Thursday, July 06, 2006

wild things: I might get eaten by a bear

Message from a friend who camps up in Canada: oh, so you’re going to grizzly country…. Message from friend who has camped all her life: take the threat of bears seriously… etc etc

Read me that paragraph about bears again. I say this to Ed, who had been trying to be convincing about safety issues in hiking the Canadian Rockies.

It says that maybe one person in several years will get mauled by a bear.
One out of what pool? The world population? One of those staying at our desolate campsite?

It says that the fear has reached ridiculous and exaggerated proportions.
Maybe because bears eat people…

It says that charging elks are far more dangerous than encounters with bears.
Add to list: fear of charging elks…

It says it is more likely to happen if you walk quietly and startle a bear
Ed, you walk quietly. We both walk quietly. No more! I am going to hoot and holler until the ranger chases me down to find out what my problem is.

It says that bears are scared of people
Well, so now we are even. I am scared of them, they are scared of me. Guess who is likely to win that battle.

It says that only angry bears attack.
And what causes a bear to be angry? I would guess my presence in their environs would be high on the list.

It says that you should avoid going near their resting space.
How do I recognize their resting space? All I know about bears resting is that they like beds that are too small for them. Straight from that great source of wisdom – Goldilocks

It says that you should hang your food up from a tree.
And does it say how I am to eat it, up there in a tree? And how bears might react to the wafting aroma of organic mac and cheese, with aged cheddar?

It says that they close trails when there are several sightings of bears.
Wouldn’t you say that that is too little, too late?

I’m not going to stand by and wait for the worst to happen. Off I go to Fontana sporting goods store. I am greeted there by a guy who looks like he knows hiking inside out.

Promise you wont laugh. I have a question: what would you recommend to fend off bears?
I suppose I would have been taken more seriously had I not been wearing my work clothes. Woman enters store in nice skirt, pretty French sandals and expresses concern about bears… Alright…

Where are you expecting to find bears?
Up in the Canadian Rockies.
Ah, grizzly country.
Is that a better kind of bear?
No… here, take a look: we sell bear bells. You ring them incessantly to warn bears of your arrival.

Madison summer 06

I can just see Ed glaring at me as I walk with a bell all day long.

What’s the alternative?
Great! Protection! How and when do I use it?
Well, it’s like this: grizzly bear charges at 40 mph; you swiftly reach into your backpack and without a second’s hesitation, pull out the mace, aim it at the charging bear and when he is within 30 feet of you, fire away. But you have to hit him in the eyes or it’s pointless.

Let me get this straight: bear is charging, I know in that instant that it’s mace or die and not batting an eye, I successfully navigate within my pack, take out and uncork the mace and hit (still charging) bear in the eyes?
I’ll take the bear bell. A disgruntled Ed seems less scary than an encounter with a disgruntled bear.
Hope to see you after the trip Stop by and tell us if it worked for you. If you can.

Now what did the Fontana guy mean by that?

Later, a quick phone conversation with Ed:

I bought an anti-bear bell.
You are going to be jingling all day long?
Yep. Just pretend you’re hearing sheep. I’m an Alpine sheep, visiting the Canadian Rockies.
It says in the book that bells are ineffective...
Nice try but no bananas. A mere sheep with maybe a flask of wine and a bell.

I feel somewhat better, even if this afternoon, as I was saying good-bye to Tonya I asked her, as one does of a friend, for reassurance purposes—do you think I’ll get eaten by a bear? She hesitated, then answered: I can’t promise you that you wont.

A friend who tells it like it is.