I have been hiking all over the lower mainland of British Columbia for the last few months as part of my training for Mount Kilimanjaro and really just because I love to hike and live in the coolest place ever for easy to get to, really amazing hikes!
However, throughout these past few months of hiking I have noticed a few things that scare me about this wonderful, amazing world of British Columbia trails…
I really like teddy bears and think they are cute and great and wonderful. I have this little one from my nephew that when you press his paw there is a recording of my nephew saying “Love you Auntie B” and then he makes a kiss sound. So cute. Or my favourites Benjamin the teddy bear who loves ice cream or the amazing Tenderheart Care Bear from when I was a kid. Oh so cute!
Any who, I am NOT taking about teddy bears here…
I am talking about the real, beastly bears that stalk the forests looking for blonde Scottish Ukrainian women to munch on. Oh yes, you read that right. Studies say that bears like haggis perogies and especially those like me who cannot run faster than a toddler with a sippy cup in hand.
This whole idea that bears can run in bursts at speeds up to 55km per hour, they have an acute sense of smell and hearing, good eyesight, they are strong swimmers, can climb trees, and that all bears are dangerous – is more than a bit nerve racking! Hello of course they are dangerous. They are mighty warrior omnivore beasts. And the last time I checked, all the other meat in a forest could run or swim or climb much faster than me!
Every time I enter the forest, I feel like one of the plates at a sushi restaurant that just goes around on that moving plate carousel thing in front of the diners – just waiting to be picked off by the bear that has a hankering for my particular fleshy taste that day!
I like to imagine that all cats are the same. So cute and cuddly, they all make that great little purr sound when you scratch their neck just behind and below the ears, and all like to roll onto their backs and look at you upside down with that wonderful little I-love-you-and-would-never-eat-you look. Yes of course many are well a little snobbish and could care less if you exist, but through their kitten snobbishness I feel their love all the same.
Well now, this is obviously not true for cougars…
Hmm any “kitty cat” known for saying hello with a crushing bite from behind between the spine and base of the skull, is up to 2.5 meters in length, weighs 90 kilograms, eats only meat, and is more likely to attack a child under age 16 – is not a nice pet!
The fact that every pamphlet I have read says something like “we do not understand what triggers a cougar attack” is not ok with me. What do you mean we don’t know? We can fly into space but we cannot figure out a cougar? People! Can we get NASA focused on cougars please!?
It goes without say that me on the moving sushi plate buffet applies to cougars as diners as well. Seems I prefer to be the only cougar on the trail ha ha ha
Keep Calm and Hike On
I do most of my hiking alone, so have to find ways to get out there without over thinking the fear of cougars and bears (not to mention random creeps that may be trolling the trails). I have a couple of “tricks up my sleeve” for making the trail my happy place. So far they have worked perfectly so don’t be busting my bubble here!
- I spend a lot of time selecting the trails I hike. Usually this means trolling the Vancouver trails and BC Parks websites looking for great, long hikes that take me deep in the beautiful wilderness BUT where there are NO comments from hikers that mention bears or cougars or creeps. Bugs, mud, no views, poor parking, overgrown trails – none of those comments scare me. But you mention one claw mark or potential sighting of something that has fur on it and that trail is dead to me.
- I pretend to fix my shoes and/or pack at the start of a trail until a couple or maybe a few hikers have started up the trail and then I quickly join the trail as well and work my butt off to keep them in at least hearing distance. This way I am not really hiking alone. So if Mr. Bear found me, hopefully these random hikers would hear my screams and come to the rescue. I know I am putting a lot of faith in the human race but I trust hikers. They don’t litter and people who don’t litter must be nice people, right! They are probably also really nice to dogs and old people and recycle. I like that. Good people.
- If alone on the trail, I yell out loudly at fairly regular intervals (+/- 50 steps) the word “Yuup”. When I say yell, I do really mean a good, loud holler. I may actually sound a little like that guy from Storage Wars now that I think of it – hmm that’s a bit disconcerting and unattractive. Any way…I understand that part of the reason altercations between woman and beast happen is because the furry hell creature has been startled by what seems an out of nowhere appearance of a human. With me yelling “Yuup” as I hike there is no chance of startling anyone. This includes bears, cougars and other hikers who hear me and walk past wondering if I have sampled the mushrooms from the forest floor or something. Even if not alone, the “Yuup” theory is encouraged (much to the entertainment and eventual participation of Lana, Lance and Matty on the Lions Bay Loop in July).
- Finally, as I hike I keep a sharp eye out for natural weapons on the trail. I am not even joking. I will pass a rock and make a mental note that it would be good to pick up if a bear attacks me or see a pointy stick and think hmm that will be good to grab if a cougar jumps out right now. Don’t worry my sharp eye is not about depressing stuff. I also look for items that look like hearts. We are a family that loves hearts. For the hearts, I stop and take pictures for Pinterest and Instagram (of course!). For the weapons, I just make note of as part of my exit / fight back strategy should I need to invoke my inner cave women!
Hiking … doesn’t this make it sound wonderful!
PS: 46 Sleeps to Departure for Africa