Editor’s note: Tyler Nord moved to Anchorage from Portland, Ore., two years ago to work as an engineer at CRW Engineering Group. On Tuesday, Nord was planning on a relaxing bike ride on the Resurrection Pass Trail with his fiancée Kimi Elliott, his old friend Kyle Eisenbach — visiting from Portland — and his dog Kobi, but a mama grizzly bear had a different plan. Below is the whole story, including the bear’s first charge and the decisive pepper spray defense, as told by Nord himself.
We started in Hope and were six miles in on the Resurrection Pass Trail. Kimi was in front with Kobi right behind her, followed by Kyle and myself. We were rounding a corner, and as I looked up Kimi was heading back our way. Ahead of us on the trail were a grizzly bear mama and her two cubs.
Mama started to charge us, and as she was running at us Kobi charged her, barking and growling up a storm. The bear stopped charging and was growling at Kobi, who was holding his ground several feet away. After a few seconds the bear went after Kobi, and he bolted around her and into the bushes, heading away from us. Mama chased, which gave us a few extra seconds of getaway time.
We started running back down the trail. Although we didn’t have the sense of mind to jump on our bikes, we ran while wheeling them alongside. Within about 30 feet the bear was on us again. Kyle and Kimi ran off the trail into a small clearing, and Mama followed Kimi. She stopped running and pressed herself up against a tree. The bear was swatting at her as she stood by the tree. As soon as I realized the bear was chasing her, I ran back up the trail and around the shrubbery. I ran at Mama yelling and screaming, at which point she decided I was the bigger threat.
As Mama started to run at me, I began quickly backpedaling towards the trail. In the process of backpedaling, I dropped the backpack (with the bear spray… argh!). At this point, I managed to execute the classic horror movie stumble, falling on my back in the trail. Mama was quite close when I fell, and as she jumped on me I managed to pull my knees up to my chest and kicked off as hard as I could (another classic movie move, this time of the kung fu genre). Thank goodness for adrenaline, because I was able to push her completely off of me.
While the bear was running me down, Kyle was yelling at her, and after I kicked her off she turned and started after Kyle. As soon as she was off of me I jumped up and ran back to the backpack under Kimi’s orders. She was yelling at me, “Bear spray, bear spray, bear spray!” She was also yelling at Kyle — who wasn’t taking notes when we went over Bear Encounters 101 a few days earlier when he got into town, since he probably didn’t think he was actually going to need it — “Fetal position, fetal position!” Kyle dropped down next to a fallen tree and Mama started tugging on and clawing at his backpack. While Mama was busy mauling Kyle, I grabbed the bear spray out of the backpack and ran at her again, since I had no idea how far bear spray is supposed to shoot. When I was about five feet away she looked up at me and I unleashed the peppery cocktail. Mama took a few steps back, and I sprayed her in the face again. She paused, stared at me, and then ran off into the woods.
We quickly grabbed our stuff and headed back down the trail about 50 yards or so to the other biker we had just passed. Jessie was riding alone, and had passed us earlier on the trail. He had stopped there to adjust something on his bike. He now had his bear spray out and ready since he had heard us yelling just up the trail. On the way back to that rendezvous point, Kobi caught up with us, and Kimi yelled, “He’s alive!”
Kimi’s backpack and shirt were torn a bit where the bear swiped her, and she has some bruising and scratches on her shoulder. I received some bruises, scratches, and a singular puncture wound on my thigh from when Mama jumped on me. Kyle’s face has a few scratches on it from being pressed into the ground, scratches on the back of his head, and some rashes on his back and shoulders from being jerked around by the backpack. Kobi was sore from the 12-mile run.
We definitely had some guardian angels watching over us, and everybody made it out OK. Kyle now has a real adventure story to take back to Portland with him.