Bear Aware

So it appears every vacation I take must be fraught with peril. Peril in the form of large mammal danger. Some of you may remember that a couple of months ago I shared my near death experience with a gray whale.  Now I can add surviving a black bear to that list.

Let’s start with a big ole WTH on bears in March? Shouldn’t they still be hibernating? The answer is no, because apparently hibernation is a myth.

That’s right, we were all sold a great big pack of lies in elementary school. According to the Lake Tahoe, California branch of the U.S. Forest Service bears don’t go stuff themselves silly in the fall and then pass out until the sun shiny days of spring beckon. Instead they take “long naps and wake up for an occasional snack and stroll.” Good Lord, they make it sound as innocuous as a teenager during the weekend.

All this is why when my family and I checked into our Lake Tahoe accommodations we were greeted with a sign that began with “Due to recent bear break-ins…” Say what? I immediately checked in with the caretaker and she shared that there wasn’t “a lot to worry” about because the bears were being “very polite.”

In fact, she added, “Just the other day a bear opened my kitchen window, got an ox tail out my freezer, unwrapped it, not making a mess at all, and then left through the front door. I think the bear may have even gotten into my recliner because when I got home I noticed the seat seemed a little greasy and after that I could never find my TV clicker.

Holy hell.

There’s so much to process from that statement. First, bear. Second, oxtail (gag). Third, the visual image of a bear in a Lazy Boy kicking back and eating a frozen snack while possibly watching ESPN. And lastly, B-E-A-R!

Getting up close and personal with a 500 plus pound bear comes in at number eight on my top ten list of things that freak me out. Snakes, sinkholes, crocodiles and alligators comprise my top four which is why I never ever go to Florida. All you Florida spring breakers out there watch your back because Florida is the only place in the world where both crocs and gators coexist and a sinkhole is the state symbol.

Of course, I wanted to change accommodations ASAP, but alas I was told the bears are everywhere. My family tried to calm me down by making fun of me and shouting, “bear” every few minutes because they’re nice like that. (Jerks.) I decided I had no choice but to be “bear aware” and suck it up.

All was well until I found myself alone in the wilderness, on top of a snow-covered mountain with only the swirling winds and a smattering of Jeffrey pine trees to keep my company. I had gone with the rest of my family to go skiing and, as so often happens, after a few runs I was dumped.

Here’s the deal. I believe in skiing very cautiously because I don’t want to risk an injury that would require me asking my husband or kids to help get me on and off the toilet for six months.

Can you even imagine?

This all lead to me being solo on a mountain with a bear. I only saw a brownish image moving quickly, but that’s all it took for me to be peed my ski pants scared as I tried to remember if the bear protocol was play dead or flee for your life. I quickly went with fleeing.

I skied like I’ve never skied before. (Winter Olympics 2018 I’m coming for you.) When I finally got to an area with other humans (i.e. more bear lunch options) I allowed myself to look back and there was nothing. Did I even see a bear or was it an extra-large pine cone flapping in the wind?

Whatever, in the version of this story to my family, it will always and forever more be a bear, a really big bear.

 

 

Skied To Death

novice_ski_schoolSkiing is a not so very coordinated big girl’s friend. What’s not to love about an activity where you’ve got gravity doing most of the work for you.You point those skis and down you go where you’re rewarded with sitting, for at least a couple of minutes, in a chairlift. The ski apparel is also big girl friendly. You’ve got ski boots that can camouflage any variety of cankle affliction. Puffy pants and jackets that make everyone look they’re trapped in day 3 of a bad water retaining PMS episode and a helmet and goggles that render you faceless. Because of all those perks I have come to enjoy skiing. Which is not to say I’m very good at it. Now, even my children won’t ski with me. Sure, they’ll do a couple of “courtesy” treks down the mountain and then they take off to higher and harder terrain with my husband. That means I’m left alone to enjoy the less challenging terrain. I’m fine with that. I explained to my husband years ago as he tried to cajole me to experience the adrenaline rush of a black diamond run that the family couldn’t afford for it’s maid, cook, chauffeur, social planner, etc to be down and out for a month minimum while I recovered from a ski accident. Really, I asked him, “Do you want to help me get on and off the toilet for 6 weeks and have to blow dry my hair?” Put like that he had no choice, but to agree. So, this Spring Break off my family goes while I hitch a ride on the “baby” chairlift. I was okay with it, really, but a part of me thought I was doing myself a disservice, maybe I did need to push myself just a bit and get out of my comfort zone. Which is how I almost died.

Dateline: Friday, March 18  – 3:30 p.m. p.s.t. elevation 8,833 feet. The chair lifts stopped running at 4 p.m. that meant I had time for one more run. I gave myself a pep talk that I could/should ski a harder terrain. So, I got on a chairlift that would take me up, up and away to the land where “real skiers” hung out. I felt pumped. I was no longer the mom skier, the girl who got picked last for every sport in elementary school. I was an athlete, dammit. I got off the chairlift and looked down the mountain. The weather had changed during the ride up the chairlift. Curse you, mountain micro climates! The sky had darkened and snow was falling fast. My goggles needed windshield wipers and a defroster. I could barely see and maybe that wasn’t a bad thing. The more I looked down the mountain the more I lost my bravado but right before I chickened out someone started whispering into my ear. At first I thought it was the wind picking up, but praise be to the lord it was the patron saint of middle-aged mothers everywhere – the voice of Oprah Winfrey. She was listing off the title of every self-help book manufactured to prey on a woman’s fragile mental health and well-being. I could hear her chanting  Do Something that Scares You Everyday, How to be Your Best Self, The Confidence Course, You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought over and over in my head. That did it. A higher power was telling me to push-off and go down that mountain and so that’s exactly what I did.

Wow, what a feeling! I was doing it and,I thought, looking good. I felt like I was flying and for a person with my body mass index let me just tell ya you don’t have the whole body in flight experience very often. It was so exhilarating that I started singing, Super Girl over and over at the top of my lungs. Okay, so I only knew one verse – “I’m Super Girl and I’m here to save the world and I wanna know who’s gonna save me.” After about 5 minutes of this combo of my stunning vocal skills and world-class skiing  disaster struck. I wiped out, hard. Thankfully, my butt took the brunt of the fall and my head never hit the snow. I did a cursory examination starting with my toes and worked my way up. Every body part seemed to be able to do its thing and, in what was a first for me, I gave thanks for my body’s extra layer of padding. I’m absolutely sure my flab acted as protective bubble wrap for my internal organs. Now, I just had to get up and find my skis which had taken flight when I fell and were waiting for me up the mountain. That was going to be a problem, the whole getting up thing. If you’ve never walked in ski boots let me share with you that the robot from Lost In Space and Frankenstein have more grace and agility then a human walking in ski boots, especially one trying to walk up a snow slicked mountain. It’s not only the walking, it’s the getting up. The boots make it difficult to dig in and pull yourself up. After 4 attempts of trying to push myself upright I was finally standing and started my slow climb up the mountain to get my skis. My upright climb lasted about 30 seconds until I fell again. Crap – I was just going to have to crawl up to my skis. Many minutes and much swearing later I had retrieved both skis and then I slid on my butt down to get my poles. At last I had all my equipment. I got my skis back on, brushed the snow off me, adjusted my goggles, and went to my panic mode standby – The Little Engine that Could – and started saying over and over to myself, I think I can, I think I can and again started my journey down.

All was well for another couple of minutes. Slowly, very slowly, I went not down, but across the mountain. Traversing with lazy S’s to keep my speed as snail-like as possible. I could barely see because the snow was blowing so hard. It was like it was having a hissy fit in front of my face but I was making progress and that gave me confidence.  Then I hit a mogul. Moguls are bumps formed when skiers push the snow into mounds as they turn. Basically, it looks like the mountain has gotten a series of double Z breast augmentations from the Devil. If you’re a good skier you can jump them or maneuver around them. If you’re me you fall – again.This time I didn’t think I was getting up. I had decided I was just going to lay there until some super skier or too cool for school snow boarder came by to either help me up or alert the ski patrol. I had my cell phone in a pocket in my ski pants, but I was in a no bar zone. Oh, how I longed to be pulled down the mountain in a sled, wrapped in blankets behind a snowmobile. So, I laid there and waited for rescue. Nothing happened. Not a soul skied by. By this time I was waiting for the sweet release of hypothermia to kill me before the bears got me. Yes, bears. It’s a dirty lie they tell you in school. Bears do not hibernate all winter. They get up, take a stroll and maybe snack on a skier or two. There are even signs posted about being bear aware. I was imagining my bear scenario. I’m sure upon finding my frosty body the bears would clap their paws, rejoice and thank Mother Nature for the bountiful feast. I can see the bears salivating and fighting over which part of me to eat first. Finally after much discussion they would settle on my juicy, plump thighs – the other white meat.

As I scanned the mountain for black bears I also began to imagine how my mountain demise would be immortalized. I knew my death by skiing would at the very least make an episode of the Travel Channel’s “When Vacations Attack” or the Weather Channel’s “Storm Stories.” But, I was hoping for a Lifetime Movie. Maybe Brooke Shields could play me. Once in a dark bar about 18 years ago someone told me I looked like her.  If there was any justice my cruel, tragic end would rate a feature film starring Angeline Jolie.  Yes, we have a lot in common. We’re both human.

So, there I laid prostrate on the side of a mountain. My body barely visible now, as the rapidly falling snow covers me in a white coffin. I keep alert thinking about how I will be remembered Hollywood style. Then reality sets in and I start thinking about my family.  Not how sad they would be for me to be gone or even my husband finding comfort in the supple, tan, toned arms of women 20 years my junior, but of the gianormous To Do list that awaits me when I get home. Both kids has birthdays next month. There are school projects, home improvements, and another hundred things that have to be accomplished. I have to get up and get down the mountain!

Using the one thing that has sustained me in hard times, no, not the love of my family, but of food. I visualize myself eating a Krispy Kreme doughnut. It comes to me hot off the conveyor belt. It’s sugary glaze dripping down my chin as I take bite after bite and that gives me fuel to use every muscle, I didn’t know I had, to haul myself upright. At last, I’m standing. I grab my poles, say a prayer and go, slowly over and around the moguls. My legs are burning. I can’t feel my fingers and the snow keeps slapping me in the face. It feels like I’m getting a really bad brow wax from a beauty school student. Like tiny pieces of wax are getting yanked off my face over and over again. I can’t handle it. I can’t keep on slowly going across the mountain and around the moguls. My body won’t last much longer. I have no choice but to assume the position. The tuck. I squat, put the poles behind me, and take off straight down the mountain. To keep the fear at bay I mentally go over my calendar for the next week. There’s school, dance  practice, volleyball, SAT prep class, dog to vet, volunteer work, order birthday supplies and on and on. I’m struggling to stay upright. My feet feel like they’re going to come straight out of my ski boots every time I go over a mogul. Yahoo! The ski run smooths out. I’m on familiar territory. I’ve merged into a green (beginner) run. I’m almost down the mountain and to the heavenly salvation of a ski lodge. Thank you, oh thank you, God! Minutes later I’m taking off my skies, kissing them and putting them up in the rack outside the lodge. I lumber in. The first thing I notice is a clock. It felt like I had been stranded on the mountain for days. In actuality it had only been 47 minutes. I then see my family. The kids are fighting over french fries and my husband is drinking a beer.  Everything is status quo. They look up and see me.  I’m covered head to toe in white. Frozen chunks of snow and ice are clinging to my ski pants and jacket, hanging off my goggles and helmet. My ski boots resemble two blocks of ice, dipped in marshmallow fluff. I look like I was the “featured entertainer” at an outdoor orgy hosted by Frosty the Snowman. They all start laughing. No, make that howling and I have never felt happier.

***For all things wonderfully Snarky go to www.snarkygear.com where you can find the new winter Snarky line of clothing and accessories. (Flannel Snarky P.J.’s anyone?) Plus, there’s my book – Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. (Click here for purchase information.)
Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good.  Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.  If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you. To stay up-to-date on new posts and take part in my not so deep thoughts click on this Facebook link – http://is.gd/iEgnJ (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.