While Yogi Bear and Boo Boo got famous stealing picnic baskets in Yellowstone Park, my knowledge of Yellowstone history would suggest that there was no actual need to steal as food was frequently and freely given. Even my father has fond memories of walking next to a bear and taunting it with a fishing pole back in the good old days. That was when bears were still considered cute and cuddly.
They have since changed to Floyd Mayweather's PR firm to toughen up their image. Now bears are vicious and ready to attack you at a moment’s notice. Signs are posted on how to avoid bear attacks: Go in groups (challenging, as I am traveling alone), make noise (I would sing but at 8,000ft, I feel like I am doing well to breath), don’t run (failed again), and carry bear spray (easier said than done). You might as well dress me in huckleberry garland and ring the dinner bell.
My first bear sighting was such a thrill, a brief passing moment of momma and her cub. I savored it. You never know how many you will get. This was where I was terribly wrong. What unnerved me about this is that I had been running in that very spot only an hour before. I tried to keep my anxiety in check. Bear sightings are rare overall. Many people come to the park and never see one. The second bear sighting was a pleasant one I got to enjoy in the early morning all to myself. Again, it was in a spot I considered running but promptly altered my plans. Then for the third day in a row, I had the pleasure of six bear sightings. These are easy to spot because of the traffic jams and people mobbing the road way. The bears are harder to find as they prefer the bushes. Four of these sightings included adorable playful cubs. This sounds like such a treat but it makes me nervous. Momma bears are notoriously grumpy and the last animals you want to meet on the trail. It’s probably all those late night feedings and sore nipples. Plus, dad is a slacker and contributes nothing. By the end of the day, my paranoia had officially grown eightfold. I had originally avoided the trails thinking that I would be more likely to run into a bear in the woods, but all these bears were taking their act on the road. So while I had child like enthusiasm for my first bear encounter, by the end of the day I was buttoning down the hatches against the invasion crying, the bastards are everywhere!
There have been many well meaning suggestions of bear spray, as if you just spray some on and poof, bear be gone. Let’s think about this. It really means that you have several hundred pounds of teeth and claw coming your direction and she isn’t even going to get a whiff of the stuff until she is within 30 ft and that’s presuming that you have it pointed in the right direction and haven’t just coated yourself instead. I did look into buying a can but it runs $50 in the park. It comes with the most stylish of hip holsters to keep it handy, none of which were going to work on a run and I couldn’t figure out where to put it in my pack. Apparently it takes a canister the size of a fire extinguisher to stop an angry bear. The park clearly realized that most people were unwilling to buy $50 of insurance considering that visitors are dangling their children in front of the bear to get that classic Christmas card photo op. Now Yellowstone has bear spray kiosks where you can rent a bottle for the day, but do you really want to put your faith in a used can of bear spray? Why not just reuse your condoms?
In an ironic twist, I am now searching out the busiest places to run. Come out screeching children. Hurry along in your sandals and heels. Bring on the slow and plodding. When Yogi Bear comes calling, I can out run you all!