Everyone knows the feeling.
An extra fifteen minutes deep into a life-changing slumber, you wake up – eyes struggling to focus, hair rocking a 90’s punk-rock-chic look, and sun squeaking through that pesky crack in the blinds that never gets the job done.
You overslept. You’re late. Chaos ensues.
You throw the covers off and halfway across the room, grab the first pair of pants you can find, and cross your fingers that today is the day 35 isn’t backed up for ten-miles.
Erik knows the feeling. But on this late April morning in the Eastern Sierras, he made it to work on time without the rush.
The black bear that came charging down the mountain at him and his crew, not so much.
A Texas transplant working a project in the mountains of Bishop, California, Erik Grundvig knows his job comes with some inherent risk. As a Project Manager and Logistics Coordinator at American Conservation Experience, his work days couldn’t be further from cubical life. American Conservation Experience (ACE) is a non-profit steadfast on providing environmental service opportunities to help restore America’s public lands. Yeah, Erik earns his paycheck working trail maintenance, cutting down Western White Pines, hauling heavy machinery into remote areas, and all that real-life lumberjack stuff that bearded guys in flannel have never done. And, yeah, he’s pretty damn proud of it.
“It’s called the Coyote Area and we were there – in the snow – to close down some illegal roads. The forest service told me there hasn’t been a bear sighting in over twelve years. So, we tripped in our equipment and got to work.”
He and his four-deep team were 12,000 feet up decompacting, vertical mulching, and blending some dirt roads that were deemed ‘high impact’ by the state. Not only does the road get closed down, the road gets converted back to its original, environmentally-stable condition – pre-human interaction.
What started as white noise turned into the distinct sound of galloping. It got louder and louder, then he heard it – a whisper with a sense of urgency louder than any scream.
Still as the sage grass he was hauling, Erik watched the bear sprint down the mountain – straight toward his machinery, his truck, and the four lifelike human statues in Carhartts, company shirts, and hard hats that used to be his crew. Motionless, they watched, waited, and clenched the rocks in hand – hoping these makeshift self-defense weapons would never see their day in battle.
“As it got closer – and, man, it was close – we noticed that it didn’t care about us one bit. Hibernation was over and, from all we could guess, the bear was late for something.”
The bear passed and Erik exhaled in relief. He was going to live to close another Eastern Sierra road. But as he picked up his R5 modified fire shovel, he couldn’t help but smile and feel some empathy for the slightly-behind-schedule beast.
“Oversleeping happens. The chaotic sprint out the door – we’ve all been there. I just hope the poor guy made it.”
The views from Erik’s office are better than the view from yours – just check his Instagram. Between slow hiking his trails, keeping a six-minute mile pace on runs through town, and making sure his work pants stay covered in dirt, he can be found at The Classic Cue for one-dollar fish tacos and Miller High Lifes. For more information or to learn more about a three-month work vacation out west, consider checking out Erik and his buddies at American Conservation Experience.