Bear spray

by Andrew Stein

“If you want, we can lend you some bear spray” is a helpful tip we receive upon asking for hike suggestions around Banff.  

Lindsey doesn’t flinch, so I’m not sure whether I should be making it a bigger deal or not.  I look at her for a cue, and then realize.  “Hun, I don’t think they’re warning us about mosquito bites, I think they’re protecting us from grizzly and black bears.”  

For someone who I know is so afraid of bats, I can’t imagine such comfort with the idea of crossing a giant bear on the trail.

“Oh! Oh wow! Ya – I didn’t get that at all.”  Lindsey continues to think through some of the implications.  “If we see one, we spray it?  Do we run, act big, roll over?”  Okay – maybe she didn’t say the roll over part, but that’s for dramatic effect in the retellings of the story.

“If you encounter a bear, the first thing you should do is…”  There’s a short pause, but long enough for someone else behind the counter to chime in.  At the same time, we hear, “run” and “definitely don’t run”.  It’s conflicting advice, but at least now we’re armed with the most intense pepper spray (a.k.a. bear spray) we’ve ever had.

The level of fear from everyone we ask about bears is cautious but not scared, and so over a couple days, we also try to develop a similar attitude.

During the orientation of our bike tour, we’re presented with some more information on bear safety.  Stay 100 meters away if you see a bear, unless it’s right on the side of the road, and then just don’t stop.  And if a bear starts chasing you, hope you’re not the slowest cyclist – bears are fast!

On day 2 of our ride through the Canadian Rockies, we pass a black bear cub within feet of the side of the road.  A couple cars are stopped to witness this adorable cub without mama bear anywhere in sight, or so we think.  Per our directions, we keep moving.  Definitely gets our heart rates up, but it’s all part of the adventure!