Every year my son and I hike in the Canadian Rockies. We’ve been doing this for about thirteen years now. Every year my wife grills us about safety. Do you have bear spray? Do you have bug spray? She always ends with, “Be careful out there and don’t fall off the mountain”!
In the 13 years we’ve been doing this, and loving it I might add, we have only encountered a bear once (if you can call it that). It was four years ago and the bear was on the trail in Jasper National Park some 500 or more metres ahead of us. When we yelled and my brother-in-law set off a “bear banger” (that is a device that makes a very loud bang) the bear took off like a “bat out of hell”.
The other encounter was in 2004, 11 years ago when my son was about ten. We arrived at our camp site called Lillian Lake in Kananaskis country near Calgary, Canada with our back packs, set them down and went to explore the campsite for a few minutes. After several minutes, we returned to the spot we selected to set up the tent only to discover that a squirrel (the common red squirrel to be exact) had started to chew a hole in the top of my son’s pack attempting to get at the trail mix. To rub salt in the wound, it was the first time my son had used his brand new backpack. When I let my wife know that we returned safe and sound, and that we had an incident with an animal, she “freaked out” thinking it was a bear of course.
The irony of course was this year while my son and I were on our hiking excursion in Banff National Park, seeing very little wildlife other than two Golden-mantled Ground squirrels begging for food, my wife had an encounter of her own. My wife is a very social person and on the Saturday of our trip she went to a Barn Dance, an event that doesn’t occur much any more. When she returned home, she opened the front door, put down her keys and cell phone, and returned to the vehicle to collect some more items. At the truck she turned toward the house and saw movement, to her horror she realized it was a skunk of the front step! She was trapped. She “freaked out” to say the least (That is probably an understatement if you know my wife). She eventually found her way to the back of the house, found the spare key and entered the house.
As she typically does when worked up, she decided to talk to one of our daughters about it, even though it was midnight. Our eldest daughter was still up, so she phoned her. Upon telling our daughter about the skunk encounter, and getting herself progressively more worked up, my wife started thinking, “What if she had left the door open while unloading the van?” What if she had watched the skunk go into the house? This really made her hysterical. My daughter, the calm, cool, collected person she is, had to talk her mother down.
How is that for irony? While out hiking in the wilderness, it is very rare that we encounter any wildlife other than those annoying mosquitos, pesky flies and the occasional curious squirrel. But my wife has an encounter with some wildlife in our small town of 5 000 people where we live. Go figure!