one bear very close, if not two. I yelled and blew my whistle and threw rocks and sticks and they retreated.

Thirty minutes later they were back, this time about thirty feet off my left side, and were focused on my food bag. I'd worked hard to get to Helen to buy that food and I needed that food and I'd be damned if I was going to let some pesky bears take it from me so I yelled and whistled and threw rocks again and they very slowly retreated. A little while later I lifted my head and shined my red led light around and picked up two very big eyes sitting just up the hill a little way looking at me. I jumped out of the hammock and put the spot light on and threw rocks and yelled and ran up the hill and he very slowly ambled off again. Thirty minutes later he was back on my right side. Thirty minutes after that I decided to just pack up and get back on the bike.

And that is the way the first night went for me, just a little minor episode in the midst of an epic adventure.


  1. good job, Clay! I was rooting for you. I hope you found it to be a good experience even if you didn't get to finish.

  2. Way to go Clay! And even with the weather and being so tired, you still come through with a story.

  3. lol...sure glad i slept where i did and that you didn't tell me this whole story while out there!! nice riding with you for a bit! next year:-) ruth.