Your first time alone in bear country is a bit like driving on a steep and icy road. You know the traction will go at some point and you will slide, hopefully regaining traction or coming to a gentle stop. But you know there is danger and a potential killer around every corner. And so you venture forth, timidly.
The previous day you were sat in a visitor centre watching a video about Black Bears and grizzly Bears, telling you what to do in an encounter. Most of the video survival tutorial will go straight over your head.
As you hike its running through your mind. Singing, shouting ‘Hey Bear!’ and clapping happily to let the monsters know your on the way. You feel safe. No bears, it must be working, and so it goes….for about the first hour. Till the vocal chords need a break, and the hands are sore. Then the clapping becomes infrequent, maybe once as you leave a clearing. The day burns on, and the sun begins to lower, and you become aware your not at the camp yet, its still miles away. Another of the video lessons plays on your mind- Do not hike at night, bears are more active and much more easily startled.
I vaguely remember the part of the safety video saying something about don’t run in bear country , but when there is less than a hour of light and the dying sun in on the horizon with 3 miles to go, i decided to flex the rules a little. This worked brilliantly and i commending myself for a good first hike solo when i arrived at a clearing about a mile before the camp.
Less than 100 yards away right on the middle of the trail was one of these colossal beasts i had spent the day fearing. The educational video lessons completely drained from my mind. I froze up. This hike was a bad idea. Tomorrow nights news was going to be about a lone British Hiker killed by a Grizzly Bear. I’ve seen videos of them charging and i wouldn’t stand a chance. This was it, the end, 700 pounds of death dealing machine had me in its gaze.i held my bear spray in front of me, thinking how can this possibly stop that death machine?! And then…..it happened.
With one almighty look….it turned away, walked over a stream and was gone. I was bemused. It looked right at me… But didn’t try to tear me apart for its evening meal.
It had no interest in me. I’M ALIVE!!!!!!!!! This was the best thing all day, i carried on the the campground , with the occasional glance over my shoulder. It was dark when i arrived, but was greeted by a few friendly hikers. ‘Theres a Big Bear a mile that way!!! Big Grizzly!!!’. A few smiles back at me, ‘First bear encounter Ay?’.