What I was not prepared for were the “other neighbors.”
I was very lucky to have two dear friends visit to help me unpack the house before my husband and oldest son arrived in Colorado. One night after dinner, while we were admiring the sunset over the Flat Top Mountains and my youngest watched cartoons, and we heard a bang. My first thought was, “One of the pictures on the wall came down.”
But I was wrong. I looked down from the deck at my driveway, and saw a 150-pound bear tearing apart my garbage bag 20 feet away from me.
Two minutes later two cubs arrived and joined Mama in the eating frenzy. They left about 5 minutes later and waddled down the driveway to the next set of houses. Well, my heartbeat was so fast I thought the whole neighborhood could hear me. In DC, I was like every other neighbor, putting my garbage out Sunday night for Monday morning pick up. Not here. Garbage goes out Monday morning, along with the trepidation of meeting some bear asking for a meal.
So, lesson #1: keep the garbage in the garage.
Soon after the bear incident, my husband sent me to hardware store to get pepper spray, essentially mace, and the lady at the checkout counter said, “Bears?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Where do you live?” she asked.
“Steamboat Boulevard,” I responded.
“Oh, you live in the wildlife corridor, you’ll see lots of animals, but don’t worry about the bears, keep
your garbage in and you’ll be fine. It’s the moose you have to worry about, they will charge you.”
Lesson #2: Stay away from the moose.
The lady at Ace Hardware was right. One night while watching the Olympics we saw a fox at our sliding glass door just staring at us. Days later we saw another lone bear sitting and pulling down branches off one of our berry trees. We had so many visits that we named the bears: the mama of two cubs is called Cinnamon, the lone bear, a yearling is Onesy, and another mama and her cub are Solo and Hans.
In August, it was almost a nightly occurrence to see them; and my confidence on the deck evaporated when one night Cinammon plopped down next our trampoline and sent her cubs up the trees to eat acorns. Well, they could climb to the deck anytime.
Lesson #3: Bears can climb.
Some of Robin’s neighbors like to stroll through her yard.
I have also learned and adapted my dog walking routine. In the summer I walked them every morning at six a.m. Longtime residents told me to watch out for porcupines lurking in the culverts because my dogs might end up with needles in their nose; or to be careful when they are off leash because in the winter months a lone coyote may lure may dog away and bring her to the pack, and she would be no match for them.
One morning I was walking the dogs and I looked up and thought to myself, “I didn’t know the neighbors had a wooden sculpture of a bear and a cub.” As I heard my dog growling, I realized it was not a sculpture. On the other side of this small street (a street smaller than Albemarle) was a bear, staring at me. Six steps and she could pounce on me. Her eyes were locked on mine. I tried to remember everything I heard – walk away slowly, keep eye contact, keep my dogs in control. I walked away. As soon as I was distance she considered safe she dipped her head to eat the grass again, and I was gone. It was one of the scariest moments of living here.
Lesson #4: Keep calm around bears and walk away slowly – if you run they think you are prey.In a town with wild animals around how do you celebrate Halloween? I knew I was not taking my kids house to house in the dark. Our main street, Lincoln Avenue, was shut down for two hours from 5th to 10th street so the kids could visit every store and get Halloween treats. My favorite part was seeing the firemen handing out treats in their fire hats.
I miss my friends and neighbors in Washington, DC. But I have to say that living in a town so close to nature and where my kids can bike everywhere is a privilege. As long as I have the Internet, 3G networks and
an airport, I can live here forever. It’s a beautiful life. Just watch out for bears.