Atop Swift Creek Lookout


a joint, a view
a joint, a view

A fear fueled by weed and my urban paranoia—but of bears!—saturates. I sing, I whistle, I bang two rocks together in rhythm. I have no desire to die by a bear’s brute force.

Before hiking up Swift Creek trail I asked the woman at the hardware store about their bear deterrents.

Bear Spray: $39.99

Bear bangers: $29.99 (scare them off with a loud bang)

Machete: $24.99

“You could just get a can, fill it with some marbles if you got some. Rocks’ll do too. Even just a pop can,” she said. “Tie it on your backpack.”

“I feel like the machete might be my best option,” I said.

“I’d hate to be close enough to a bear that I could use a machete.”

“Well, from how far away does the bear spray work?”

swift creek bridge
swift creek bridge

“Depends,” she said. “If you’re downwind…” She trails off, but makes big eyes.

Would I really be aware of the wind’s direction if a bear was close enough—advancing on me, teeth bared, claws at the ready—to use bear spray?

A few weeks ago, the paper reported a grizzly attack near Jasper. The grizzly attacked a hiker, who had curled into the fetal position, only to bite into a can of bear spray in a pocket of his backpack. The hiker was suspended above the ground, his backpack in the mouth of the grizzly, at the time. The bear dropped the hiker and ran off. The punctured aerosol can leaked the remaining liquid onto the hiker, burning his skin. He jumped into a river. So the story goes.

I used to tell people I had a “feeling” I would die fighting off a bear. I spent a lot of time in nature, growing up and in my adolescence, and a lot of that by myself. Besides, I’d just finished reading Song of Myself and Thoreau.

“People have seen a grizzly up there,” the woman at the hardware store said. “And there’s definitely a black bear up there.”

“Were there any cubs?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Some people say to wear a bell on your backpack, like a dinner bell…”

“Ya that’d scare them…”

“…that way they know where dinner is.” A broad smile, and big eyes again as if to say, I’m kinda joking. KINDA joking!

My solution: a battery-powered radio. Preferably with a tape deck or CD player for more variety. A buffer of safety created by noise. So that I can enjoy the view. And my joint. And do some writing or reading. Next time.

pondering bear
pondering bear

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