One of my favorite outdoor activities in Big Bear is mountain biking. With over 100 miles of trails and U.S. Forest Service roads to choose from the sport of mountain biking naturally fits Big Bear’s mountainous terrain.
I often ride deep into the woods, and every once in a while I encounter some kind of wildlife. I feel it’s a privilege to see animals in their natural habitat. It’s fascinating to watch wildlife in action, and it’s interesting to see that they have different reactions when I ride by.
This past weekend I got my fair share of various fauna sightings. At one point, it felt as if I was on some kind of safari. There are bike rides, and then there are wild rides. Without a doubt this was a wild ride with a variety of different wildlife running across the trail or peeking through the trees. If you ride your bike on the trails and Forest Service roads in Big Bear Valley be sure to stay alert, because there is a chance you will see different critters roaming the forest.
This past weekend, I chose to ride route that consisted of Forest Service roads. I started with a four-mile climb at Van Dusen Road on the North Shore in Big Bear City. Van Dusen road turns into 3N09 and leads to 3N16. I chose to head west on 3N16 to 2N09, which is another Forest Service road that stretches for about four or five miles of pure downhill fun.
My first encounter during my trek up the mountain was an alligator lizard. One thing about nature is one can never predict when one is going to encounter a creature of the wild. I have to admit the lizard scared the bejeebers out of me. As I was riding I could see something slithering near my right pedal. My initial reaction was, “oh lordy! A snake!” So my gut instinct was to pedal faster. Well, as I pedaled faster so did the mysterious slithering reptile. I looked down to get a better glance of what was keeping pace with my bike. I was relieved to see it was a 12 to 15 inch lizard, not a snake. It was long, but I know it was not a threat. It eventually veered off the road and into the brush. This was just the beginning of an adventurous safari-style ride.
As I got closer to the summit of 3N09 I was fortunate to see two female deer cross my path about 20 yards ahead of me. It’s always a pleasure to see deer in the wild. I must have spooked them though because they shifted into a high gear and vanished into the woods. I witnessed their athletic ability and nimble prowess as they navigated over rocks, shrubs and stumps to ensure safety from the intruder on two-wheels.
When I reached the intersection of 3N09 and 3N16 I noticed it was rather quiet. I pedaled west toward Holcomb Valley Campground, and realized most (if not all) of the campers had departed for home. The only active camp I saw was the campground host’s campsite.
As I passed the campground I felt a calming, peaceful feeling, yet at the same time there was something uncanny about the surroundings. My natural instincts seemed to kick in, which gave me a boost of alertness. I was a little more alert than usual. I looked off to the south side of the trail, and sure enough I could see a coyote had stopped in its tracks to watch me. The brave canine did not seem to have any fear of my presence. In fact, it looked as if it was curious to figure out what I was and why I was in its territory. I made a howling sound as I passed the coyote, which seemed to baffle it. I saw it sniff the ground and then it went on its merry way. As I pedaled another 30 yards I looked back just to make sure it didn’t decide to follow me. Sure enough it was clear.
On my stretch toward 2N09 I saw a few different birds including a robin, some blue jays and a raven. There were some smaller birds too that flew directly in front of me just barely missing my helmet. It makes me wonder of these birds were doing this for kicks and giggles.
Next, a jackrabbit appeared on my left. The quickness of the rabbit startled me a bit, but I saw right away what it was. Once again, I got to see a very athletic performance from a critter that has natural skills to dodge its predators. Even though I was not its predator it sure did act like I was. It darted into the forest faster than Jamaican Olympic sprinter Usian Bolt.
I finally reached 2N09. This is my favorite part of the ride because it’s all downhill from here. It was right about dusk when I started my downhill descent. In Big Bear it’s only natural to see bats flying around during this time. Although these bats are harmless they are a bit distracting for mountain biking because of their erratic flying behavior.
I reached the bottom of 2N09 in seven minutes flat. I basically flew down the mountain. It was starting to get dark so I turned on my light and made my way toward the Alpine Pedal Path. I headed east on the pedal path toward home. I figured my safari ride was over, but much to my surprise there was one more creature that I encountered. My bike’s light shined toward the paved path, and right in the middle was a toad. It just sat there and let me pass by.
I was amazed at how much different wildlife I witnessed on my bike ride. I felt it added an extra element of wonder to the ride. In a way the animals provided entertainment along the way, which I was very appreciative. Wildlife is part of mountain biking. So remember to respect wildlife during a ride, and you’re certain to find an enjoyable ride amongst the critters that reside in the forest.
Take a bike ride on the wild side,