Ep. 09: Now You're Bleeding too BearIn episode 9, we sit down and talk with Colin Dowler, who shares in detail his harrowing experience of grit and tenacity. Colin is sharing his story to increase the knowledge base of bear behaviour and bear encounters. He hopes that we all become more aware of potential dangers and become adequately educated and prepared before entering into bear country.
Travis Bader: [00:00:00] I’m Travis Bader and this is The Silvercore Podcast. Join me as I discuss matters related to hunting, fishing, and outdoor pursuits with the people in businesses that comprise of the community. If you’re a new to Silvercore, be sure to check out our website, www.Silvercore.ca, where you can learn more about courses, services, and products that we offer. As well as how you can join The Silvercore Club, which includes 10 million in North America wide liability insurance to ensure you are properly covered during your outdoor adventures.
[00:00:43] Silvercore has been providing bear safety training to industry professionals, both in person as well as online for many years. But this marks the first time that I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and speak with someone who survived a horrific grizzly bear attack by using his pocket knife. For those of you who are following #Silvercore Podcasts and social media, you’ll know that I’ve been steadily building a custom podcast studio.
[00:01:08] If the audio sounds a bit different in this episode, it’s because it was recorded on location as I traveled to meet Colin Dowler, who was gracious enough to have me in his home and share with you his harrowing experience of grit and tenacity. Colin wants to share his story to add to the knowledge base of bear behaviour and encounters so that you are better aware of potential dangers and to motivate you to become properly prepared and educated prior to entering into bear country.
[00:01:35] I should warn that there are sections of this podcast that will be intense and graphic and listener discretion is advised. Finally, if you are enjoying The Silvercore Podcast, would sure help us out if you like, subscribe, write a review or comment and share with your friends. Colin, thank you very much for having me into your home and sitting down with me to do this podcast.
Colin Dowler: [00:02:01] Yeah, for sure.
Travis Bader: [00:02:02] We’re here on the Island in Campbell River right now, and you’ve lived on the Island for quite some time, haven’t you? All your life.
Colin Dowler: [00:02:09] Yeah, 45 years.
Travis Bader: [00:02:10] And you grew up in Campbell River?
Colin Dowler: [00:02:12] I grew up on Quadra Island. I went to high school in Campbell River. Can we take a ferry to school each morning and home each afternoon as Quadra Island kids. And then I moved to Campbell River in 2003 .
Travis Bader: [00:02:26] What brought you over to Campbell River?
Colin Dowler: [00:02:28] The convenience of it, just for work-wise, right. And the economy, it was a better place to purchase a house here than on Quadra.
Travis Bader: [00:02:37] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:02:37] And you know, over 90% of my employment was in Campbell River.
Travis Bader: [00:02:42] And what do you do for work here?
Colin Dowler: [00:02:44] Well, I’m electrician by trade, and right now H’m the manager of maintenance and operations for Island health for the North Island.
Travis Bader: [00:02:52] Growing up in this area, you’ve got a lot of bears in Campbell River. You’re no stranger to being around bears. You see black bears typically over here, is that a fair statement?
Colin Dowler: [00:03:01] Yeah, yeah, for sure. We have a black bears in the neighbourhood through from spring through till fall.
Travis Bader: [00:03:09] And what about being outdoors? Is that something that you grew up being in the outdoors.
Colin Dowler: [00:03:14] For sure.
Travis Bader: [00:03:15] Yeah. Tell me about that.
Colin Dowler: [00:03:16] Wow. I mean, again, Quadra Island kid, I mean, I had a friend move out from Ontario and they said that, you know, just driving the roads of quarters, like driving through a forest. We didn’t have cable television, I had a couple of fuzzy channels, if your antenna was working and growing up, it wasn’t tell graduate near grade 12, 1992 that, we got a cable television. So for entertainment, you’s typically find yourself outdoors.
Travis Bader: [00:03:51] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:03:52] Yeah, so I mean, I was really into the, you know, mushroom picking and fishing more than anything.
Travis Bader: [00:03:56] And you did a lot of fishing?
Colin Dowler: [00:03:57] Yeah, lots of trout fishing. Yeah and I guess, I mean, the trout fishing evolved in, I mean, it’s hard as a kid to fish salmon without an adult with you, right.
Travis Bader: [00:04:05] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:04:05] To get on your bicycle and you know, pack your fly rod or spinning rod, you know, to a local stream was a little easier. But I became a fishing guide when I graduated grade 11.
Travis Bader: [00:04:17] Wow.
Colin Dowler: [00:04:17] And so I was a 16 year old fishing guide for a local resort.
Travis Bader: [00:04:20] Wow. Is that common to be that young and be a fishing guide?
Colin Dowler: [00:04:23] No, but not unheard of.
Travis Bader: [00:04:27] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:04:27] Right, yeah. I mean, I think if you have the passion for it, like myself and some of my peers had, to get in there that age wasn’t too, it wasn’t inconceivable.
Travis Bader: [00:04:37] That’s really cool. So what’d you do as a fishing guide?
Colin Dowler: [00:04:39] Well, I worked at April Point Lodge on Quadra and a little bit at Painter’s Lodge, and basically you just, you know, took people for day trips out and it started in a 15 foot whaler and then moved up, I was in a 17 foot whaler by the end of it all and occasionally would get on to others, people’s larger boats, you know, if a wealthy customer had their own 27 foot whaler. Right, right. I would get into their boat and guide them out of that.
Travis Bader: [00:05:04] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:05:04] But yeah, it’d be day trips. Anything from, you know, four hours to 16 hours, chasing around local coho and chinook mostly.
Travis Bader: [00:05:12] When I read about your experience, it’s human nature, you take a look at this and you say, well that would never happen to me, but it happened to you. Let’s talk a little bit about what brought you to be out in the woods on that fateful day. That happened when? That was in July was it ?
Colin Dowler: [00:05:30] July 29th 2019.
Travis Bader: [00:05:33] July 29th and if I read correctly, that was right around your birthday, wasn’t it?
Colin Dowler: [00:05:38] I woke up the next morning out of surgery on my birthday.
Travis Bader: [00:05:43] Wow. What drove you to be outside in the woods on that day?
Colin Dowler: [00:05:47] That day? Ah, well, I guess for what it’s worth, my wife and I were hiking locally and had planned to do a lot of hiking locally this summer. The older brother and I had planned to attempt to hike Mount Doogie Dowler in the near future, probably next summer.
Travis Bader: [00:06:08] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:06:09] Or next September, so wife and I had contemplated doing a local hike together.
Travis Bader: [00:06:17] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:06:18] And ultimately decided that, I guess she wanted to not take on such a challenging hike as the one that we were thinking on doing that weekend.
Travis Bader: [00:06:28] Okay. Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:06:29] And I don’t know anyone else that wants to go bushwhacking on the mainland to go route finding up Mount Doogie Dowler, other than my brother, but our schedules don’t line up his days off are on midweek.
Travis Bader: [00:06:44] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:06:44] So it was a convenient opportunity for me to go out on my own to the mainland to do some reconnaissance for this hike because my wife and I weren’t going to go on our trip together.
Travis Bader: [00:06:56] So you’ve never been up to a Mount Doogie Dowler before?
Colin Dowler: [00:06:59] No, I have actually.
Travis Bader: [00:07:00] I guess it must’ve been a while back if you’re looking for a new route?
Colin Dowler: [00:07:03] So I guess, I want to say it was about 20 years ago.
Travis Bader: [00:07:08] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:07:08] That I had done two different hikes up Doogie. Same idea, one was to, you know, get there in the boat and sort out, Hey, can this be done? And then a second attempt in earnest, where we got turned around by weather while we were trying to summit.
[00:07:26] So then here I am, 20 years later, about five weeks earlier, I did a spur of the moment quick, just bomb in there, to see if it was being actively logged, if you could even land a boat there, et cetera, et cetera.
Travis Bader: [00:07:40] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [00:07:40] What shaped the roads were in. So I’d actually done a decent bit of reconnaissance five weeks earlier.
Travis Bader: [00:07:46] So Mount Doogie Dowler, that’s when it kind of looks like a cowboy hat when you’re here on Quadra Island, that’s one of the higher peaks here, isn’t it? If not the highest peak that you can kind of see.
Colin Dowler: [00:07:57] It’s amongst the more prominent peaks when you’re looking from Vancouver Island that way, and like it isn’t the highest, it’s fairly close as well, right.
Travis Bader: [00:08:05] Have you had a successful summit on that mountain before?
Colin Dowler: [00:08:07] I have not.
Travis Bader: [00:08:08] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:08:09] I’ve got a close friend that has, though.
Travis Bader: [00:08:10] I have to ask, is a summit in the future?
Colin Dowler: [00:08:15] For what it’s worth? I am okay, if I never hike the mountain, and I always have been, and it was just recently when my brother and I got talking about it and we were both getting back into shape right. Each being in her mid forties and each having moved into desk jobs.
Travis Bader: [00:08:32] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:08:33] Right when you were getting back into shape and thought, you know what, this would be an excellent goal and a worthy thing to attempt to do.
Travis Bader: [00:08:41] Well, and I can’t help but notice, and I know a little bit about the background on this, but it’s called Mount Doogie Dowler. You’re Colin Dowler, can you tell me a little bit about how that mountain got its name?
Colin Dowler: [00:08:51] My grandpa Doogie, well, I guess, grandpa Doogie Dowler, but we knew him as grandpa Dougie.
Travis Bader: [00:08:56] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:08:57] He lived on Quadra for a long time, was the local grocery store owner and postmaster. And when he died in 82 or 83, one of the local families pursued getting the peak named after him, cause they knew it or they suspected it didn’t have a name.
Travis Bader: [00:09:16] That’s pretty cool. So it’s got some family history there.
Colin Dowler: [00:09:21] Yeah, for sure. Yeah. And from Heriot Bay, where his store was and also his home, there’s a view of mountain duty dollar from there.
Travis Bader: [00:09:31] So you’d just sit at home and stare at the mountain that, which is now named after him.
Colin Dowler: [00:09:35] That’s right.
Travis Bader: [00:09:35] That’s really cool. So you, I guess a more spur of the moment to go up around your birthday or?
Colin Dowler: [00:09:42] Yeah, that’s right. The first trip was spur of the moment, and this one also was, I had, I intended on doing a reconnaissance hike.
Travis Bader: [00:09:50] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:09:50] Before September, and I was just at the beginning of some days off. So there was probably the trip was going to happen.
Travis Bader: [00:09:57] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:09:57] It just so happened that it was a fairly quick decision that I was going that day.
Travis Bader: [00:10:03] So what did you, what did you bring with you?
Colin Dowler: [00:10:08] Had of course, my backpack, hiking poles, mountain bike, the bivvy sack, which would be my first time using one of those. It was an experiment to see how comfortable or, miserable it was.
Travis Bader: [00:10:21] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [00:10:22] Using a little bivvy.
Travis Bader: [00:10:23] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:10:24] Packed pretty light. Had you know, small amount of clothing, you know, more than enough food, but it really wasn’t much food.
Travis Bader: [00:10:31] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:10:32] And that’s about it.
Travis Bader: [00:10:33] What about a bear spray? Air horn? Firearm?
Colin Dowler: [00:10:39] Yeah, so I didn’t have an air horn, or a firearm, and I left without bear spray. And I did, you know, I thought bear spray would be a good idea because the time that I was up there prior, there was a lot of bear sign.
Travis Bader: [00:10:55] So it kind of crossed your mind, but just fleetingly?
Colin Dowler: [00:10:58] No, probably more than that. my dad had called the night before I left and he was out in his boat with his partner. And they were heading sorta out of cell range, little further than he generally ventures.
Travis Bader: [00:11:14] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:11:15] So he was calling to let me know that, you know, he was going off the grid.
Travis Bader: [00:11:19] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:11:20] So it was a convenient time for me to tell him that, Hey, so am I. Typically I would leave an itinerary with him, but my wife knew well enough, you know, where I was going, what was going on. So she had the itinerary and he had mentioned that, you know, he had bear spray in and amongst his wares, whether it was, you know, past this due date or not, he wasn’t sure.
Travis Bader: [00:11:42] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:11:42] But I should consider grabbing it. So we chatted a bunch about bear safety and you know, how afraid of bears he is and.
Travis Bader: [00:11:49] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:11:50] You know, I debated whether I should be more afraid of them than I am or not. Cause I’ve honestly never been afraid of bears and cougars and I’ve got the belief of, well it’s like being hit by lightening, you can’t fear that or you’ll never get out there.
Travis Bader: [00:12:03] That’s a good point. And where you live, I mean, we’ve got cougars here that a lot of black bear out here. It’s more of a common occurrence to see or hear about them being in your area and that familiarity breeds a certain amount of comfort, it’s.
Colin Dowler: [00:12:19] Sure.
Travis Bader: [00:12:20] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:12:20] And they, they always run, don’t they?
Travis Bader: [00:12:24] Yeah, they typically do, they typically do. So you packed up, you got in your boat, you took your boat and your bike over to, where did you go?
Colin Dowler: [00:12:32] To the mouth of the Quatam River, in Ramsey Arm.
Travis Bader: [00:12:35] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:12:37] And I got there and tied up to the dock and started biking out there and realized that the camp was active.
Travis Bader: [00:12:46] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:12:47] Five weeks earlier, the camp wasn’t active.
Travis Bader: [00:12:49] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:12:50] So I poked around the camp and you know, yell, hello, hello, hello, until I got the ear of the camp cook.
Travis Bader: [00:12:57] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:12:58] Who would also be their level three first aid attendant.
Travis Bader: [00:13:00] Alright.
Colin Dowler: [00:13:01] And so we got chat and asked about if it was all right for me to use the dock. And he mentioned they actually had a couple of crew boats that had been coming and going each day. I’m not sure if both, if there was two boats coming and going or just one, but either way they comb, the potential combination of boats out. The dock was such, there wasn’t room for me to park on it.
Travis Bader: [00:13:23] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [00:13:24] So I parked on the log boom nearby and swam into the dock.
Travis Bader: [00:13:30] Okay. How’d you get your bike off? Oh I guess you just took your bike off
Colin Dowler: [00:13:33] I just left everything, yeah. Clothes, bike, everything on the dock.
Travis Bader: [00:13:35] Yeah. So got your bike off, all your kit and got on your bicycle, started riding down the road or?
Colin Dowler: [00:13:41] No, so not fully. So again, in chatting with the camp cook, asked me if there’s anything I needed and I said, well, you know, bear spray would be nice.
Travis Bader: [00:13:51] Oh you even brought that up with him.
Colin Dowler: [00:13:52] Yes. And so he gave me some pepper spray.
Travis Bader: [00:13:55] Oh, cool.
Colin Dowler: [00:13:56] That was nice.
Travis Bader: [00:13:57] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:13:57] So I’m embarrassed now in hindsight, obviously, that I wasn’t more prepared on my way in. But again, I generally, always been fairly happy, go lucky in the woods. And, you know, I never, never thought I’d be the guy. So yeah, so I got the bear spray from him and then he offered his, has always been my experience, in logging camps, offered me a ride to where my jumping off point was going to be.
Travis Bader: [00:14:26] I’ve done the same in the past and he would, you know, if they, if they are going that way or if they’re able to do it. That’s typically been my experience as well too.
Colin Dowler: [00:14:33] Yeah, and I haven’t landed at a lot of active camps, but my experience has always been that they’re very generous and happy to have you there and to share with you what they’re conveniently able.
Travis Bader: [00:14:45] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:14:47] Yeah. So he gave me a lift to about the nine kilometre mark.
Travis Bader: [00:14:50] Oh, save some time. That’s nice.
Colin Dowler: [00:14:51] Yeah for sure.
Travis Bader: [00:14:52] And then you got off the nine kilometre mark and that’s, did you park the bike there and just had it for a transport back?
Colin Dowler: [00:14:58] That’s right.
Travis Bader: [00:14:59] And you decided to start hiking from there, or did you just set up, set up camp there?
Colin Dowler: [00:15:04] No, no, no. Yeah, no, I would the hike from there. My, like the hopeful mission was to find a route that would get me into the south Alpine or even the Alpine.
Travis Bader: [00:15:20] Have you done a lot of work in the Alpine lot of hiking in the Alpine?
Colin Dowler: [00:15:23] No.
Travis Bader: [00:15:23] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:15:24] I’ve done some. I’m certainly not a lot.
Travis Bader: [00:15:26] So now you’re, you’ve started hiking uphill, looking for different routes to get into the area. And at some point you spent the night, I guess.
Colin Dowler: [00:15:34] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:15:35] So you’ve set up camp and were you seeing much bear sign around.
Colin Dowler: [00:15:38] Not, the higher I got, no.
Travis Bader: [00:15:42] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:15:42] But in the beginning, so Vito had driven me as far as he, the road, would conveniently allow.
Travis Bader: [00:15:51] And thats the camp cook?
Colin Dowler: [00:15:52] That’s right. And then I got on to an old grade that I suspect would have been from when they logged there in the 60s. So as I pushed through the, you know, the overgrown road.
Travis Bader: [00:16:08] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:16:09] What I noticed was when I was there five weeks prior and there was some bear sign in there, not a ton.
Travis Bader: [00:16:15] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [00:16:16] Most of the bear sign was on the more built logging road on the way up and I wrote that on my mountain bike on the way up, so it’s a slow go. And then at the point that I had to ditch my mountain bike, there was still, you know, bear scat and I didn’t really notice if any of it was a fresh, none of it struck me as super fresh.
Travis Bader: [00:16:35] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [00:16:36] This time, a lot of the elderberries mostly seem to have been pulled down into the trail.
Travis Bader: [00:16:43] That’s a good observation.
Colin Dowler: [00:16:45] Yeah, and I suspect that’s from bears pulling the trees down to get at the berries.
Travis Bader: [00:16:50] Right. You know, different people have different levels of awareness and a lot of people think about going out into the bush is a place for them to turn their brain off and just be one with nature and just experience the wilderness. And I don’t know, personally from my perspective, that’s the last place I want to turn my brain off. Whenever I turn my brain off, I end up injuring myself.
[00:17:11] There’s a guy by the name of Colonel Jeff Cooper, and he created a colour code system of awareness and he takes it through from colour code white and he says, a person traveling around, walking around in condition, white’s got the awareness level of a victim essentially.
[00:17:25] They’re completely unaware and things will just happen to them. And then he progress’s up to yellow and yellow is you’re alert, you’re paying attention to your surroundings, but you’re not paranoid. Orange would be okay, I heard a snap in the bushes, I’m now hyper alert if something going on right.
[00:17:44] Red, the fights on and then black would be, you’ve completely submitted to whatever is happening around you. You’re overwhelmed and you don’t know how to act. Out of that scale, where, where would you place yourself? Like, are you pretty freaked out that there might be a bear and you’re pretty paranoid looking around every corner and in condition orange or would you be just casually alert to your surroundings in yellow? Clearly not white.
Colin Dowler: [00:18:12] I would say, casually alert. I mean, I was being loud, like deliberately loud.
Travis Bader: [00:18:18] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:18:18] And same as the first time I was up there and I wasn’t as worried this time. I’m not sure why. Oh, it was a little, I was a bit, I thought the pull down bushes, were concerning and thought, okay right theres, it wasn’t like that at the time prior.
Travis Bader: [00:18:35] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:18:36] So it’s, struck me as potentially more active than it was five weeks earlier.
Travis Bader: [00:18:43] So are you singing or have a bell or anything?
Colin Dowler: [00:18:45] Yeah, well I had a bell, but I also had that on while I was riding my bike down the road.
Travis Bader: [00:18:49] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [00:18:50] But yes, my wife asked me to wear a bell, so I was wearing the bell. Yeah. And I would sing or just make silly rhymes or you know, just the do the odd, you know, blurt of some sort right. I just come on, I mean, I’m not going to do it now, I’m embarrassed about what it might sound like. The idea is just to be loud enough, often enough that a bear would hear you and move away right.
Travis Bader: [00:19:13] Any casual observer would think you’re crazy. But yeah, making that noise typically that alerts the bear you’re in the area. I mean, they, they could smell really good. They can see in here better than we can. They can smell what, like up to 20 miles away if the wind’s carrying it.
Colin Dowler: [00:19:29] Oh wow yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:19:29] So I guess, you hiked for a while, got tired, or it got dark and you decided it’s time to set up in the bivvy bag and.
Colin Dowler: [00:19:38] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:19:38] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:19:39] So I guess as I did, I didn’t get particularly tired.
Travis Bader: [00:19:43] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:19:43] Like when you’re hiking up hills, so.
Travis Bader: [00:19:45] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:19:46] Right, but yeah, all ultimately what I got, he was a dead end.
Travis Bader: [00:19:49] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:19:50] Yeah. And when I hit the dead end, I’m going to guess it was about 5:30.
Travis Bader: [00:19:58] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:19:59] And I thought to myself, I’ve got time now to turn around and head back down and camp closer to the base of the hill.
Travis Bader: [00:20:15] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:20:16] Rather than stay up here, I thought, you know what? I’m not going to have time to actually get back into my boat and get home. And then I thought, I don’t really want a camp at the base where there was all of that bear sign.
Travis Bader: [00:20:31] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:20:31] And then I also didn’t want to, on my descent, take a bad route that I had to backtrack on and get caught at dusk on a sidehill, cause where I was a pretty good camping spot.
Travis Bader: [00:20:45] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [00:20:45] So I chose just to poke around and kill time until dark.
Travis Bader: [00:20:49] Okay. Did you, what were you eating? Were you cooking something up?
Colin Dowler: [00:20:52] Nope. No, it was strictly a dry food.
Travis Bader: [00:20:54] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:20:55] So yeah, I had some homemade venison and pepperoni.
Travis Bader: [00:20:59] Very nice.
Colin Dowler: [00:20:59] Some jerky, powerbar, and I don’t remember what I had for nuts, but I had some kind of a trail mix with me.
Travis Bader: [00:21:08] Do you hunt?
Colin Dowler: [00:21:09] Yup.
Travis Bader: [00:21:09] Okay. So it was your venison?
Colin Dowler: [00:21:11] Yeah, pure venison, pepperoni, don’t cut it with anything. Just eats more like a jerky to be honest.
Travis Bader: [00:21:18] And the thought of bring a firearm up was just extra weight.
Colin Dowler: [00:21:22] Yeah. And just didn’t even think of it. I.
Travis Bader: [00:21:24] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:21:24] I can’t, I went into it with, you know, not a lot of bear paranoia.
Travis Bader: [00:21:30] See, I know I get that. So.
Colin Dowler: [00:21:32] Actually chose to add to that, I did an Alpine hike with my dad and one of his friends, I can’t remember when, but it might’ve been, you know, 20 years ago.
Travis Bader: [00:21:46] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:21:47] And they packed a rifle or a Yon and strand, I believe, pack the rifle the whole way. And I remember just laughing about how silly I thought that was because they were that afraid of bears that they would carry this silly rifle from sea level up into, you know, 6,500 feet or whichever.
Travis Bader: [00:22:05] Yeah, you know, it’s one of those things, you don’t encounter a predatory animal and you’re like, why did they bring this thing? It was so heavy. I could have packed more, whatever, or just had a lighter pack.
Colin Dowler: [00:22:16] Well, apparently I should have had more appreciation for their wisdom rather than laugh at it thinking it was falling.
Travis Bader: [00:22:24] So you wake up in the morning, the next day, you had a good sleep. How the bitty bag work.
Colin Dowler: [00:22:29] Oh, that’s a miserable sleep.
Travis Bader: [00:22:30] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:22:31] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:22:32] I’ve never been a big fan of the bivvy sacks.
Colin Dowler: [00:22:35] And I don’t know that this is the highest quality bivvy for what it was.
Travis Bader: [00:22:39] Okay. Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:22:39] But either way, not knowing any better, it was wet.
Travis Bader: [00:22:43] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:22:43] And I generally have to get up to pee in the night.
Travis Bader: [00:22:46] Yeah, sure.
Colin Dowler: [00:22:47] So getting in and out of that thing and like just kind of sliding in and out of it from all the moisture from being in sweat.
Travis Bader: [00:22:56] You didn’t bring your pee bottle.
Colin Dowler: [00:22:58] Yeah, no. I don’t know if there would be room for, to even use that in one of those things.
Travis Bader: [00:23:02] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:23:03] Yeah, it was a tight quarters for sure.
Travis Bader: [00:23:06] Pretty tight one.
Colin Dowler: [00:23:07] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:23:07] So you woke up at dawn a sun when the sun broke from an uncomfortable rest.
Colin Dowler: [00:23:12] Yeah. Well, I know. And how much do would be in there, I got a first laid out as long as I could.
Travis Bader: [00:23:18] Yeah. Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:23:19] Before I got out to start my morning. Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:23:22] Then what happened?
Colin Dowler: [00:23:23] Well just, jeez, I broke camp and packed everything up, grabbed all my stuff. Filled my water bottle full and started poking my wave back down the hill.
Travis Bader: [00:23:39] How long were you hiking for?
Colin Dowler: [00:23:42] On the way down?
Travis Bader: [00:23:43] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:23:44] Oh, maybe. Four hours.
Travis Bader: [00:23:48] Okay. And finally got to your bicycle. Were you seeing any more increased activity? Were are you smelling anything? Do you think maybe you’re being stalked for awhile?
Colin Dowler: [00:23:57] You know what? I no, I don’t think it was stalking me.
Travis Bader: [00:24:01] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:24:02] My nose, of my senses.
Travis Bader: [00:24:05] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:24:05] My nose is my weak link.
Travis Bader: [00:24:06] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:24:07] So, yeah, smelling stuff is not, yeah. And I didn’t notice any difference on the way out, and I did on the way in, although it could be, that on my way out, excitement of getting out of there sort of early.
Travis Bader: [00:24:28] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:24:28] Right. And having a day ahead of me.
Travis Bader: [00:24:32] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:24:32] May have gotten the better of me as far as my caution level goes.
Travis Bader: [00:24:37] Sure, sure.
Colin Dowler: [00:24:39] Probably a little less, you know, chirp and making the sounds and stuff, you know, kind of rushing my way out of there bit.
Travis Bader: [00:24:46] Okay. So now you’re on your bike and you’re riding out. Bout 20 minutes into your ride and, you’re saying there’s about 20 minutes, was it?
Colin Dowler: [00:24:56] Yeah, if that, okay. Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:24:58] And you see the bear in front of you?
Colin Dowler: [00:25:01] Yup.
Travis Bader: [00:25:02] Okay. Bout how far away?
Colin Dowler: [00:25:04] I think about a hundred feet.
Travis Bader: [00:25:05] Wow. That’s close.
Colin Dowler: [00:25:06] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:25:07] That’s really close.
Colin Dowler: [00:25:08] Yeah, for sure.
Travis Bader: [00:25:10] So.
Colin Dowler: [00:25:11] That is a give or take about as close to grizzly as I’d ever been before.
Travis Bader: [00:25:16] No kidding. So what’s going through your head when you see this? You figure it’ll just spook off right away or?
Colin Dowler: [00:25:21] That was what I was hoping. Yeah so. And I don’t, can’t totally piece it together, but I wasn’t making any sounds on my bike. I was just riding my bike.
Travis Bader: [00:25:31] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:25:32] I think I was coming around a bit of a bend and it, had my eyes up in the trees up to my right.
Travis Bader: [00:25:40] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:25:42] Because I knew that I was at the seven kilometre mark where I got mauled.
Travis Bader: [00:25:48] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:25:49] And I think what happened was I had literally just been looking up at the seven kilometre marker sign.
Travis Bader: [00:25:56] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:25:58] And then looked back down as I kinda came around a bit of a bend and there was the bear standing on the other side of the road, like on my left hand side, looking at me.
Travis Bader: [00:26:09] So you’re well acquainted to seeing black bears just given how many black bears we have around here and where you live. Have you seen many Grizzlies of the wild?
Colin Dowler: [00:26:20] No. I seen a handful at best.
Travis Bader: [00:26:22] And the size of this grizzly?
Colin Dowler: [00:26:25] You know, I thought he looked like a small mangy goes the bear.
Travis Bader: [00:26:29] Okay, so you stopped your bicycle?
Colin Dowler: [00:26:32] I stopped my bike and I said, Hey, bear.
Travis Bader: [00:26:35] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:26:36] Right. Probably louder than that, but we’re in my house right now.
Travis Bader: [00:26:38] Sure, sure.
Colin Dowler: [00:26:40] Yeah. And that was something I, timber cruised for almost a year, with a close friend who is an excellent forester. And that was our thing we did whenever we saw a bear or saw sign of a bear, right? We didn’t use bear bangers, any of that. We would just yell, Hey bear.
Travis Bader: [00:26:57] You know, there’s, some bear aware videos put out by, and then you’ve got a book here as well, by Stephen Herrero, and he’s one of the renowned authors and bear experts, both him and Gary Shelton, and there’s some videos that were put out that Stephen had worked on as well. And the people in the video showed a Whoa bear, whoa bear, hey bear.
[00:27:21] And I swear that these videos have trained generations of people to say, Whoa bear, hey bear. Cause you can make any noise you can make, you can say anything. But everyone chooses to say, hey bear whoa bear. I find that kind of amusing.
Colin Dowler: [00:27:34] I would not be the least bit surprised if my friend picked it up from that. Probably not from seeing the video, but just because it’s out there in industry.
Travis Bader: [00:27:45] But that’s sound, right. That’s, that’s a sound decision to make. Letting the bear know that you’re there. You don’t want it to be surprising it.
Colin Dowler: [00:27:53] Yeah. Although I think we were already both surprised.
Travis Bader: [00:27:56] Okay. Like when he came around the corner, you saw, was it just standing or did they kind of give a little stutter step, kind of?
Colin Dowler: [00:28:02] It was just standing the best I could tell.
Travis Bader: [00:28:05] Okay. And you’re not making any efforts to move closer to it, I should imagine.
Colin Dowler: [00:28:13] No, I stopped immediately and was standing, straddling my bike.
Travis Bader: [00:28:17] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:28:18] And you know, I said the Hey bear, I know immediately after the incident, you know, I told people that I talked to the bear calmly as it approached me.
Travis Bader: [00:28:36] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:28:37] On hindsight, I don’t believe I did. I think I sorta recreated that I’ve did all the right stuff as it walked up to me the whole way. So I know I yelled, Hey bear, I don’t know at what point I stopped verbalizing to the bear.
Travis Bader: [00:29:02] Mhmm.
Colin Dowler: [00:29:03] He was standing there and looking at me, and then he would look at the bush and then look at me and look at the bush. And I remember thinking, just step into the bush right. I thought he was going to step into the woods and I don’t recall fully here, Travis, if he started to approach, and that’s when I took my pack off and thought to take one of my hiking poles off my pack and extend my pole, should he get close enough, I want to defend them away.
[00:29:37] Or if I started doing that immediately, I think I went for my pole after he started to walk towards me. And I suspect that once I started rummaging through my pack, I was now thinking about, holy crap I need to get my pole off my pack so that I can fend as bear off should it get too close.
Travis Bader: [00:30:03] Or were you thinking, Holy crap, I should get the bear spray out that they can cook was kind enough to lend me?
Colin Dowler: [00:30:09] No, unfortunately, I was already aware that I lost my bear spray before I camped the night.
Travis Bader: [00:30:16] No.
Colin Dowler: [00:30:17] Yeah. And I have really deep pockets. I mean the foolhardy thing is that I should have had the bear spray on a carabiner on one of the straps of my backpack where it is imminently accessible. I had it. I mean, geez, you’ve got your expensive cell phone in one pocket, which had some navigational apps and of course a camera.
Travis Bader: [00:30:39] Of course.
Colin Dowler: [00:30:40] And then I had my bear spray deep in the other pocket, and they’re good deep pockets, I never suspected it would fall out. I think on one of my last sort of meal and navigation stops that I took on the way up the hill. I sat on a log where my knees were higher than my butt, and I think the pepper spray fell out at that point.
Travis Bader: [00:31:02] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:31:03] Yeah. And by the time I realized it had fallen out, it was quite a ways behind me and I just thought, man thats a ways back to go, needle in a haystack will ever find it. Hindsight, I probably should have at least tried.
Travis Bader: [00:31:17] Well, you talk about having it on a carabiner on the back of your pack and.
Colin Dowler: [00:31:21] Well the front strap would be the smart place to have it.
Travis Bader: [00:31:24] It would be. I know a lot of people have stopped, have moved away from that. If a bear attack is sudden and they’re curled up with their hands over the back of their neck and keeping their backpack on is a bit of protection if it’s on the back of your pack, not the most accessible for them. I know people have been moving towards chest rigs.
[00:31:44] And they’ll have a bit of a velcro, something that’ll even release faster than a carabiner, just grab it, rip it, and it goes. Having whatever your defence mechanism quick at hand, I guess in hindsight is always great to think about. But it’s something that I’m mentioning now just because the listeners might have bear experience and know all about this, or maybe they don’t.
Colin Dowler: [00:32:05] Yeah and on hindsight, and I can’t believe I didn’t pick up this tip from the fellow I was telling you about earlier, the man I know that knows those bears and mountains better than anyone else than I know.
Travis Bader: [00:32:19] Yes.
Colin Dowler: [00:32:20] The guy that has given me the bear attacks book while I was in the hospital.
Travis Bader: [00:32:24] Yes.
Colin Dowler: [00:32:24] The last article he dawns before he hikes into bear country is a strap that he puts around his neck that’s got the bear spray on one side and an air horn on the other.
Travis Bader: [00:32:38] Smart man.
Colin Dowler: [00:32:39] Very smart. And yeah, I’m embarrassed that I never gleaned that from him, from all of our conversations. And yeah, I went, when I’m, next bold enough to get out there, I suspect I will have, if not exactly that, something awfully similar cause that air seems like the best offence.
Travis Bader: [00:33:01] So the bear starts approaching you, you’re rummaging through the pack, you’re looking for your poles that you can use as a defensive.
Colin Dowler: [00:33:07] Yeah, they were strapped to the outside of my pack, so they were quite easy to get my hands.
Travis Bader: [00:33:12] Okay. And the bears approaching.
Colin Dowler: [00:33:14] Mhmm.
Travis Bader: [00:33:15] Started off at about a hundred yards.
Colin Dowler: [00:33:18] A hundred feet.
Travis Bader: [00:33:18] Sorry, a hundred feet. And that’s well within, so Gary Shelton, he’s a author of some bear books, Stephen Herrero, he’s, I see his book here in front of you, both renowned bear experts and years ago I was approached through my company, Silvercore, to put together a bear training program that incorporated a bear spray and firearms and avoidance strategies and encounter strategies.
[00:33:48] And I reached out to both Stephen and Gary and Stephen was helpful and he provided some insight and information. Gary turned out to be my wife’s aunt’s next door neighbour and he says, Travis, I’m getting out of the training game, tell you what, if you’d like, I’ll give you my lesson plans, I’ll give you some training aids. I’ll help you.
[00:34:11] Lets ensure that we’re carrying on the tradition of what he spent 35 years in bear country researching these things prior to even getting on with his books here. Let’s ensure that this information is being passed on. So I was very, very thankful to the both of them, particularly, Gary, who just recently passed away.
[00:34:31] And I guess where I’m going with this was that you were talking about the distance at a hundred. So at a hundred feet away, Gary had put together a general guideline and just so the listeners have an idea of really how close this is, cause there’s going to be people who say I was a hundred feet away how was that, how was that a threat to you?
[00:34:57] Like couldn’t you just like runaway couldn’t be right? People that just don’t understand this. With a bear, Gary had put together his 75 metre guideline and his 25 metre guideline, 75 metre was, okay, we’re within 75 metre of the bear, and we better start thinking about, we better start readying our defensive mechanisms, whether that’s a bear spray or firearm, or we better get these things prepared, so 75 metre.
[00:35:27] 25 metres, and you said a hundred feet, so 25 meters is wet around 80, 82 feet or something like that. Somewhere in the mid eighties mid eighties that’s when Gary says it’s time to shoot the bear. So not only was this bear within that shoot zone, but you’re well beyond that, let’s get ready. You’re readying yourself in the zone where, typically Gary would say it’s time to dispatch this bear. So the bear’s approaching, you’ve got your pole.
Colin Dowler: [00:36:04] Yeah. So off and on, on that note, my thought when I first saw the bear, and I think most people know when you’re under that sort of stress, cause I was feeling the pressure of the situation. How quickly your thoughts race.
Travis Bader: [00:36:21] Oh yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:36:22] I did consider turning and going.
Travis Bader: [00:36:26] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:36:26] Right or wrong. Thought that I was too close to turn and leave. Now I do have a friend that knows bears well, he believes my best chance would have been to possibly just even turn my bike around and slowly ride away. Not race away, but slowly right away, right. Cause others that think I could have put my bike down and backed away.
Travis Bader: [00:36:55] You know, I’ve.
Colin Dowler: [00:36:57] Man I just thought I was so darn close that it was time to, like you’re suggesting their, ready your defences. And I had heard a stories of people having some success with keeping bears at bay with a pole right so.
Travis Bader: [00:37:14] We’ll at that distance, even Gary would recommend standing your ground. So there’s always going to be the armchair quarterbacks. There’s going to be people who say, look at the bear behaviour. You watch bears in a confined scenario and they are getting into a bit of a rao and one bear kind of looks away a little bit and kind of backs up slowly and then starts walking away and they say, hope, that’s how humans should act.
[00:37:38] But thing is these bears are poly social creatures, there isn’t one thing that you can do that will apply to every situation that’ll apply to every bear. It’s like saying, well, what’s the one move I should do if I get into a fight in a bar right? Well, there isn’t the one move, and the biggest thing that people can do is have their wits about them, which is what you had going for you.
[00:38:05] So I don’t think anybody listening to this should look at this and say, well here’s what he should’ve done because they don’t know and they weren’t there. Every situation is different. So I think you should be very, very comfortable in what you did because the outcome speaks for itself.
Colin Dowler: [00:38:24] I appreciate that. And for what it’s worth, the two different career conservation officers I’ve spoken to have suggested something similar to what you just said there right. There, you didn’t, that I didn’t necessarily do anything wrong.
Travis Bader: [00:38:41] No.
Colin Dowler: [00:38:42] And there isn’t necessarily also a right thing to do, but having survived it is an indicator that.
Travis Bader: [00:38:51] Oh absolutely.
Colin Dowler: [00:38:52] It didn’t, do the wrong thing.
Travis Bader: [00:38:55] So I’m not going to interrupt you this time and I’m going to let you talk through cause the bears approaching, you’ve got your defence mechanism.
Colin Dowler: [00:39:03] So I pulled the pole out. I’m still hopeful that the is going to step off the road, so I strapped my backpack back on, but just the hip strap, there’s the strap that goes across the chest, I didn’t put that one on because I just didn’t feel that I necessarily wanted to be stuck with my pack on.
Travis Bader: [00:39:26] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:39:27] And the bear just continued to walk slowly up towards me. I am guessing at about 30 feet or so, and I’m not absolutely positive. It was too close for comfort. It had looked into the bush a couple of more times of on the way up. So at about 30 feet and still hadn’t gotten off the road,I stepped off my bike, so I was straddling my bike. So I stepped off cause I wanted to be able to put my bike between the bear and me. And at that point he startled, right. So I did w he just like all four paws, just sort of shuttered or shimmied at the same time.
Travis Bader: [00:40:10] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:40:11] You know, you started to hear the scratch in the gravel.
Travis Bader: [00:40:13] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:40:13] And I don’t know, maybe a second later or less, he just started a slow approach towards me again and continued walking until he was right up beside me and I would have had to lean, like if I reached out to touch them, if I leaned, I could have touched him, so you know, he’s maybe three or four feet away.
Travis Bader: [00:40:36] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:40:37] I’m not sure exactly what point, but I’m pretty sure like his head had, you know, passed the front tire of my bike and, you know, on the other side of the road that, we briefly made eye contact. Sincerely, I can’t remember if, you know, you were or weren’t supposed to make eye contact with the bear, but I remember thinking, oh man, that definitely doesn’t feel right. So it was really brief eye contact, and I turned my head away, obviously, and was looking down at the ground in the direction I was facing. And then, like trying to glance sort of sideways at the bear to still have a feel for what’s going on.
Travis Bader: [00:41:21] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:41:22] And I realize he appeared to be doing the same thing.
Travis Bader: [00:41:27] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:41:28] And he dipped his head a couple of times, reminded me of what a shy dog might do, if you’re trying to pet a dog and they’re not sure if they want to let you pet it or not.
Travis Bader: [00:41:37] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:41:40] I think just before that, I remember, I mean, it was so close and I thought this bear is just going to walk right by. I remember thinking, I wish I was filming this because this is such an unbelievable situation right. This would be awesome to have on film.
Travis Bader: [00:41:55] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:41:55] I wasn’t about to reach for my camera though, or my cell phone. So he walked by and I figured he had about six inches further to go, and his rump would have fully cleared the rear wheel of my bike. And then at that point you know, he did a 90 degree turn or, or thereabouts, so a 180 turn.
Travis Bader: [00:42:19] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:42:20] And so I turned in kind, I grabbed my bike and I spun it around to put it between us and at that point, he startled again and it was a four sort of shutter.
Travis Bader: [00:42:32] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:42:34] And he started to advance towards me. And this is all slow, right? The only times you did anything sudden were those two times that he startled a little bit.
Travis Bader: [00:42:44] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:42:45] So I held my pole out and he just slowly walked towards me right into the pole and it had it placed, you know, in that flat spot between their eyes on the forehead there.
Travis Bader: [00:42:55] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:42:56] And pushed into it a little and I remember thinking, I just, this isn’t so bad. Like. He’s not charging me, like he may just leave me alone here.
Travis Bader: [00:43:07] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:43:08] And then he rolled the poles off his head and bit onto it.
Travis Bader: [00:43:14] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:43:14] And we tug-of-ward, you know, for a second or two and he let go of the pole. And then, started moving towards me again so, dropped the pole, I believe at this point. And I unclipped my pack and I’m sliding backwards the best I can, and while I’m doing this.
Travis Bader: [00:43:36] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:43:36] And I threw the pack between us and he’s like, he was, he was quite close and a little bit to his side because I didn’t want it to seem like I was attacking him.
Travis Bader: [00:43:51] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:43:51] I didn’t know it was a he at this point either right?
Travis Bader: [00:43:54] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [00:43:54] And so, yeah, I didn’t want the bear to think that I was attacking him, but I was hopeful that he would take an interest to the food that I had in my pack. So it was sort of at his feet and a little bit to his side, and he stopped for, I don’t know, about a second, sniffed at the pack as I continued to try to get some distance between us and he turned and continued to walk towards me. And then started pawing at my bike. Started, with like a really small sorta, I don’t even want to call it a swat, cause it was more like a probe.
Travis Bader: [00:44:40] A lil’ test touch.
Colin Dowler: [00:44:41] Yeah. A little test touch. And then he reached his hand or his paw a little bit higher and took a, you know, another poke. And these are each of them bounced off my bike though right. And then the third one was higher yet, and I’m not sure which one, you know, somewhere between number four and number six, he lifted his paw high enough that I was worried he was gonna like swat down and bury me under the bike.
[00:45:13] So I threw my bike at him at that point, and then at that moment he still like, he was sorta hung up in the bike. Like I think I got it over the paw that he was swatting with.
Travis Bader: [00:45:29] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:45:30] And so he stepped through the bike and then lunged at me and grabbed a hold of me on my left flank.
Travis Bader: [00:45:42] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:45:44] So then jeez, at that point, I realized that, pardon me, I’m a bit tearful.
Travis Bader: [00:45:51] No, I get it.
Colin Dowler: [00:45:52] Yeah. Kinda comes and goes. Sometimes I tell the story without any grief, other times bit more painful. This tearful bit too has been, it’s more present now than it was three months ago, but I think until, I want to say it’s been about the last month, month and a half, this has been more difficult to kind of think about or talk about.
[00:46:25] I don’t mind doing it still right, it’s important for me to do, but I think it’s because like for months I rode the euphoria of, Hey, I made it. And now I’m sort of coming to terms, with the trauma side of it as opposed to being so thankful to be alive right.
Travis Bader: [00:46:51] It’s absolutely a natural part of the process.
Colin Dowler: [00:46:54] Yeah. So bears got me, by the side, I’m suspended in the air by him, I maybe got a heel dragging and that’s it. I’m aware at this point of, you know, like I’m in big freaking trouble here, right? It’s all the idea of, wow I wish I had this on tape as this thing walks right past me was gone. It was like, Oh man, I’m screwed. And I don’t recall, putting up any sort of resistance at that point. I remember thinking that if he carries me into the woods, I’m screwed here, but he carried me along the road for, I’m going to guess maybe 40 feet or so.
Travis Bader: [00:47:43] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:47:44] And then ultimately put me down at the edge of the road with my head just touching the ditch line. Why exactly he put me down, I’m not sure if he was, you know, a little bit tired or if I was maybe falling out of his grip, just you know, kind of sorta tarin’ free. But then he synched up his bite again on me, on my flank or sort of abdomen, you know, my side there.
[00:48:12] At that point I had the opportunity to fight back. So in my mind I was going to give them a double eye gouge, like from the movies.
Travis Bader: [00:48:25] Yes.
Colin Dowler: [00:48:25] And really, I had to, I pictured like me, like literally pushing his eyes in. I couldn’t reach one of them, it was too far away, even though his jaws like, you know, right out my belly button and it couldn’t reach his other eye. So I just grabbed a handful of fur on the close eye right. And just grabbed the for near his ear there and poked into his big brown eyes as hard as I could.
Travis Bader: [00:48:52] Were you able to get the thumb in there?
Colin Dowler: [00:48:54] Man, I think, I mean, the way when I tell people, I don’t know if it’ll come through on this, but it was about that long. I think it lasted the snap of the finger and the next thing I know, my legs are in the ditch and my upper body is out of the ditch so. And the moment that I poked him in the eye, he reacted strongly enough that I spun 180 and was completely disorientated in that moment right so. How you know, if he swatted me around or shook, I’m not sure. It was a pretty large tear on my backline, my kidney there, which, you know, may indicate that was a shake.
Travis Bader: [00:49:43] Your kidney was exposed for what I understand, or your organs were.
Colin Dowler: [00:49:47] I’ve got it in writing somewhere that, the trauma surgeons, like exact words, but it was something to the effect of, I was one cellular layer from my kidney being exposed.
Travis Bader: [00:50:01] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:50:02] So I don’t know right. It may have been visible, but it, there was, there was one layer stopping an infection from getting through into my internal cavity.
Travis Bader: [00:50:17] So pain, massive pain are overwhelmed with adrenaline and?
Colin Dowler: [00:50:20] No, I would say not a whole lot of pain. Like it was, I mean, I knew I was badly injured, but it was warm, right? Like it just, yeah, it wasn’t yet painful.
Travis Bader: [00:50:37] What do you mean warm? Just sorta like a glowing.
Colin Dowler: [00:50:40] If just felt hot, it was warm. Like I don’t, you know, it wasn’t hot like if, you know, touched a wood stove.
Travis Bader: [00:50:47] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:50:48] But it was warm, it was uncomfortable, but it wasn’t painful. Like it might be more like a, those times when, I have you ever caught yourself with a really sharp knife and you know, you’re injured, but it doesn’t hurt yet and it’s really not that bad dealing with it until maybe you run it under cold water to think, Oh man, there’s the pain.
Travis Bader: [00:51:10] It’s usually when I ignore it and let the infection set in, things start to get painful.
Colin Dowler: [00:51:14] Avoid the pain. Yeah, you can appreciate that. But, it’s always kind of that, like I knew I was injured, but it just didn’t hurt that much, at least not yet. So now I’m spun around, my legs are in the ditch, my upper bodies out, and I think, and again, I remember most of what happened.
[00:51:42] I don’t necessarily remember the specific order of it all. However, then sometimes as a piece it together and, or tell the story or reflect on things, it makes more sense to me how it all shook down. So he started after I was spun with my legs in the ditch, he started biting my legs and believe he bit into my right thigh a few times, and then he kind of went ballistic a bit or a bit more thrashy.
[00:52:22] And he bit into my left thigh and I remember telling the trauma staff that he only bit my right leg once, and he was like he bit you more than once there. And I said, no, you only bit my right leg once.
Travis Bader: [00:52:42] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:52:42] And then he said, well, the wounds indicate that you are more than one time they’re.
Travis Bader: [00:52:48] Interesting.
Colin Dowler: [00:52:49] Yeah. And so then I, you know, I realize on hindsight that he spent so little time on my right leg, but he was a bit more thrashy there. So I think I took it as just one chomp, but I guess he chomped a few times and was more shaky. And then he transferred off of that leg and got on my other leg and I imagine at this point, like I’m thrashing too, right? Like I have an opportunity to defend myself, I’m no longer hanging from his jaw.
[00:53:30] But he got his paws under my left leg and he lifted my left leg up and bit down on the edge of my left foot, so I didn’t have any damage on my foot. and then he came back down on my leg, so at this point that, like, that thrash was over from him getting on my right leg, and then my left up high and he came back down to biting on my left thigh.
[00:54:02] And he’s got me pinned with his leg on, you know, my stomach and he would just bite into my thigh and shake a little bit as if to like sink his teeth deeper. But he wasn’t, thrashing per se right. I never got rag-dolled by the bear, except for maybe when he spun me.
Travis Bader: [00:54:25] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [00:54:25] When I poked him in the eye right?
Travis Bader: [00:54:26] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [00:54:28] And then he, like, he would bite and then he would lift up quite far with me still pinned, right? Like, just lift his head fairly far off my body and then he would bite down and sink his teeth in again and then lift up and bite down. And I mean, I don’t know if he did that, you know, three times or six times, but you know, it was a number of these repeat bites.
[00:54:49] And then he settled in on my upper thigh and I remember at one point, it was feeling like my hip was going to dislocate where he was really torquing on it and I had both my hands on that side and I tried peeling his jaw off. And I remember thinking how feeble that attempt is in reality and in the moment. But I also remember thinking about what, like what else are you going to do.
Travis Bader: [00:55:20] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [00:55:20] You have to do something.
Travis Bader: [00:55:22] I thought I read somewhere that you thought about playing dead, but realized.
Colin Dowler: [00:55:25] Yeah, so I’ll get there.
Travis Bader: [00:55:28] Oh, okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:55:28] Yeah, so at this stage, I haven’t remembered that I even have a knife.
Travis Bader: [00:55:34] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:55:34] Right. Right, right from the beginning, I remembered my pause because I’ve heard stories of people fighting bears off with poles.
Travis Bader: [00:55:42] Isn’t it funny how we revert back to what we know or our training.
Colin Dowler: [00:55:45] The eye gouge, it’s straight out of the movies.
Travis Bader: [00:55:48] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [00:55:48] But against all odds, people win their fights that way so often in cinema, right? Yeah. So I’ve got my thumbs in his mouth trying to peel his jaw off, and I mean, it seems feeble, but I suspect I’m doing it with all the power I can muster. And I remember seeing, you know, the yellow teeth and the drool and just really trying to peel them off me.
[00:56:17] And I guess it bugged him enough that he let go of my leg and he bit down on my hand and then, he got back into bite and my leg again, and I think at this point, he moved a little further down my leg and I’m of the estimation that that’s where he actually started to, more sorta excavate. So enough of the sort of full mouth bites of my leg. I think he was more using his, you know, his canines to sort of chew in towards the bone.
Travis Bader: [00:57:00] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:57:01] I can’t remember at what point I started feeling, the grating of his teeth on my bone, or I don’t know that I, per se, could feel that, but I heard that like.
Travis Bader: [00:57:12] Wow.
Colin Dowler: [00:57:12] You know, it reminded me of the classic neighbourhood lab chewing on a big cow bone.
Travis Bader: [00:57:18] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:57:19] Yeah. And then, so at some point in this.
Travis Bader: [00:57:22] And that was your femur?
Colin Dowler: [00:57:23] Yeah, I think so yeah.
Travis Bader: [00:57:25] Wow.
Colin Dowler: [00:57:25] Yeah. I mean, wherever that sound came from, I don’t know if that can come from tendons, if it was possibly his teeth, but boy, it sure sounded like bone.
Travis Bader: [00:57:34] Wow.
Colin Dowler: [00:57:34] I mean, at this stage of the game, and I, you know, he was further than I could reach. I couldn’t peel his mouth off, like I was yelling a loud, things like stop and why? I’ve got all the horrible thoughts, you know, at, at this stage to, you know, the old bye to the wife and kids.
Travis Bader: [00:57:58] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:57:59] I was thinking that, you know, is he going to drag me into the woods? You know, where I slowly die, is he gonna eat me to death, right? Like, I just like, and there’s, and it’s probably only a few seconds for all of this to race through. And a part, I think while I was, while I was yelling why and stop because typically you hear of people getting thrashed by a grizzly and then left alone, and it just seemed unrelenting. Like where was the point where he’s supposed to stop and, you know, give me a chance right?
[00:58:39] So somewhere along there I remembered, oh, I’ve got a knife. So I went to reach for my knife and he bit in, in a spot, or like it was in the same area, but the bite that he made was so painful and I don’t recall it being that painful prior, like even when it felt like my hip was going to dislocate, I mean at all, like it really hurt.
[00:59:07] It was different than when he was carrying me right at this point. Like, it really hurt. Jeez, you know, I had, there was one bite. I remember cause I had been rehabbing sciatic issues. This was all part of getting into good enough shape that I could do these adventures.
Travis Bader: [00:59:22] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:59:23] Remember one of his bites, I felt the numbness in my lower back and in my big toe at the same time.
Travis Bader: [00:59:31] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [00:59:32] I thought, Oh man, there goes my sciatic nerve.
Travis Bader: [00:59:35] Right.
Colin Dowler: [00:59:35] I was concerned that he had done damage to my femoral artery already from those bites that he’d been doing, you know, like near my crotch and my upper thigh there. But nothing hurt like these few bites that he did and the one I remembered my knife, so I had to reach for my knife and he hit that super painful bite. And I just, I arched back, you know, arms in the air, like I’m, I’m picturing me like, just flailing wildly and, you know yelling, ah and I thought, okay, you know, like I’m arched back here now, I’m going to play dead.
[01:00:18] And so I tried to lay there and play dead and he hit that super sensitive spot again and I yelled ah! I thought man, I can’t play dead screaming like this.
Travis Bader: [01:00:30] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:00:30] I’ve got to get my knife. And I don’t know if I gained the resolve to get my knife and didn’t feel the pain anymore or if the damage had been done and so I wasn’t feeling the pain anymore as he continued to excavate. So my arms were trapped on my left side under the weight of his body. So he’s got a leg and his chest laying on my abdomen while he’s chewing on my thigh a little closer to my knee then to my pelvis. I want to probably say about two thirds of the way down.
Travis Bader: [01:01:16] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [01:01:17] Right. My inner thigh. So I couldn’t pull my right arm to my right pocket where my knife was. So I use both hands to use everything I had to push my hand down into my stomach and just wiggle through pushing and pulling to get through to the other side. And then I crawled with my fingers down to where my pocket knife was and with both hands on that side, used them to open the knife.
[01:01:51] Put the knife in my left hand and slit it back through. What I didn’t know at the time was I actually gave him, what the conservation officer referred to as a large cut on his chest.
Travis Bader: [01:02:07] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:02:08] But I didn’t know it and it the bear didn’t seem to change his activity from that.
Travis Bader: [01:02:13] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:02:14] And so I pulled the knife through, and again, on hindsight, thankfully not cutting myself.
Travis Bader: [01:02:19] Yeah no kidding.
Colin Dowler: [01:02:20] But I imagine I had the inherent wherewithal that cause I don’t recall thinking it out, but to not point the blade towards me on the way out.
Travis Bader: [01:02:31] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:02:31] Right, like as I was pulling the blade across my body and his.
Travis Bader: [01:02:35] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:02:36] And then I leaned forward and at this stage, and again from a story my little brother told me, of a grizzly attacks survivor that had the bear mauling his stomach at the time, and this guy stabbed repeatedly at the neck until it ran off and ultimately died.
Travis Bader: [01:02:51] Right. You remembered that story?
Colin Dowler: [01:02:53] Yeah. And I was remembering that in this moment of, I’ve, you know, I’m getting my knife, I have my knife. Now it’s time to stab this bear in the neck as many times as I possibly can.
Travis Bader: [01:03:06] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:03:07] And I lean forward so that I could reach his neck. And he was intent just chewing up my legs still and I reached, I’m guessing, you know, maybe six inches out or so, and then I stabbed with, you know, all the strength I had into his neck. And I’m not totally sure if it was, you know, me pulling back to stab again, or if it was him pulling off of me, but either way, he immediately let go on my leg and pulled his head up off me.
[01:03:42] And he got to a point where I couldn’t reach his neck anymore with my knife. And I remember being so disappointed that I couldn’t continue to stab him in the neck, didn’t want to stab him in the shoulder. And then in that brief moment where I was, you know, thinking that, a big gush of blood came out of his neck and on to my hips.
[01:04:11] And I said aloud at that point, now you’re bleeding to bear, cause I had a charge there. I’m getting verklempt again. But I had such a charge of adrenaline, although I didn’t feel it at the time, but I actually felt like I was in the fight for the first time after going from pretty pro longed attack at this point. You know what I mean? I don’t know if we’ve been, you know, 30 seconds or two minutes. I suspect it took them 30 seconds anyways to carry me as far as he did towards the edge of the road.
Travis Bader: [01:04:55] Wow.
Colin Dowler: [01:04:57] Yeah so then he stepped right up off me. And he walked around me about to the centre of the road and then up the road, so opposite the way he had originally approached me from, back towards my bike and he veered towards the bush. Again, I’m thinking, just go into the woods and then he veered back towards my mountain bike. And he was bleeding the whole way, like it seemed like there was a gush of blood with probably each heartbeat.
Travis Bader: [01:05:36] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:05:38] And he got up to my bike and he was sniffing up my bike, and I saw him poop three times and take a huge pee and I remember thinking, wow, like I think I laid a lethal wound on him because that’s a considerable amount of shock he appeared to be in.
Travis Bader: [01:06:01] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:06:01] The way he was bleeding, it was just a phenomenal amount of blood. I moved a few times and when I moved it got more of his attention than I wanted, so I was trying to sort of see what was going on, but not to make too much motion. So then he sniffed away at the front tire and my bike for man, I’m not sure how long, but you know, it’s quite a while. It was, you know, not minutes, but again, probably half a minute or so.
Travis Bader: [01:06:33] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:06:34] Then he turned and he walked back in my direction, but he stayed on the other side of the road, like just past the centre of the road as he walked back in my direction. Once he got about, even with me, maybe a touch past, he started to veer back towards the woods. And ultimately, again I didn’t know this at the time, but I suspect it was about there, I think he walked back to where he had initially stepped out.
[01:07:06] And then he stood there and he’d look at me and he’d look at the woods, and I’m looking at him and thinking, man, you know, just fall over. The bleeding was slowing, but it was, he was still bleeding and I thought, you know, like, what can I do here while I’m waiting, like I need to do something. But again, if I move too much before it had gotten more of his attention than I.
Travis Bader: [01:07:34] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:07:35] Liked, and I just really didn’t think I could sustain any more abuse right.
Travis Bader: [01:07:42] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:07:44] So I thought in that moment, and this might have been a lifesaver, that the bear stood there as he did. Cause had he not, I’m not certain that I would have thought to put the tourniquet on.
Travis Bader: [01:07:58] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:07:59] I might’ve just gone and gotten on my bike and tried to get back to the camp. I don’t know either way on this cause I had a pile of thoughts.
Travis Bader: [01:08:11] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [01:08:12] Before I got on my bike. So I had my knife with me, so I started cutting the sleeve off my, thankfully long sleeve shirt and I thought this part was kind of funny. So through all this and all the adrenaline, you know, it did the cut on my sleeve and then tried to pull the sleeve off and I couldn’t get it. So I cut a whole bunch of more of my sleeve, pulled again and couldn’t get it off and cut a whole bunch more a third time thinking seriously, like, what is this shirt made out of?
[01:08:44] So finally I pull the bloody sleeve off and I started hiking it up over my leg and sorry to anyone that might listen to this, but I got it up and I started trying to tighten the tourniquet in. It felt that my pants were too bundled field around my leg to tie the tourniquet well.
Travis Bader: [01:09:10] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:09:11] So I looked up and I started pulling my pants down, like unraveling them from up there, and they were really thrashed to ribbons. And as I pulled him down, I realized that it wasn’t my bunched up pants around my leg was the meat, sort of volcanoing out of the puncture wounds of around my leg.
Travis Bader: [01:09:35] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:09:36] The tourniquet didn’t want to tighten down over.
Travis Bader: [01:09:39] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:09:39] So I stopped looking at that and I kind of lean back again and just went by feel and pulled the tourniquet up past those puncture wounds. And, thank God I’ve got pencil legs and my wife calls them, Wednesday legs.
Travis Bader: [01:09:59] Why’s that?
Colin Dowler: [01:10:00] Wednesday gonna break. They’re pretty skinny. Anyhow, so I tighten the tourniquet and I synched it. Like if, you know, you get your half hitch in there and.
Travis Bader: [01:10:15] Yup.
Colin Dowler: [01:10:15] And synched it down, then I was able to get another half hitch in there, like the classic granny knot.
Travis Bader: [01:10:20] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:10:21] And I don’t know if I had, you know, an inch or two maybe, when I get my stuff back from the CO’s, I will know how much room I had to spare to tie that knot.
Travis Bader: [01:10:31] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:10:31] If it got salvaged, I don’t know if it did right. But either way, there wasn’t much left for me to get that second knot in there, but the knot held. I believe at this point, I turned and looked and the bear was gone. I honestly don’t remember at what point he disappeared, but I don’t suspect I would’ve had the courage to crawl to my bike if the bear was still there.
[01:10:58] Or, yeah, no, I wouldn’t have, yeah. So the bear was gone and then I’m laying there, it’s probably at this point that I looked at the time and saw it was 12:01 thought to myself, should I wait here for when their crew trucks come down from their day of work and have them rescue me or should I get onto my bike?
[01:11:26] I’d forgotten in the trauma is, out of my bad memory that, Veto the logger that had gave me the lift up there, had told me that the crew that was there was leaving by boat each day. So I had chosen to wait.
Travis Bader: [01:11:46] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:11:46] That would have been it for me. When I looked at the time and my thought at the time was they’re likely not coming back down until four o’clock.
Travis Bader: [01:11:54] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:11:55] And I didn’t think I had four hours to wait.
Travis Bader: [01:11:59] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:12:00] So I chose to call towards my bike, I personally think this part is hilarious, I tried to crawl to my bike and I couldn’t do it. I made it about three steps with my knees and the pain from the gravel pebbles on the road hurt my knees. And my knees are un injured at this point right. hurt more than I could bear to crossover, you know, 40 or 50 feet back to my bike.
Travis Bader: [01:12:33] That is funny.
Colin Dowler: [01:12:33] Yeah. And I remember telling like Kirsten, myself in my head. So in this whole journey, once the attack was on, the only thing I said aloud was to the bear once he was bleeding, right. And then it was, became an internal struggle and me talking to myself. I said, Dowler, seriously, you’ve been through all this and you can’t suck up a bit of pain in your knees. But I couldn’t do it. So I rolled onto my butt and I pushed with my good leg, right. My left leg was seemingly useless at the time.
Travis Bader: [01:13:20] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:13:20] So with my good leg and my hands, and I skidded on my butt back to my bike and got to my bike. My pole must’ve been close, maybe when I threw it at the bear went past. I don’t get it, but my pole was there and I tried using my pole to get my way onto the bike and that didn’t work. I think I fell and actually like bent my pole doing that. So then I use my bike to pull myself up onto it and I’m not sure how, but I flopped my left leg over the bike.
Travis Bader: [01:13:56] It’s amazing.
Colin Dowler: [01:13:57] Yeah. And I realized after, I was telling a man that interviewed me to write a piece for the hospital foundation in Vancouver.
Travis Bader: [01:14:06] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:14:07] It was when I was telling him the story, I realized, wow, like I had my knife in my hand this whole time. I had forgotten after all of this, I’m probably a white knuckle in this little pocket knife, right. Either way. So I take my first attempt to get started on my bike and immediately collapsed over the other side of it.
Travis Bader: [01:14:28] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:14:28] And hit the ground. Possibly the most disheartening part of the whole adventure.
Travis Bader: [01:14:35] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:14:36] But in that moment, I also told myself, right, you know, Dowler, you got one chance to do this and get on your bike once you know now, or never. All or nothing, just all the sort of things you motivate yourself with right. I was super scared to, right cause it was, took me so much the first time. And the second time, it was surprisingly easy right? It was a lot easier than the first attempt.
Travis Bader: [01:15:07] Was it the mental motivation?
Colin Dowler: [01:15:09] Yeah. Approaching it from the other side, I’m not sure.
Travis Bader: [01:15:13] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:15:13] I suspect it was motivation right? Adrenaline. I don’t how adrenaline works, but you know how many second wins a guy can have right. You know? It does, it’s been minutes now to, I suspect, since my initial surge of adrenaline from when I stabbed the bear right. And so either way I pulled myself on the bike and peddled, you know, got going, pretty pleased about that. At the time I thought it had a four kilometre ride on the flat, before the hill broke downhill.
[01:15:50] A mon, reasonable authority I have, it was more like a three and a half kilometre flat stretch.
Travis Bader: [01:15:57] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:15:58] Before it actually broke to a downhill drift.
Travis Bader: [01:16:01] So where you peddling? We just push it with one leg?
Colin Dowler: [01:16:03] I was paddling and I mean, I peddled when I had to, I coasted as much as I could. I used the, like the classic skiing trick, when you’re traversing. If there’s like a little bit of a, like a side slope.
Travis Bader: [01:16:21] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:16:21] You take advantage of that.
Travis Bader: [01:16:23] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:16:24] To gain speed and then you hit a flat and then you can sort of use that momentum into the next little uphill.
Travis Bader: [01:16:31] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:16:31] So whenever there was a crown in the road and I could, you know, slowly drift sideways to rest for a moment, I used that, but basically my right leg peddled down and my left leg, I just used the weight of it to fall down. I was probably able to use the little bit to pull the pedal backwards.
Travis Bader: [01:16:52] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:16:53] To get the other pedal to where I could have another downward push.
Travis Bader: [01:16:57] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:16:58] I cycled quite a lot as a youth, so I was really comfortable working the gears to my advantage.
Travis Bader: [01:17:06] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:17:06] I, peddled and peddled and it just felt like I’d peddled so long. So another disheartening point. Well, just when I saw the five kilometre marker.
Travis Bader: [01:17:18] Oh yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:17:19] So I was at seven, I figured I gotta get to three.
Travis Bader: [01:17:23] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:17:24] So I thought that that downhill was common to any moment and I see the five kilometre mark. It’s a good dog, man halfway? Right. So that was a tough piece for me.
Travis Bader: [01:17:39] How’d you tackle that?
Colin Dowler: [01:17:40] I just, same old, you know? I don’t know. There’s every sports cliche you’ve probably ever heard right. Right. Suck it up, buttercup, all that.
Travis Bader: [01:17:50] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [01:17:51] But they just knew that, okay, well that’s, got a long ways to go here. You know, breathe in the nose, out the mouth.
Travis Bader: [01:17:58] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:17:58] Right. I don’t know that I did a whole, I don’t know how I channel my motivation. I’m pretty good at switching a bad mood into a good one. Pretty motivated, you know, if I get bummed, it doesn’t last long and I’m out doing something. But I definitely reflected on my perseverance in high school sports.
Travis Bader: [01:18:19] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:18:21] I did a fair amount of distance running and I was also like, I’m a fairly small guy right. My, my fit weight is about 125 pounds.
Travis Bader: [01:18:33] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:18:35] I’ve forever, or at least, again in my athletic high school days, had to dig deep to sort of keep up with my peers and athletic endeavours and, or just like the classic boy hood, rough housing.
Travis Bader: [01:18:54] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:18:55] Right. I wasn’t one to make it easy for my bigger friends to, sort of pick on me right or.
Travis Bader: [01:19:02] So you channeled all of that. You’re thinking about that while you’re riding?
Colin Dowler: [01:19:07] Not the way I used to like combat with my larger friends.
Travis Bader: [01:19:10] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:19:13] But I was definitely thinking about high school sports.
Travis Bader: [01:19:17] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:19:18] Right and because probably largely because that was the last time I had ever really willed myself to dig so competitively deep, because once you’re not competing anymore.
Travis Bader: [01:19:31] Right. Sure.
Colin Dowler: [01:19:32] You don’t really think to dig deep right? So I just tried to put myself back and to how I persevered back then, to either be at the front of the pack or nipping at the heels of, whoever the local champion was right. So either way, so yeah, I dug deep and kept peddling. One point after that five K mark, my left foot fell off the pedal, that was a really scary moment. I was actively paddling at the time. I didn’t have long to coast, and I’m certain that if I fell off my bike, I wasn’t going to be able to get back on my bike.
Travis Bader: [01:20:19] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:20:20] I mean, I can feel my seat warming up, I’m certain it’s warm enough with blood. I’m not looking to check or feeling right. I’m just trying to focus on, you know, breathing and riding.
Travis Bader: [01:20:32] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:20:33] You know, my foot falls off. I didn’t have long to coast before I had to have my foot back on the pedal. And so, you know, I’ve got to hook my toe under the other pedal to get.
Travis Bader: [01:20:46] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:20:47] That pedal low enough that I can get my leg back on, which I couldn’t lift naturally back on. So, you know, I’ve got a handful of pant to pull my foot back on and get it on there and start peddling again and telling myself, you know, Colin concentrate right. You’ve got, you can’t let that happen again. So it got down to just thinking of the most simple elements like breathe and peddle and put all my focus on, you know, balancing my bike. Peddling along, except for possibly my one silly typical man moment of when I had hit the brake and started to coast downhill. And remember, I’ve done this road before.
Travis Bader: [01:21:38] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:21:39] So when I knew it got going fast, to the point that when I was on the road with a helmet, in good shape, before I used my brakes on the descent.
Travis Bader: [01:21:50] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:21:53] I’ve got this knife in my hand still that’s, and you’re doing the shifting and everything with my right hand with the knife there and thinking, I can’t safely use my brake, my rear brake on my right with his knife in my hand, or I’m going to risk losing my knife.
Travis Bader: [01:22:15] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:22:16] So the smart thing to do is ditch the knife.
Travis Bader: [01:22:19] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [01:22:21] But if I live, I want, I want his name, dammit. So took the time any stupid stubborn guy would to fold my lock-blade knife and risk crashing.
Travis Bader: [01:22:38] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:22:39] And folded it up and stuffed it in my pocket and coasted down. So at this point, now that I’m coasting down, and feel free to interrupt anytime here too, right? I’ve been talking for quite awhile.
Travis Bader: [01:22:49] Well, the only thing that strikes me in this is your decision to fold that knife up might not necessarily have been a stubborn act to hold onto the knife, and maybe it was your mental resolve that, I’m living through this and I’m keeping that knife.
Colin Dowler: [01:23:08] I agree with you, but that’s vanity though right like that says typical, you know what I mean?
Travis Bader: [01:23:16] Whatever you want to call it. It’s just one extra piece of that puzzle is telling your brain this isn’t how it’s ending.
Colin Dowler: [01:23:24] Fair enough right. Yeah.
Travis Bader: [01:23:25] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [01:23:26] It’s, to hang on the knife.
Travis Bader: [01:23:31] But I love it, that’s fantastic.
Colin Dowler: [01:23:32] Certainly me not giving up.
Travis Bader: [01:23:38] Yes. Oh, absolutely.
Colin Dowler: [01:23:39] And on the ride, like you said, and I’m guessing it was before my foot fell off the pedal because that was a moment of, holy smokes, like, focus here or you’re not gonna make it. I was having thoughts, you know, I might be an amputee when this is all over, but I’m okay with that.
Travis Bader: [01:24:00] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [01:24:00] Right, you know.
Travis Bader: [01:24:01] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [01:24:02] There’s, I had a few opportunities to give up, I suppose and that might’ve been one right? But either way. So anyhow, but, so I got the knife in my pocket, drifting down the road and I was thinking to myself at this point, like how am I going to arrive at camp right? Like what am I going to do when I arrive? Because it took me, quite a bit of yelling and poking around to get the attention of the cook the first time.
Travis Bader: [01:24:41] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:24:41] I found him, so that was on my mind. So I thought, okay well, I’m just gonna get there. and I’m just going to yell, help as loud as I can, as many times as I have to until he hears me and then once I have his attention, I’m going to ask him to call a helicopter.
Travis Bader: [01:25:08] So you’re already planning mentally roleplaying and planning your own rescue before anything’s happened. You’re thinking through exactly what needs to be done for your survival. That’s.
Colin Dowler: [01:25:19] Yeah, maybe not exactly, but for sure some of it because I knew I was in a really bad way. I was concerned that I wasn’t going to survive the bike ride. And I mean, being the manager of maintenance and operations for the health authority on the North Island, I’m somewhat familiar with heliports.
Travis Bader: [01:25:44] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [01:25:45] And that probably the majority of air, how, how would one say it? Cause I don’t think it would be a medi-vac, at least not in our terms, but for the inbound helicopters, with a survivor on board or someone that needs assistance, the majority of those come from the bush.
Travis Bader: [01:26:08] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:26:08] Right, it’s the logging industry.
Travis Bader: [01:26:09] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:26:10] So I knew there was that opportunity was available for me and I just wanted to make sure that that got that ball got rolling right away right.
Travis Bader: [01:26:19] So how long were you only help for?
Colin Dowler: [01:26:21] So here is the glory of all of my good fortune, right. All the little mini miracles in this, not the least of which is that knife that I had with me, my dad had given to me only maybe three weeks earlier.
Travis Bader: [01:26:39] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:26:39] As a random gift and possibly the only gift I’ve gotten from him other than my birthday or Christmas in my adult life.
Travis Bader: [01:26:52] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:26:53] So it’s like really a unique fluke, right?
Travis Bader: [01:26:56] The universe unfolds as it should.
Colin Dowler: [01:26:58] Yeah, I suppose. So I’m thinking there’s going to be one guy there and it might be hard to get his attention. So I come riding into the stairwell that goes into like their mess hall right? You have your common room.
Travis Bader: [01:27:20] Right, yep.
Colin Dowler: [01:27:21] And I stuck my landing nicely right. Got my handlebars landed like right on the one railing and my bike seat.
Travis Bader: [01:27:32] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:27:32] On the one behind or near it.
Travis Bader: [01:27:34] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:27:35] I went to get off my bike and I’ve like collapsed onto the stairs and the stup, was probably half my body was on the stairs, the other half on the landing. Just as the fluke would have it, their sliding glass door was open, the screen was closed. And the five loggers that were in there and not just the one, were already making comments to me before I’d gotten a word out.
Travis Bader: [01:28:06] Wow.
Colin Dowler: [01:28:07] Yeah. And I’m guessing that they’re like laughing about my graceless trash landing, right? Having no idea of the situation I was about to put them in. Sorry guys. So either way, so I heard them and I talked with my plan. Although I might have added a bit to it, I yelled to them as loud as I could help. I think I then said I’ve been mauled by a grizzly. Call 911 or call a helicopter, whichever I yelled right.
Travis Bader: [01:28:41] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:28:42] But I, I think I said I’ve been mauled by a grizzly before I gave the 911 bit.
Travis Bader: [01:28:48] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:28:48] Or the helicopter. So they came running out. I suspect that Veto went straight for the phone.
Travis Bader: [01:28:58] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:29:00] And they, I mean, there was panic in the air for sure. Of course not being ready for this at all right. This isn’t a scenario where someone’s been injured in the bush and they’re on the radio saying, get ready. We’re coming in hot with an injury here right.
Travis Bader: [01:29:19] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:29:19] So they’re running through the camp dabbler and the stuff that they may need. One of the things they were looking for was a spine board or something of that effect.
Travis Bader: [01:29:31] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [01:29:31] To get me onto, to get me off the stairs.
Travis Bader: [01:29:35] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:29:35] They’d given me a glass of water at this point, and, Oh man, that felt so good.
Travis Bader: [01:29:38] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:29:39] Yeah. And I asked the guys, I’m like, guys can you please, you know, get me off these stairs. I don’t know if I said, please. And there’s like, yeah, yeah, and I’m guessing there was two or three guys there at one point. And the one guy in the adrenaline of the moment, and I’m thankful he did it because I was reasonably confident, I didn’t have any sort of spinal injury, but he just grabbed me by himself when they were kind of struggling and how to figure it out.
[01:30:12] And Ron heaved me and into the building and laid me down there. I think they just waited. They did have a blanket down before they plopped me in there and they got a blanket down there. He’d heaved me and plopped me down. And they just kept, you know, scrambling away and checking things out. Again, I can’t speak for exactly what they did.
[01:30:38] I could hear them yelling back and forth to one another, asking where equipment was. And I’m saying try here, I tried, try there, oh yeah, yeah, right? They used up all three of their first aid kits. So they had one, in the camp, one in a crummy and one in a sea-can, they ran out of the tourniquet’s that come with those kits.
Travis Bader: [01:31:07] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:31:08] And started using triangle bandages. I can’t remember at what point I asked if we should remove my tourniquet or not. And I don’t know if at this point or not, if Veto was still on with an RN.
Travis Bader: [01:31:24] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:31:24] So he had called 911 they had started by asking him to call a logging company to fly me out of there.
Travis Bader: [01:31:34] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:31:35] He told them we don’t have time for that. This has to be air ambulance. I’m thankful that they trust his judgment. Like there’s a lot of good faith that.
Travis Bader: [01:31:47] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [01:31:47] Goes into this, especially with like government run services and the jurisdictions that they are and are not allowed to operate in. So and I remember hearing him, it’s planing into, I’m not sure if it was a pilot or if it was 911. That there was plenty of room for a helicopter to land, but either way, he was having a negotiation with them. I had like, how to get there and that, yes in fact.
Travis Bader: [01:32:19] Good for him.
Colin Dowler: [01:32:19] You will, you will be able to get both. These guys were so awesome. Like they really.
Travis Bader: [01:32:27] No kidding.
Colin Dowler: [01:32:29] So they negotiated that yes taking the tourniquet off is a good idea because my leg was not feeling very well, and getting the tourniquet off actually helped.
Travis Bader: [01:32:41] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:32:42] And then, so at that point, I don’t know, I think they were already, you know, had like cut open my pant leg and were bandaging the wounds. Veto mentioned that with each time they closed one wound.
Travis Bader: [01:32:58] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:32:58] Then another one would like take over where that one left off. Like they with pads, like the worst one right there, then the next one badly.
Travis Bader: [01:33:05] Like whack a mole.
Colin Dowler: [01:33:06] Yeah, exactly. I remember asking the guys a bunch of times, Oh, they kept, you know. doing the stay with us here, you know, you’re doing well. Like they’re saying all the right stuff and sorry guys, but I was, like I know it’s just stuff people have to say right?
Travis Bader: [01:33:28] Oh I get it.
Colin Dowler: [01:33:30] Cause I knew who was in tough and that they were just saying it and that there was some serious concern.
Travis Bader: [01:33:37] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:33:38] For my odds at that point right.
Travis Bader: [01:33:41] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:33:41] They got me on the phone with my brother and I can’t remember how many calls I made. I tried my wife first, although I knew my odds of getting her weren’t great because she was day camping.
Travis Bader: [01:33:55] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:33:55] While I was gone right, so usually out of reception. So then I got through to my brother and, and we chatted and, you know, it was a good chat. I mean, I could tell, obviously he was upset.
Travis Bader: [01:34:10] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:34:10] I wasn’t positive I was going to make it. So I was doing my best and that to let him know that I did well.
Travis Bader: [01:34:28] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:34:29] Right. That you know that the, he told me, cause I don’t remember saying this right, but he told me that I was telling him, well. You know, that allows, there’s a dead bear laying up in the bush right. Like I was.
Travis Bader: [01:34:43] Yeah .
Colin Dowler: [01:34:44] Trying to play to my Chi’s in the moment. Yeah. So either way, I don’t know how we ended the conversation, but I started to feel that I needed to save my breath right? Like as much as the guys wanted to keep me talking.
Travis Bader: [01:35:04] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:35:05] Air ambulance was 40 minutes away from when they agreed to fly. We were prepared for an hour and I understand they were only 40 minutes in the end and there was just no way I was going to be able to keep talking that whole time right?
Travis Bader: [01:35:25] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:35:25] So I got off the phone with them, but I kept checking in with the guys. They had a rap music soundtrack going on Sirius radio or something, right, in the background.
Travis Bader: [01:35:34] And you like rap.
Colin Dowler: [01:35:35] And I like my hip hop.
Travis Bader: [01:35:37] That’s right.
Colin Dowler: [01:35:37] Yeah. So I asked him, Hey guys, I says, is Beastie Boys playin’, they’re just to try to help. You know, we were making the odd joke, or at least I was trying to make the odd joke. I think they were perhaps being a bit more respectful than that. I remember one of the guys then he was holding pressure on my kidney wound. Which I could tell they were really concerned about right.
[01:36:02] More concerned about that and then my leg, it appeared to me. And the one guy says, so Colin, how’s it feel? They may not have said my name, right. He said, so how’s it feel to have a five guys use their level one first aid for the first time. But it gives you an idea of.
Travis Bader: [01:36:22] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:36:22] There was, I don’t know levity is the right word, but we were.
Travis Bader: [01:36:25] Oh you have to have it.
Colin Dowler: [01:36:26] Yeah, like there was a little bit of jocularity. We were reaching for his humour to a kind of lighten the situation right. I know, the RN on the phone, with Veto, told him to stop giving me water. And I remember them saying, guys, no more water. And me thinking, ah, water is so good. I would ask those guys, can I go on my back? Right. My side was getting so numb.
Travis Bader: [01:36:54] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:36:55] And they’re like, no, just a few minutes longer, man. That’s helicopter’s coming right? We’re worried about this wound on your back. So I asked, so I gutted that out.
[01:37:06] Not that I had much choice, I don’t think they would have let me roll over through any amount of begging. Yeah. I can’t, I can’t remember if I tried calling my dad or not. You know what? I’m reasonably certain I did. If I got an answering machine I didn’t leave a message. I didn’t think that was appropriate.
Travis Bader: [01:37:24] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:37:25] So I had done my wife, my dad and my brother. I know my wife was my first call right. Don’t know who my second one was. I’d obviously forgotten my dad was off in his boat and was out of cell range right. But then I had the guy call my boss.
Travis Bader: [01:37:40] Your boss?
Colin Dowler: [01:37:41] To let him know I wasn’t gonna make it into work.
Travis Bader: [01:37:43] Oh common!
Colin Dowler: [01:37:44] So, Hey, you know what? Maybe that was the part where they’re like, okay this, we can maybe stop with the phone calls here cause he’s down to calling work.
Travis Bader: [01:37:55] Oh man.
Colin Dowler: [01:37:56] Right. Which is pretty funny. So then my boss guy got into offer him dealing with that. Probably relatively abrupt phone call, like what do I do.
Travis Bader: [01:38:06] And did I understand that they give you a transfusion, blood transfusion before you got on the hop or while you’re in the helicopter.
Colin Dowler: [01:38:13] No, no. On the logging camp floor.
Travis Bader: [01:38:16] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:38:16] So I don’t know how long they spent with me on the logging camp floor, but upon their arrival, at that point, I was confident I was gonna live, they seemed confident I was going to live. I don’t want to put words in their mouth, but they made a comment, to the effect of, you know, your lucky because we have only recently been given the authority to give blood on the scene.
[01:38:55] And if we couldn’t give blood on the scene, your odds of making it back to the hospital alive would be slim.
Travis Bader: [01:39:03] Wow. So everything’s just lining up here for you.
Colin Dowler: [01:39:07] Yeah. Well, if only barely right. And, but to make a comment like that helped me think, wow, like I’m going to make it right. Cause they’re saying, a few months ago this would have been nip and tuck if we could have returned you to a hospital alive.
Travis Bader: [01:39:31] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:39:32] And they’re saying, in this moment, you’re going to live because we can give you blood. And they gave me two bags of blood while I laid in the hospital or on the a logging camp floor there.
Travis Bader: [01:39:46] Wow.
Colin Dowler: [01:39:46] Yeah, man, they were awesome. Those guys were Johnny on the spot.
Travis Bader: [01:39:51] How’s recovery been?
Colin Dowler: [01:39:53] It’s good, I would say.
Travis Bader: [01:39:55] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:39:55] So I mean, in the beginning I was so happy to be alive, it just didn’t really matter. Now he’s telling myself things like, Hey, you know what like, as long as I can still go fishing, you know, I’m laughing because, Hey, guess what.
Travis Bader: [01:40:10] Man after my own heart. I love it.
Colin Dowler: [01:40:12] Yeah, I just cheated death here right?
Travis Bader: [01:40:14] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:40:15] There’s another thing there too, and I know you asked, when I first saw the bear, what did I think?
Travis Bader: [01:40:21] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:40:21] Right. And I thought, you know, grizzly.
Travis Bader: [01:40:24] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [01:40:25] But then I thought, that’s not a very big grizzly, and it looks kind of mangy.
Travis Bader: [01:40:29] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:40:30] So in the end, it was a 350 pound bear.
Travis Bader: [01:40:34] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:40:35] Four or five years old, measured nine foot nose to toe.
Travis Bader: [01:40:40] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:40:41] And was a specimen of a healthy fit four or five-year-old bear.
Travis Bader: [01:40:49] Yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:40:50] And the CO’s estimate, it would have been a six or 700 pound bear, had it have lived a to full adult size and all the indications right? Like the autopsy of it, although when I talked to conservation, they hadn’t autopsied his brain yet.
Travis Bader: [01:41:09] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:41:10] But there was no indication of it being an unhealthy bear at all. So the sort of main genus that I saw was likely it’s wet for having just stepped out of the bush.
Travis Bader: [01:41:25] Okay.
Colin Dowler: [01:41:26] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [01:41:26] Interesting of the brain processes that.
Colin Dowler: [01:41:29] Yeah. Well, you know, I mean, I don’t, I haven’t seen a whole ton of grizzly bears.
Travis Bader: [01:41:33] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [01:41:33] Right. So you just picture a big fluffy animal right.
Travis Bader: [01:41:38] Yeah. The picturesque ones that you see on the, people mount on walls, pictures of them. So male grizzly. Basically, I guess an adolescent, more or less, they’re just entering into the adulthood phase.
Colin Dowler: [01:41:51] Adult is seven to nine.
Travis Bader: [01:41:53] Right.
Colin Dowler: [01:41:53] When they roll into adulthood, I think.
Travis Bader: [01:41:54] Right. And weight-wise the coastal Grizzlies can get a
Colin Dowler: [01:41:59] lot bigger than inland
Travis Bader: [01:42:01] Grizzlies. Males can be a lot bigger than the females, but that’s still a big bear.
Colin Dowler: [01:42:07] Yeah.
Travis Bader: [01:42:07] That’s, and the other thing that’s interesting is that age group of a bear can quite often be the nuisance, it’s just like an adolescent child, right? Then pushing their boundaries, seeing what they can get away from, and when you relate it to me, of course I wasn’t there, but I get the sense that the bear was testing and pushing and seeing how far he could go with you and, huh, that didn’t hurt when I swatted out.
[01:42:32] Oh, nothing really happened and let’s go further, let’s keep pushing the boundaries. And when you. Jab that bear in the neck with a knife. Whoops.
Colin Dowler: [01:42:40] Yeah he realized.
Travis Bader: [01:42:43] Right. This isn’t as fun anymore. And if I recall correctly, the CO’s, when they went out to find that bear and dispatch it, that bear was stalking them, prior to them having to dispatch it.
Colin Dowler: [01:42:58] Don’t want to put words in their mouth, but I understand when they ultimately did shoot the bear, it was 12 feet away from one of them.
Travis Bader: [01:43:10] Wow.
Colin Dowler: [01:43:10] Yeah. But not, they can have to qualify that, it wasn’t on even ground where it would easily close that like it was.
Travis Bader: [01:43:19] Sure.
Colin Dowler: [01:43:20] You know, down an embankment, there’s an obstruction, but for as many hours as they were looking for the bear and they kept. Thinking, Oh, there it is but then there wasn’t right. It seemed to play cat and mouse with them right up until the end.
Travis Bader: [01:43:38] Bears can be a pretty emotional topic. We’ve got a legislation in British Columbia that has prohibited grizzly bear hunting, and there’s polarizing opinions on this. Have you encountered negative backlash from this encounter from the people saying, Hey, you should never been in grizzly bear country to begin with. And poor bear was put down and you’ve encountered any of that?
Colin Dowler: [01:44:03] Not directly, some of the things you read, right? I mean, you’ve, perhaps you’ve read a whole bunch of them, I don’t know. But, in this one, and they’re genuinely, they were good at qualifying it, saying, look I’m happy he’s going to live, but.
Travis Bader: [01:44:18] Buttt.
Colin Dowler: [01:44:19] It was fairly fair and reasonably civilized right. And the one was that, you know, I’m just upset that, you know, another one of nature’s beautiful animals dies because an entitled man is of and that’s the point where I think, well, but.
Travis Bader: [01:44:35] C’mon now.
Colin Dowler: [01:44:36] Yeah, hang on now. Like I guess I am entitled to go hiking in the forest.
Travis Bader: [01:44:43] Sure you are.
Colin Dowler: [01:44:44] Right. And I’m also entitled, especially at that time, which was my belief, that I don’t have to worry about bears because I’m at one with nature. Like as hippy dippy as that sounds.
Travis Bader: [01:45:00] Yeah, yeah.
Colin Dowler: [01:45:01] Right. I’m a hunter, but I’ve never bought a bear tag. I’ve never shot at a bear right. Like you know, like there’s just no, there were no reason for me to be in a bear attack. But I understand that, you know, and when we live in and amongst bears that in the end I’m more on team human right.
Travis Bader: [01:45:23] I’d agree with you on that one. Before we wrap things up here, is there anything that we should touch on? Is there anything that you’d like to say, you’d like to have out there known?
Colin Dowler: [01:45:33] Man I just hope like in all of this, that it helps with bear awareness on average. I mean, there’s something to be said for being happy, go lucky and not being afraid of nature otherwise you’ll never truly appreciate it.
Travis Bader: [01:45:54] Yes.
Colin Dowler: [01:45:54] But it’s also uncomfortable saying that one is foolish to not be properly prepared in bear country and I wasn’t properly prepared. And we certainly don’t know if I would would or wouldn’t have been saved by bear spray, but I sure wish I had it in that moment because it may very well have scared not bear off.
Travis Bader: [01:46:25] From my background in training, the one thing that I found intriguing through this is how you and others defaulted to what they knew, defaulted to their training. So you talked about gouging the eyes of the bear because that was something, somewhere ingrained in you that that’s a good technique. Poking the eyes for defensive, whatever it might be, or the fact that you never let go of that knife again afterwards or.
[01:46:54] It’s a, originally started with just a death grip knowing hey I remember. Innately, you’ve been trained because you’ve heard the stories about that guy who stabbed the bear in the neck number of times and killed the bear. And how we just revert to essentially what we know. And from a training standpoint, even the first aid that people go through to take a first aid course and a month later, forget everything.
[01:47:22] Having an awareness, having a your story as a reminder, you’re that guy now. You are that guy that people will be thinking about in the future. They’re on their bike, okay, I’m going to put my bike between me and the bear, I got my pole, oh, right I got a knife right? Or maybe they’ll think he really wished he had bear spray.
Colin Dowler: [01:47:44] And an air horn.
Travis Bader: [01:47:45] And an air horn. I’m going to go out, so thank you very, very much for sharing this with me, sharing this with the listeners. What an incredible tale.
Colin Dowler: [01:47:55] For sure. Don’t underestimate the wildlife out there.
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