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I saw another bear on a trail. This doesn’t mean a bear was actually there. Only that I saw one. We were in the Lake George area in the lower Adirondacks, descending Prospect Mountain. This relatively busy trail is an 3 easy miles out and back with a trailhead right in the town. But even on busy, short hikes up tiny mountains you still get those quiet stretches. Perfect opportunities for taking in the surroundings, smelling pines, looking for birds. Zoning out or zooming in. Me, I look for black bears.

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This time I saw a big black furry head with rounded ears. He didn’t move towards us or away. He just watched us. A group of hikers were on their way up so I didn’t panic too much. Just two weak knees and that familiar fear-for-my-life shiver. I didn’t say a thing about the maybe bear because saying something makes it real and this wasn’t real. Also, I read that fear is contagious and I don’t want to pass my fear on to my hiking buddy. Though he doesn’t want to run into a bear again either, he refuses to hike in fear.

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I try to keep my sightings to myself. This would be a dangerous habit if the bears I saw were real and not the back lit silhouettes of stumps or trees with lumps. Besides, I suspect I can only ask my partner Is that a bear? so many times before he drops me for a lady with decent vision, or one who wears her glasses.

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I wear glasses to drive, but that’s all. Raj wears glasses all the time and doesn’t understand why I won’t. I tell him why: I don’t want to. That’s the answer. Also they give me headaches and squeeze my brain. It’s true. I’ve tried new prescriptions, different frames … before and after sitting on them.

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obligatory me having a think shot, Stewart’s Ledge

For the most part, leaving my glasses in the car is inconsequential. So what if I walk through life with rage vision?

Me – Eight dollars for asparagus! Unbelievable!

Raj – It’s $2.

Me – The sign says $8! How dare they!

Raj – The sign says $2.

Me – Oh.

And I see black bears everywhere.

I should stop looking for them. Stop thinking about them and talking about them. Though I do enjoy learning about them, and they come with the territory. We’re hiking in their home. Seeing them might be rare for some people, but it’s almost always a possibility. We’re finding every hiker has a bear story, along with strong opinions on protection. In addition to whistles and bear spray, we just added an air horn to our arsenal.

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There’s much debate on whether air horns are effective bear repellents. I think it can’t hurt. We picked ours up for a few bucks in the boating section and I do feel safer with it. It’s piercingly loud and unpleasant. Should the rare predatory bear approach we don’t have to worry about wind direction, or waiting for it to get close enough to spray or the fact that our can of spray says it empties in 5 seconds. Then what?

Oh, by the way, bear spray can explode so don’t leave it in the trunk. Fortunately, we didn’t have to learn this the hard way even though all last summer we kept ours in the trunk whenever we weren’t hiking. One less thing to remember to pack. Apparently, it can explode at high temperatures and car trunks get very hot. Don’t leave it in the car.

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Probably the main takeaway for us all to learn is that calling me Haileybear on the trail doesn’t help. Cue: fear-for-my-life shivers every time. All I hear is BEAR.

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