As this field season comes to a cold abrupt end, I reflect on the past couple of months with a smile on my face. There have been so many changes in my life this season and some have made it challenging to hold that smile in place, but there are so many things to be grateful for that I’d be selfish not to keep living life on the lighter side. There are too many highlights to list them all but I thought I’d share a few of them with you.
I’ve had the opportunity to spend most of the summer work with two wonderful human beings that have taught me so much. One is my mentor that is very knowledgeable with the flora here in Colorado. She often knew every plant on our plot, which made it easy to collect data and familiarize myself with the plants in a new ecosystem. She also knew how to butter us up with snacks on long work days, those salty treats kept us going strong throughout the season. My other coworker or PIC (partner in crime) as I like to call her, was an avid bird watcher and pun master, which turned out to be a great combo out in the field. This is my first field season and one of my fears was working closely with people that clashed, which would just make work a drag, but I got lucky and had a great time getting to know these two.
Amongst all the beauty that Colorado has to offer, I caught a glimpse life on the wild side. We were camping near our plot out in the boondocks of Garfield County Colorado and I decided to go on a jog. My plan was to head East on a nearby two-track road for about 45 minutes and then come back to the campsite. The sun was quickly setting so there I was, speeding along grooving to jams with a single headphone in (because I like to be semi aware of my surroundings). Approximately 35 minutes into my jog I noticed I hadn’t seen a single soul and I liked that, my own jogging trail; the dream of an active city girl, but that feeling was soon to shift. All of a sudden I hear wrestling in a tree followed by a loud thud 2-3 feet away from me. I swiftly turned my head and immediately froze to see the butt or a furry creature scurry away; after crossing a small stream, it stopped on the opposite bank and turned around. It was a Black Bear! There it was in all its glory, sitting on its hind legs looking me dead in the eye. We stared at each other for a solid 3 seconds before I softly started cursing and took a couple slow steps back. While I was still in its sight, I turned around and started running only to hear the worst sound of my life (for the moment)! I heard it cross the river and follow me! I was literally seconds away from emptying my bowls right then and there! We all know not to run if we see a black bear but the trick is to remember that when you’re in a panic! I immediately turned around when I heard it and it stopped in its tracks about 15 feet from me. There we were face to face again. I skittishly raised my hands in the air and made the most animalistic sound that could never be recreated even if I tried. It was a mix between a yell, growl and a howl. The guy immediately turned in the other direction and ran. My next thought was “Ugh, I wish I had a Go Pro attached to me right now!”, followed by “OMG, what if this baby goes and gets mama bear and then they’re both after me!” and by baby I mean toddler, it was about 5’6” while sitting so I don’t know, you tell me if it was a baby or toddler, either was scaaaryyy! I freaked myself out even more when I remember that nobody was around to team up with me if needed. I ran back to the campsite at full speed, I probably took half the time to get back. Every couple feet I would turn around to check if anything was following me and ran faster. To my luck I never saw the bear again. I really wanted to tell someone about it when I got back but my PICs had already caved out in their tent by the time I got back. I had dinner in the truck that evening because I was still so freaked out, I couldn’t believe it. I swore off jogging in boon dock trails but looking back on it, if I know that there aren’t any grizzly bears in the area I would probably go trail jogging again, although I’ll probably think about that bear every time. It was scary but oh so gratifying to have been in the presence of such a majestic creature.
I’ve had some unforgettable memories this summer and I’m grateful for everything I’ve learned, especially plant species, a skill I know I need to continue to practice because it’s easy to forget those Latin names. I’m not sure what my future holds after this internship is over, job searching is not in my favor lately but I know that life is full of surprises. My priority right now is to try my hardest not to stress about it and let it come as it may. I don’t necessarily mean just sit back and wait for opportunities to come, but remind myself that as long as I am trying to seek out what I’d like my future to hold, the rest will fall into place. I’m not promised tomorrow, so I’d rather not waste my time stressing today.