While we’ve hiked in bear country before, it’s always been black bear country, and at the time that seemed scary enough. Now that we are in grizzly bear territory black bears seem more like pesky critters compared to the grizz. They’re the talk of the trail amongst hikers and definitely a favorite topic for locals when we meet along the trail and in towns.
We are doing our best to be prepared for grizzly encounters as we’ve altered a few things from our normal routine. The biggest change is I’m actually carrying bear spray. It’s some form of pepper spray and is supposed to be a good deterrent, hopefully we won’t need to use it. It is a bit heavy compared to everything else we are carrying, somewhere between ten and twelve ounces, but it has a cool little holster that fits on my pack’s belt. Funny to say, but the spray is actually empowering and even makes me feel a little safer around other animals, like this cow that ran after Julie last night! I also understand the horsemen more now as they’re all packing heat when they’re out in the wilderness.
To be prepared we are also being more vigilant with our food habits at camp. In CO I was to the point of not only sleeping with my food but eating in the tent when it was cold or rainy. Now we are making an effort to hang our food again and at the very least, we are putting everything smelly into odor proof sacks in our packs at our feet. It is actually tough out here to find suitable trees to hang the food at least ten feet up and four feet out so finding the right bear bagging tree often dictates where we camp now.
Lastly, I’m more prepared and better equipped to get my camera out and take a picture should we encounter a grizzly bear. I crafted a small pouch on my shoulder strap to house the camera and can quickly pull the camera when the moment arises. The only challenge will be choosing whether to grab the bear spray with my right hand or the camera with my left. Either way, while I’m fearful, I’m also a bit anxious to actually see one out here. It feels like a right of passage and after almost 2000 miles of hiking on the CDT I think we are ready to join the “I’ve seen a grizzly bear in the wild” club.