ANCHORAGE - Forester Rick Rogers never imagined his first close call with a bear would come in an Anchorage park visited by thousands of people.
But after years of walking in grizzly habit, Rogers had his encounter Saturday on a local trail.
The 50-year-old competitive skier and triathlete was run over by a grizzly as he and a friend were finishing a three-hour workout that took them from Hillside Park to the base of Flattop Mountain and back.
Rogers happened to be wearing a heart-rate monitor. He thought his maximum heart rate was 180 but the monitor recorded 193.
"You hear about people dying of fright," he said. "Well, this was scary, and I've the data to prove it. I think it aged me about five years."
The two men stumbled into a sow with two cubs.
"She was scared. We were scared. Looking back, it was pandemonium," Rogers said. "It was chaos. It seemed like it lasted a lifetime, but it was probably only 15 seconds."
The bear rushed out of the brush and Rogers' companion fended her off with ski poles.
The bear stopped and two cubs the size of puppies came out of the woods.
Rogers decided to run for a nearby tree. However, as soon as he moved, the bear abandoned his friend and charged.
"I instantly trip," Rogers said. "I'm thinking, 'Boy, this is dumb.' But in hindsight, that was probably the best thing I could do."
Once on the ground, Rogers was no threat, but the bear kept coming. Rogers took his last look when she was a few yards away.
"It was time to go fetal," he said.
The bear ran over him or just beside him. The sow was followed by the cubs.
"They were so close, I could have just picked them up," Rogers said.
He got up and the men tried to leave immediately, but the bear came back.
They waved their ski poles in the air and yelled at the bear. It left in the direction of the Black Bear and Brown Bear trails in a city that promotes itself with the slogan "Big Wild Life."
Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologists warn that people can meet bears on trails anywhere in the Anchorage area, but the odds increase in the area of the Campbell Tract, Bicentennial Park and Hillside Park. Those parks are next to Chugach State Park and the Fort Richardson Military Reservation.