When you hit the trails in Grand Teton Park you will be reminded over and over again “Be Bear Aware”. Even the out houses, which by the way are very tidy considering they are used by millions of tourists, post warnings. When you perch for a pee, a sign on the back of the outhouse door offers wise advice.
“Do not feed the bears. Do not leave food around. If you see a bear, do not run. Carry bear spray.”
Before beginning our exploration, we stopped at the ranger station and bought an over priced 50-buck can of bear spray. I thought it was an -over-the-top-precaution tourist trap until we ran into Yogi. In true Wild West form, Gerald carried the repellent on his hip like a gun, ready to spray an attacking beast for protection.
At the Jenny Lake Trail, we started our hike and as usual I lagged a bit behind Gerald, the billy goat out front. I heard a rustling noise of what I thought was a small animal like a raccoon in the brush behind me. I turned around to see a big brown animal.
“Uh oh. A bear.”
My natural instinct was to run, which they warn you never to do. While back peddling in slow mo, the fearless Frenchman turned and charged toward the beast, dropped to his knee and began shooting. No, not bullets, or bear spray, but pictures. I held my breath in awe as Mr. Bear lumbered across the footpath 30 feet away.
For the rest of the hike, I tripped over boulders and stumps never paying attention to where I was stepping, because I was so busy scouting right and left in the berry patches and forests. I expected a grizzly to lumber out of woods any minute.
Further along our hike toward the water falls, we heard what sounded like campers singing, “Hi ho, hi ho its off to work we go” coming from the opposite direction
Around the next bend we crossed a family with 6 kids in matching T-shirts and marched by single file singing at the top of their lungs. “Keep your eyes peeled,” the mom said jiggled bells. “We crossed a grizzly on the path back there.”
“Whaaat???” said the Japanese couple behind us. Pointing to Gerald’s six-shooter on the hip, they asked, “Can we hike with you?”
We made it the falls without incident and headed across the river to the other side of trail along Jenny Lake where we met up with a French tourist. He warned, “On a juste passé un grizzly.”
They had been way laid by a grizzly that refused to budge from the trail where we were headed. To my relief and my husband’s disappointment we never faced off with Mr. Grizzly.
Later, when we met Canadians from Winnipeg, we warned them about bears and they scoffed, “It’s no big deal. At home Bears live in our backyard.”
Seriously though do take precaution and play it smart if not yourself then for the wildlife. Bear in mind these sad statistics : fourteen bears are killed every year due to foolish tourists, so if you hike the Grand Tetons be bear aware as much for their safety as yours.