Sunday, May 10, 2009

Running in Acadia: Attack of the Spruce Grouse

Myself, along with Ryan, Danielle, Mindy and Pete headed up to Acadia National Park this weekend to get in some camping and running. Well, Mindy and Pete opted to stay in a hotel, as Pete is recovering from shoulder surgery and camping might be a bit uncomfortable. However, rumor has it the real reason for the hotel is they own a pink Hello Kitty tent and they were too embarrassed to bring it along.

We converged at the Jordan Pond House, where Ryan had mapped out a route that would give us a little over eleven miles and climb up most of Mt. Sargent. Danielle is preggers so she opted not to do this run and hiked with Pete instead, but Mindy, Ryan and I took off on the route with the goal of running slow and taking it easy since we're all in a taper. It would give us the chance to chat, joke and enjoy the views, which we did. But little did we know Mother Nature would unleash her fury on the way up.

We enjoyed the gradual ascent up and commented several times on the great weather along the way. A few miles in, we saw a young buck with the beginnings of velvety antlers starting to grow. I did my bleat call a few times, which temporarily gained his attention, but he sauntered off into the dense woods to do whatever it is deer do on fine spring afternoons such as this one. Ah, so peaceful to see that happy little deer in this ideal nature setting. But it wouldn't be our only encounter with the animals of the forest. No. No, it wouldn't.

We were getting close to the highest point of our trek and continued our jovial banter, when suddenly I felt feathers accompanied by short bursts of wind on my calves. Ryan yelled and I turned around. There, a spruce grouse was flying up at me and then turned towards the others. There were more yells and screams as we warded off the attack. Then we fled.

As we ran, we looked back to hopefully watch this feathered fury shrink to a speck as we left it behind. We were wrong. So wrong. The bastard began running at us. Then took flight. It caught up easily and attacked again! We were forced to stop to try to shoe it away, hoping it wouldn't peck our eyes out. With blatant disregard for our size, this rooster on steroids would brazenly fly in front of us and block our path, getting right up in our faces. More screams and yells. But also laughter. Much laughter. This was only slightly scary but immensely hilarious. What is this little bastard thinking?!

This continued several times, and in between attacks we agreed it was likely a female protecting her nest. Surely she must turn around soon, as by now we were a few hundred yards away from when we first encountered her. Right? Wrong. Dead wrong. The attacks ensued around eight times total, if I had to guess. Each time, we'd think we were getting away, then the bird would run at us.. then fly.. then attack. She seemed to like Mindy most. I tried to be chivalrous one time and get between Mindy and the bird. However, I decided screw that... every man for himself, and took off running. We all sprinted. We looked over our shoulders and the bird seemed to be staying put. Whew.

We caught our breaths and began recounting the incident. We thought we were safe and breathed sighs of relief. But suddenly, it was back, flying in for another attack! We ran again, laughing at the absurdity of the situation. However, this time we got away.

We caught our breaths again and were treated to a long downhill after that, cracking up as we rehashed what had happened. A little over a mile down the hill, we encountered two runners taking a walk break, and we warned them about the bird. Turns out one of the guys encountered the same grouse in the same area last month. We ran the rest of the way with one eye towards the dense woods, all of us on guard for another ambush. Fortunately, it never happened. We arrived safely at our cars.

We then went out for lunch, set up our tents, then checked out the rocky coastline for a bit before heading to Geddy's for dinner. Afterwards, Ryan tried to get a fire started, but failed. He insisted on blaming it on the rain, which was starting to pour down in buckets. Lame excuse. We turned in and I got a great sleep as the downpour continued.

Ran 11.2 miles @ 9:19/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 134/158 (the max HR coincides with the spruce grouse attack)
Carriage trails.
Extremely hilly.
Lower 60s, partly sunny.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt.

We awoke to better weather, and walked over to the coast again to take in the view once more, then packed up and headed over Eagle Lake. Plan was to do the six mile loop slowly. Danielle decided she could do this route, and Pete opted to hike around while we ran, and reported finding several beaver dams in a boggy area.

This run was free of nature's wrath, unless you want to count when I had to stop for a bio-break about halfway through the run. I told the others not to wait as I would probably be a while, but thanks to a long downhill where I put the pedal down, I managed to catch back up with them about a mile and a half later. Afterwards, we got breakfast in Bah' Hahbah (blueberry pancakes for me) before we all went our separate ways. Thanks guys for a great time!

Ran 6.0 miles @ 8:54/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 130/156
Carriage trails.
Very hilly.
Mid-upper 50s, cloudy.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt. Long sleeve shirt also for first mile, then removed.


mindy said...

Too. Much. Fun. I'm going to be seeing that crazy grouse in my sleep. Time to start planning the next trip to Acadia! You were right about the Hello Kitty tent, by the way...we'll have to find another excuse for next time.

middle.professor said...

Crazy report. I think I saw that in a hitchcock movie once.

Andrew said...

Great post! Sounds like you had a great time!

Grellan said...

Looks like it was a very enjoyable weekend. The only dangerous Grouse I ever came across was the "famous" scotch variety.

Thomas said...

What a bizarre encounter. Sounds like it really added to the fun.

Sparkplug said...

Such a fun weekend! Thanks Jamie :-)

RunSueRun said...

Too funny Jamie!! That happened to me a couple of times in Vermont. Felt like such a wimp but it scared the crap outa me! :)