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Adventures in Mindfulness

Katie Estes is a freelance designer, art director, photographer and stylist. She sometimes writes too. 


Katie Estes

Been driving too long?  

Try bear spray.  

We camped at a spot with bear boxes for your food and signs everywhere advising caution towards the bears in the area. I didn't have the bear spray yet, but I did have "the monthlies" as the late Jim Harrison called it. The internet told me to pour baking soda over tampons, but Flo the camp host said it was a myth. I asked her about the bear activity in the area and she told us that they've had a bear around for about ten years. She just had cubs and one got hit by a driver that sped off. Someone saw the momma bear drag her cub off the road. Flo told us that there was an actual wake for the bear cub, with cars lining up alongside the road with flowers. 

I was also in much need of a shower, which the camp lacked. She called around to another camp asking if their showers were open, talking up their sister camp like it was better than hers, then casually mentioning that her camp also had a lake. We drove to the back of the site and creeping into view was a massive lake with the Tetons as a backdrop. We grabbed a site right by the water and I bathed in the lake (in a swimsuit) like the crazy wolf woman the kids watching me upstream thought I was.  

Our neighbor, whose introduction to us was a photo of two 9 foot Grizzlies attacking a bait barrel in Alaska, brought us a plate of wild caught Alaskan salmon later in the evening. He had multiple weapons and told us he slept with his .45 facing out, if any bears came to close. Lying in the tent with the fly off so we see the stars, I took a different approach to bear safety. In what I'm told was a prayer, I said to the momma bear that I'm sorry she lost her cub. Patty can take care of it now. 

The next day, from the car, we saw a bear crossing the street. I was the first one to see it, causing a "bear jam." Cars lined up in both directions. It drifted off into the woods unaware of the excitement it caused.

I bought the bear spray later down in Jackson. On the way up to Bozeman we stopped in west Yellowstone on one of the turnouts. My adventure partner told me to join him past the thicket to look at the river. 

"Bring your bear spray." He said as I balked that there were bears. I grabbed it and clipped the safety plastic thread, and removed the orange clip wondering how it worked. I sprayed it, and with a powerful jolt a cloud of orange pepper shot out. "Oh shit." I thought, and ran coughing and spitting. My nostrils were coated with cayenne down into the sinuses. When I took a shower later my hands and forearms tingled and burned. So, granted, I could have been more careful trying out my bear spray but I did not accidentally spray my face. But it did wake me right up!