2 Steamboat boys encountered a bear on Blackmer trail. It spared them but ate their bike seat.
Robbie Wodnik, 11, and Nolan Heydon, 12, were enjoying a bike ride on Emerald Mountain with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club cycling program Monday evening. They were pedaling their way up Blackmer Trail when they encountered a bear.
The boys spotted the bear in the bushes on the side of the trail. At first glance, with the late day sun bouncing off its face, the boys thought the bear was a mountain lion. Eventually, the boys saw two other bears as well. They stopped riding, laid their bikes along the trail, backed up and made themselves big.
Wodnik knew what to do because a couple weeks ago, he and his father encountered a bear with cubs on Spring Creek Trail.
“I knew how to do it because we’ve talked about it a lot,” Wodnik said. “Get big when you see a bear, get big when you see a mountain lion. Back very slowly away when you see a mountain lion and get a tree between you and a moose.”
When he and Heydon ran into the bear on Blackmer that knowledge was still fresh in his mind.
Wodnik said two of the bears were clearly younger, perhaps yearlings, so he assumed the other to be the mother.
A dog came along and ran towards the bear, pushing it back into the bushes. The woman with the dog finally corralled the pup and walked wide around the bears and back along the trail. Luckily, the dog didn’t provoke or irritate the bears, which showed no signs of aggression.
The bear then emerged from the bushes once more and expressed interest in the boys’ bikes.
“The cub comes back out and sniffs at my bike,” Wodnik said. “Stepping on the wheels, sniffing it. Then he smells something better. He goes over to Nolan’s bike. He sniffs it, steps on the wheel and starts grabbing the bike and yanking it across the road. Then, he just starts chewing on it. He lays down and keeps chewing on it.”
At some point, Wodnik said, the bear popped one of the bike’s wheels with its claw.
While watching the bear mildly maul his bike seat, Heydon called his father, Matt.
“When he called me, he was crying,” Matt Heydon said. “He was pretty upset about his bike more than he was fearful of the bears. It was a new bike to him, and he was super excited.
“I think he thought when he called me, he made it sound like his bike was completely ruined. Fortunately, it was not and just took a few things to repair it and get it back to where it used to be.”
Wodnik called his mother, who then called Blair Seymour, the cycling program director at SSWSC. Seymour got in touch with the coach, Jenny, who was leading the ride and was still on her way up Blackmer. Jenny quickly zipped back downhill to meet the boys, who were being helped by a good Samaritan.
After a couple minutes of standing away from the bear, a passerby helped the boys scare the bears off. Ideally, the boys should have kept their bikes with them to serve as a barrier and help them look even bigger. Otherwise, they did everything right.
Rory Clow and a friend were hiking when they came across the boys, who were clearly nervous about the situation. Clow said Heydon was more emotional, as he seemed very worried about the state of his bike.
“I had a friend with me, and we went down and checked the bike and spun the wheel, and we were like, ‘You know, it’s just a flat tire,’” Clow said.
Spokes were intact and rims were still straight. Another SSWSC biker had a spare tube and helped Heydon repair his tire.
The seat was still torn apart with plastic foam falling out, but seats are easily replaceable. Thankfully, the bike was still in great shape.
Neither boy was scared off the mountain, as they returned to Emerald the next day to ride again. They will definitely both be very bear aware from now on, though.
“No fear, I’m still looking everywhere because it snuck up on me,” Wodnik said.
The encounter is just the most recent on Emerald in the past few weeks. Morning Gloria Trail was closed for nearly a week through June 28 after many bikers had negative interactions with an increasingly aggressive bear.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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