The mountain, the bear and the gun-toting Tennessean

Though I relish any time spent on The Broadmoor’s opulent grounds, I love escaping to North Cheyenne Cañon, a gorgeous red-rock, evergreen forest with scores of hiking trails.

Many of the trails start at the Starsmore Discovery Center, just over a mile from the resort so most of my explorations have been reserved for the gorgeous neighborhoods and Lower Columbine trail. But then, I learned The Broadmoor runs a complimentary shuttle to the discovery center, which would give me a jump-start on my desire to hike further up the canyon to the Upper Columbine Trail.

We had planned to spend an afternoon at the pool but when rain clouded our plans, I enrolled the kids in the resort’s children’s club, Bee Bunch, while Jamie booked a massage. That meant I had three glorious hours to explore!

But remember that rain? It would have deterred some but not me. I grabbed my waterproof gear and hopped on the shuttle. Within minutes, I was winding along the trail and ran into a family.

“Bear up there,” one of the woman casually commented as I hiked by.

“Umm, did she say there is a bear?”

Her traveling companion divulged there was, indeed, a brown bear directly off the trail about a half-hour ahead. “He didn’t bother us,” he assured me. Gee, swell to know.

I kept hiking and each subsequent hiker issued the same warning. By this point, I was starting to get paranoid. I was, after all, hiking by myself and I had just polished off The Broadmoor’s tasty 10,000-calorie brunch. I’d be some good eatin’ for a hungry bear in the rain. Plus, I’ve never run into a bear in Colorado’s backcountry.

As I was forging up the mountain, I was passed by a 30-something, fit tattooed hiker from Tennessee who was a bit rough around the edges but friendly. I informed him about the bear and he nonchalantly said, “I’m not worried. I’ve got a pistol in my backpack.”

Now, any other day such a confession would have steered me in another direction but it became one of Bode’s famous “would you rather” games: Would I rather hike by myself under threat of a bear OR hike with a gun-toting, tattooed Tennessean?

I opted for the latter and we quickly fell into a good clip up the mountain.

I may-or-may-not have snapped this picture as evidence in case my dead, lifeless body was found.

The trail was steep, the views stunned, the rain dripped, the sun persisted, the conversation entertained and it was one of those beloved hikes where  I felt powerful and never wanted it to end. When we reached the Upper Columbine trailer marker four miles later,  we parted ways as he continued going and I reluctantly headed back to pick up the kids.

View of The Broadmoor from the Upper Columbine Trail

The bear was long forgotten on my return trip but I had a new-found fondness for gun-toting Tennesseans. Just your average day in Colorado’s backcountry.




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