Most people would understand this simple fact. But on our recent trip to Glacier National Park we unleashed the power of the bear spray, twice. No, we never saw a bear. We faithfully read the entire instruction booklet that came with the canister of bear spray, allowing ourselves ample time to get quite nervous about having to use it.
On our first hike, Clutch decided to be a rule follower and test the bear spray. The booklet suggested testing the spray just to make sure it was working and to be comfortable with what would happen in case such a dire need arises. Clutch observed the wind was blowing away from us and decided to do a short blast of the canister. We heard it hiss and saw it release a mist. Great it works! We take a few steps and what do you know? The wind changes directions and we walk right into the bear spray mist! Coughing, crying, and gagging ensued followed shortly by giggles of embarrassment. Accidents can happen to anyone, right? We only walked through a very light mist of it after all, no harm done.
I was disappointed that we did not actually see any bears or grizzlies during our 12 day visit to the park. If you’ve been following my blog you know my bear encounters have been very calm and very friendly (hence my “Bear Whisperer” trail name). Seems everyone we met along the trail, going in the opposite direction of us, had seen either a grizzly eating berries, a momma and her cub crossing the trail, a moose swimming, or even a white fluffy mountain goat. And we saw plenty of indicators of recent animal activity, and even a few warning signs and closed trails. But no actual animals. Maybe this is why we decided that we needed to add a little thrill to our trip.
After finishing our overnight backpacking trip to Cracker lake which involved rain and wind storms, and literally hiking 2 miles through mud puddles and horse manure (be sure to avoid this popular horse loop on rainy days), we made it back to the trailhead and to our car. Parking is sparse so we hopped into the car and pulled out so a waiting car could take our spot. We pulled over just a few miles away to get out of our stinky, muddy boots and into comfy sandals. As I bent down to untie my boots I hear an all too familiar hiss of the bear spray! Clutch had not replaced the pin in the canister and was still wearing it on his pant belt! He triggered it when he turned to reach for his sandals and it was a direct shot in my direction! Luckily I knew to hold my breath and shut my eyes as I threw the passenger car door open and leapt out, running as far from the car as I could before I was bent over, face burning, coughing and spitting out whatever made it into my mouth.
It took me about 15 minutes to calm down enough to stand up and face my “Attacker”. I opened my eyes to see a very concerned face staring into mine. “Are you okay?”, Clutch asked. “I think so, just give me a few more minutes”, I replied. Clutch went back to the scene of the crime (aka the rental car) and realized the dark red oily spray had covered the entire passenger side roof of the car, window, seat, and door. I can’t say I was glad to absorb some of the mess, but will be forever grateful my head was down when the canister released its contents. My nose and lips burned for about an hour but no blisters formed, quite to my surprise. It took Clutch 2 days, a bottle of Windex, a jumbo roll of baby wipes, 3 rolls of paper towels, and other assorted cleaners to get that nasty stuff cleaned up.
I would like to go on record saying please never use Bear Spray unless a bear is within 2 feet and charging, and all other options have failed. I am now totally convinced a direct hit in a bears face will bring him down in a flash. I am equally sure that it will inflict so much pain it almost seems inhumane.
Oh, and one more thing… please pay attention to the whereabouts of your canister at all times.
Stay tuned for the BEST of our trip!