I am new to the Aspen area and I have been hearing all sorts of stories about bears.

Now, the first story that I heard was told to me supposedly as reassurance. I was told by Mark my neighbor not to worry about the bears. To just make myself as big as possible and scare it off. Unless it was the BIG ONE.

I did wonder what “big” meant because size is a relative thing.

I was told the big one is the one that jumped up and down on top of the steel dumpster until the lid caved in.

Then about a week ago I was talking with one of my co-workers and she told me that bears can open doors and I should keep my doors locked at night. I stopped, a cold shiver went up my spine, and visions of the BIG ONE coming in to the house and helping himself to the refrigerator ran through my mind. I didn’t have a key to lock my doors for the first few weeks I was up here. The humans are perfectly trustworthy and the nicest community of people I have ever met.

The bears?

Well, let’s just say they are a little like Crazy Ole Uncle Joe who is mostly harmless and every once in a while gets a bit destructive. They are a colorful addition to the community. Which leads me to yesterday’s news in the Aspen Daily, a bear decided to sit up in a tree in downtown Aspen and cause a bit of a stir. The bear snuggled up into a pine tree in the alleyway at the corner of Hunter Street and East Hopkins. The Colorado Division of Wildlife was not called because the bear wasn’t really causing a problem. It was just hanging out. Downtown Aspen is a pretty cool place.

This morning I woke up at 4 a.m. for no apparent reason that I could discern other than that something woke me up. I learned this evening that one of my neighbors had two bear cubs on her back porch this week and they were knocking on the door. Maybe the bears woke me up? I thought about going for a run but it was still dark and I was a bit nervous about the prospect of running into a bear. When I got to work, I told one of my co-workers about being awake at 4 in the morning and that I didn’t go for a run because I was worried about the bears. He told me not to worry because the bears leave people alone if the people leave the bears alone.

Then he asked me where I live and I told him. He grimaced and told me not to go for a run when it is dark out. The bears are perfectly harmless, but the mountain lions like a good runner for breakfast.