I wasn’t going to shell out forty-two dollars for a canister of bear spray. Despite signs at the trailhead expounding the dangers of grizzly bears in Glacier National Park, I ignored the warning. Marcia and I had been in the park for a few days and had seen little wildlife and no bears. Plus, we were to hike a very popular trail; we would not be alone.
The yellow warning sign stated that if we came across a bear, we should back-up slowly, raise our coat and knapsack to make us look more substantial, and avoid eye contact. Do not run! The sign also stated that bear spray was a proven and effective deterrent to an attack from an aggressive bear. It did not specifically recommend we carry bear spray, which is a wildlife-size canister of pepper spray.
The weather was beautiful as we hiked the ten and one-half miles to Upper Two Medicine Lake and back. We saw a moose, picture-perfect lakes and mountains, and early fall colors in the willows and sycamores. We also saw that every other hiker we passed on the trail had a can of bear spray strapped to their hip or chest like a holstered sidearm. I thought we may have made a fatal mistake, but we pressed on.
You can guess that we – or, at least, I – made it out of the woods alive. In fact, we saw no bears at all, and I congratulated myself on my frugality. The next morning as we were packing up the trailer to leave, we saw the biggest grizzly bear imaginable, walking along the mountain face just uphill from the trail we walked the day before. I think I can find forty-two dollars next time.