A reporter's notes: Close encounters off the beaten track

Outdoor exploring in Northern Nevada by bike or tread often presents the opportunity for a close encounter with wildlife.

An opportunity for flying over your handlebars, or for pelting wild dogs with rocks, or increasing your time on the long sprint.

That describes the experiences of three friends from Carson City who dared to venture into the great outdoors and lived to regret (and laugh about it) later.

• George Ruiz has been running for 15 out of the 20 years he's been an insurance agent in Carson City.

"The most unusual thing that happened to me was when I was running in the Pine Nut Mountains. When I was 15 miles back from the trailhead, I came across a pack of wild dogs - and they wanted to eat me."

This was winter three years ago, and Ruiz had already spotted the tracks in the snow. He had mistaken them for a mountain lion. He recommends runners learn how to identify animal prints.

"So I thought I was being stalked by a cat until the dogs appeared."

Ruiz hurled rocks until the seven large dogs retreated enough for him to sprint by. He hasn't returned since. And if he ever does, he's going back with other people.

• Tom Wion, manager of Fleet Feet, had a stand-off with a male bobcat while running up C Hill, heading toward Kings Canyon. He let the bobcat win.

"I had just popped over a little knoll and there were two bobcats - male and female - sitting there. I came to a screeching stop. The female took off up the drainage ditch, and the male posted up and said, 'This is my creek bed.'"

Wion hid behind a rock. It made him 10 minutes late for work.

Bears on Spooner Summit seem to be fairly common. I ran by one while on the Spooner Lake loop. The deep growl emanating from a thicket beside a mud puddle urged me to go a little faster. My second time around, I tried to spot it, with no luck.

Wion only saw a black blur while mountain biking on Spooner Summit. A bear dashed across his path, causing him to brake hard and fly over the handlebars.

• Last weekend, Wion and his friend, Steve Roark, a part-time math teacher at Western Nevada Community College, were 19 miles into a run around Hobart Reservoir when they were stopped on the trail by a mother bear and two cubs.

"Wow! A black bear and two cubs," Roark says about his thoughts at the time. "She turned and looked at us, and the cubs went up a tree."

Wion said the mother stood up and peered at them.

The two hiked up and around the bears.

"It was a long trip around and very slow," Roark says.

• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at bbosshart@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.


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