Bob The Bowling Bear
by Jon Lovekin
(Editor's note: One of the pleasures in publishing Telluride Inside… and Out is getting to know new [to us] writers. Susan and I independently ran across Jon Lovekin on Twitter. She took the next step, checked out his writing, liked what she saw and asked if he would be interested in contributing to TIO. Herewith, the first article from Jon.)
We awoke early that morning as was our custom even though we had been up most of the night, stargazing and watching the meteor shower. Our tongues had been loosened by the incredible night sky glowing with brilliant starlight and we told stories far into the night. Early meant dawn and all the struggles that go with sore muscles, lack of sleep and the hard ground. The coffee solved most of that as we plunged into our gear and sorted what we would need in our packs for the day.
We were headed up a steep drainage, above Stunner Campground, to where the old mine was marked on the map. As was often the case, the mines were no longer associated with any visible road or trail, at least not from the campground. The terrain was typical of the Eastern San Juans, rugged and unforgiving. The drainage marked a slash in the ground that was visible high above treeline as yellow dirt where the erosion fanned out into the rocky ledges above. We humped on the packs and got going as the sun flickered on the ridges above. It would be hot again, at least for a time during the middle of the day.
Tree falls and rocks kept us busy for a time as we ground our way up the steep climb. No time for words as every breath was needed for the thin air. The water splashed along mossy banks tinted with the red and yellow that told us we were on the right track. The abandoned mine tunnel allowed air and water into the mineralized vein weathering iron and other metals that now precipitated on the stream's banks and rocks with the telltale patina. The adit had collapsed but timber frames stuck out at weird angles to mark the place that had once been opened as a tunnel into the rock. Water flowed from the spot, orange and yellow coated the vegetation with brightly colored muck.
We set down our packs and begun our work. GPS instrumentation was setup to more precisely map the mine and we carefully began sampling the water and testing its pH, and conductivity. Water from these types of mines typically had low pH and high conductivity, attesting to the ionic metal flowing with it. Intent upon our work I suddenly sensed something and looked up. A rock the size of a bowling ball was hurtling through the air straight for us! I yelled "Rock!" and nothing more was needed. We both knew what that meant at the bottom of this ravine with high cliffs above.
Being the trained professionals that we were we both ran into each other and went flying into the creek. This may have saved us as the rock smashed into several flying pieces, striking the ground where we had just been working. Panting along the side of the stream we looked up at the huge bear standing along the ledge some 60 yards or so above us. He was snuffing the air and moving his head about in that characteristic way that bears do as they try to see what they only too well are smelling. "Damned geologists!" he seemed to say as he turned and disappeared from view.
Later that afternoon, after we cleaned up the mess and finished our work, I hiked up the drainage and over to where he had been. His prints were large and he had been above us for a time it appeared by the many tracks. The stones weren't that many here, nor that close to the edge. It looked to me as though he had been purposefully bowling for geologists and had almost gotten two!
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