We were out walking in the winter and came across this sign warning about bears. It made me laugh a little bit because before I moved to Montana I wasn’t as aware of my surroundings as I am here. Anytime I am out I think about what wildlife I might encounter based on the time of year, where I am at and the ecosystem. While it is early for bears to be out, I am wondering with the warm spell called for next week, what might change and could that early hungry bear be out there looking for an easy meal soon.
There are many places in Montana that are bear country. People have a tendency to think of bear country as the big woods, but in many cases is the open prairies that surround the woods. This summer I carried bear spray in my truck. When I surveyed places where I felt that it was potential bear country, because signs told me or my gut said bears are possible here I strapped on my can of bear spray when I got out to do my surveys.
Not all likely bear places have signs like this.
Only once this year did I feel uneasy about wild animals. It was a place that was not really bear habitat, but mountain lion habitat. They actually scare me more because they are so stealthy. I felt the whole time like I was being watched. I got my business done and got out of there. All the time singing any song I could think of or make up, making my body big and purposeful.
No matter where you go, no matter how short the time there if you are in bear country remember your bear spray.
When you make emotional decisions, they generally are flawed and this one was no different. I was heading to town after my lifetime friend and her husband left after spending some time with us. It was nothing short of a great time and like always we reconnected as though we had been together last week rather than two years ago. I was sad to see them go as I know that we won’t see one another for at least a year. Though I was heading to town I wasn’t ready for people and so impulsively decided to head to a forest trail I had always wanted to try.
I parked my rig a the trail head, pulled out a photo copy map from the kiosk and headed out. I enjoyed the sounds of nature and got myself grounded again. I was about three miles out when I had an ah ha moment. I had taken this hike without thinking first and I was now the realization was hitting me what I had done.
- I had thrown out my drink glass in a bear proof container and I had not thought about bear spray, something I usually walk with.
- l found a great rock formation in the sun to photograph. It seemed like a great spot to sit and soak in the sun. Then I realized that rattlesnakes were not unheard of in this area and for the first time I was not hiking in boots, but rather I was where was wearing my sandels!
- I had taken off with out water at noon at August. Fortunately I had done enough training that this did not put me under, and I was not in the full sun. The distance and the temperature dictated I had water with me.
- I had originally taken a rails to trails, but when I went back I took a forest trail. The grade there turned out to be pretty intense. I would have sold my soul for my hiking poles. They really help take so much of the stress off of your knees when are faced with steep climbs.
- I had gone out into the woods and not told a single person where I had gone. No one had a time that I was due back. If you do nothing else when you head out into the woods that is the most critical thing you need to do. It is your safety net.
Dumb luck was with me and it all worked out. It was a reminder that emotional decisions can be full of flaws due to the impulsive nature. It would have only take an few minutes to call home and leave message where I was going and when I should be home. I keep all the other supplies I should have taken in a crate in my rig at all times. There were all there for me. I should have taken them them with me. There are no walks or hikes that are too short to take your safety supplies. This all worked out fine, and it serve as a great reminder of what I already know. THINK. It could be live saving.