The Bear Necessities

My bear research continues as I plan my descent into the Oregon wilderness. And, like any other (probably) ill-advised adventure of mine, this one will probably require baby steps until confidence is gained.

If you want to learn survival skills it's probably a not good idea to jump out into the sticks and start surviving. It might be a better idea to go on a few overnight camping trips, and then slowly build up to multiple-day and week trips so you can practice your slick skillz and deal with the stuff that comes up. Over time a nice little repertoire of knowledge develops.

A few days ago I told my best friend about my bear fears and how I'm trying to get a little perspective on how dangerous they actually are so I can feel better about the whole thing. I figured she could provide some calming support to assuage my fears:

Me: ...and that's why I'm deathly afraid of bears. Sigh...I don't know, I'm probably blowing this way out of proportion. Attacks aren't that common, right?

Best Friend: Ohhh, did you ever see that episode of “I Survived” where the guy woke up in the middle of the night to crunching noises and there was a bear eating his skull?!

Me: Blink...blink.

Best Friend: It was crazy! So horrifying...

Me: To be honest, I'd totally forgotten about that one. Thanks for helping me remember.

My research then let me to the big boys' bear defense of choice. It's called “bear spray”. Oooh, tell me more about this bear spray, thought I. After some further reading, I swiftly made my way down to the friendly neighborhood REI to get me some.

It was a typical trip to REI. I wander through the store. I want everything. I think of my bank account. I resist. Rinse, repeat.

In the middle of the store, I turn the corner and there it was. COUNTER ASSAULT! “Grizzly tough bear deterrent!” It has a scary looking bear on the label, so it's obvious marketing knows their target customer (me) very well.

So I'm looking at this thing and basically it's a can of pepper spray, about the size of a fire extinguisher, which will launch a 30-foot stream of 2% capsaicin at the poor dear. To put it mildly: it's a far cry from the cute little hot pink canister of pepper spray I carry for dogs and other critters while on bike rides.

I'm fixin' to go on a hike. I need this.

The practicality of this well-intentioned but semi-ridiculous exercise starts to sink in. Where the hell am I going to put this stuff? It obviously has to be easily accessible, else, why carry it at all?

I look to the side. There's no less than four different kinds of harnesses and holsters for your bear spray. Some go around your hips so you can carry it on your lower back, some criss-cross around your chest, some hang by a strap at your side. I have a nice laugh. How exciting! It's like the Wild West again, only instead of six-shooters, we're all sporting assault fire extinguishers.

I decide against the holster. After all, a Lara Croft look might suit me better. A can of bear spray strapped to each thigh, trail mix and cooking utensils strapped to my chest. I imagine myself facing down a Grizzly. I drop down in a lunge position, tightly gripping a can in each hand, pointed directly at the enemy, my bitch face dialed up to Defcon 1.

I'll just get the bear spray and figure out where to put it later.

Walking out of the store, feeling victorious. Now I have to learn how to use this stuff. I'm afraid to even take it out of the package.

After thoroughly reading the directions and watching a few You Tube videos, perhaps I could practice my quickdraw moves in the backyard? Probably not a good idea. That would be more entertainment than the neighbors could handle.

I go on my hike (lovely, by the way), the bear spray still safely in its protective packaging in my bag. I make peace with the idea of certain death should I meet a bear today.

Next lesson: bear bells. I saw them beside the COUNTER ASSAULT. I have no idea how they work, but I imagine that when a bear approaches I just grab the thing and start shaking it. Ching-a-ling. Ching-a-ling. The bear stops, a puzzled look on its face, then starts laughing so hard, it falls to the ground in a furry puddle.

Bear: Cute bell, dumbass! Now, meet my fangs!

Fade to black...