Hiking in bear country can be dangerous. But don’t let fear get in the way of fun! Follow this two-step guide to make sure your next hike through bear country is safe and fear-free.
Step 1: Be Prepared
The most powerful fear is the fear of the unknown. By planning ahead, you can avoid most bear encounters altogether and you can make sure you know what to do if a bear crosses your path. Because bear behavior differs depending on location and time of year, you’ll want to check with local guides for how to deal with bears on your journey. But a few tips are widely applicable.
For example, always carry bear spray. Learn to use it, and make sure it is easily accessible in an emergency situation. Make noise when you’re hiking so that bears know you’re coming. They don’t want a violent encounter any more than you do. Be especially careful around high brush and rushing streams, where a quiet approach might surprise an unsuspecting bear and cause it to attack. Also, know the difference between black bears and brown bears. (Hint: Black bears can be brown in color, so remember that brown bears have a distinctive hump on their back.) If you get attacked by a brown bear, play dead until the attack stops. But if you’re attacked by a black bear, fight back with everything you’ve got.
So now you’re prepared for any bear encounter you might face, but you may still have lingering fears and nagging questions: What if the bear spray doesn’t work? What if the bear charges at me? What if my family finds my mutilated body in the bottom of a ravine? Have no fear! Simply move on to Step 2 . . .
Step 2: Embrace the Chaos, Welcome Death
Fear of bears is the symptom; fear of death is the disease. To conquer your ursine dread, you must embrace the stochastic savagery of nature. Let chaos and death into every aspect of your life. When someone sneezes, don’t say “God bless you,” say “Death is coming for us all.” When your friend loses their job, don’t say “Everything happens for a reason,” tell them “Chaos is the only reason.” And when you make love, don’t call out for God, call out for the cold clutch of nothingness and the gentle peace of glorious un-being.
Worship chaos and prostrate yourself on the alter of death. Sacrifice yourself to their all-consuming fire. Shout out to your new kings: “Chaos! Death! Bears! I am yours! Do with me what you will! Lay waste to my body and terrorize my soul!”
Bring your enlightenment to the trail. A rustle in the bushes is not a harbinger of grizzly doom, but the gentle whistling of chaos in the breeze, a listless ode to anarchy and unknowing. Around every bend is not a bear, but the possibility of endless slumber in the eternal void.
“Hey bear!” you yell into the vastness, and for the first time you hope for a response. But you receive nothing, for you have finally embraced the chaos, you have welcomed death—you don’t fear the bear anymore.