Day 78: Bear Spray

With our new more relaxed schedule we can take extra time in the mornings and wait for the sun to hit the tent and warm us before we emerge out of our nice warm quilt. It is the simple things that become luxuries when your world is made up of walking and trying to ditch everything that adds weight to your back. 

The day is overcast and cold again. We are walking through a large park area with some great views of the Tetons in the distance. 

When you can see for a long way you get to watch the weather and rain move around the mountains. You watch it and hope it does not turn your way. Today was not our day to miss the rain and as we watched it blew closer. We hear it beating the trees on the way up the ridge towards us. We stop to don our rain gear. No sooner than we have it on the rain hits us. We shelter under a tree thinking it will pass soon but after a couple of minutes decide it is here to stay so continue walking. To our surprise and delight we are soon passing out from under the rain cloud and back into semi sunshine. We look back to where we sheltered and it is still grey with the rain coming down. Moving on turned out to be great decision. 

We crestted the high point for the day and started walking down the other side through a lightly wooded forest. Yeti was in front when all of a sudden she is pushing back on me saying Bear! Her next words are “Dont run. Get your bear spray!” By the time I locate the Bears the mother has already turned and started charging towards us after trying to push her cubs in the opposite direction. After some panicking on my part and shuffling back and forth I gain my composure and with Yeti’s urging I pull my bear spray and face the charging mother. 

She started about 50 feet from us and quickly has the distance down to 20. Her face looks just like the picture of the vicious grizzly on the Bear Spray Can that makes you want to buy the spray in the first place. Yeti has told me that most times it is a bluff charge to scare us and give her cubs time to get away but with roughly 500lbs of bear coming at you faster than you can believe  that thought goes right out of your mind and before I realised it I had released a burst of pepper spray in her direction. She was about 20 feet away by this stage and she hit the bottom of the mist cloud. I have to work on my aim.  She stopped and turned around and headed off into the tree after her two cubs. We watched her go, shaken and wondering what to do now. As we stood there watching a slight whiff of the pepper spray comes back up the trail and I get a small taste in my mouth and nose. I feel sorry for any bear that gets a full blast because that stuff stings. For the next hour I am washing out my mouth and nose trying to stop the stinging. 

Compared to that 30 second encounter the rest of our day was rather dull. We walked down the valley and up to the top of a ridge making lots of noise as we went. 

The ridge we end up on descends steeply down one side to a wide valley below. The wind is howling up the hillside from this valley. Most of the area has been burnt out by a forest fire in the past couple of years and with the noise of the wind and all the dead trees it seems like a rather desolate place. Our trail is about 100 yards off the ridge and because of how steep the windy side of the hill is we are totally sheltered from the winds malevolence. 

About 5:30 we stop on a log for a foot break. We plan to hike on another mile or so but when we check the distance to the highway where we will be picked up to go to Dubois we see it is only 20 miles from here. We have another two days to cover this distance and we decide we may as well stop for the night. 

Getting up in the morning after the sun is one type of luxury and stopping a bit earlier in the day is another. We have time to setup camp, do some stretching and have a walk around to look into the valley bellow. Setting up camp takes some extra time now because we have to hang our food and anything else that might attract bears. We have been doing this since the start of the Winds but after today’s encounter we are extra careful to make sure everything gets in my pack which is then hung about 10 feet off the ground in a tree a long way from our tent. 

The last two days have been relatively easy and it has given us the time to stop and enjoy the places we are passing through. Reduction in the number of mosquitoes from a black wall that was hard to see through to just the odd,occasionally annoying few, has certainly helped our enjoyment as well. I have gone from feeling like I don’t want to do this anymore to having that excitement back that makes every new day a fun adventure. 

Yeti says that I am really just a big kid. She has lowered her estimate of my age to 4.5 on this trip. While I have the strength and stamina to do endurance activities and have completed some in the past, it is much more fun to hop out of bed in the morning with that child like excitement bubbling to the surface. Yeti hates it when I use the hop word. On such a long hike pushing hard each day was feeling like you have another hard day in the salt mine to conquer and there is no child’s fun in that.