The day after I overcame water shortages, rain marches and shoe melting I was about 3 miles West of the PCT, hiking down to Holman Pass. It was about 7am and I was groggy and a little crabby from the discomfort my melted left shoe was providing. Trudging down a few switch backs the slope rose high above me and plummeted down to the center of the earth, or somewhere close, all obscured by heavy, damp brush.
As I rounded a blind curve I caught sight of a large black mass about 75 yards out blazing toward me down the trail. It’s head down barreling in my direction, 50 yards and closing, my heart skipped a beat as I identified the creature. Instantaneously and automatically, as if I preformed the procedure a thousand times like a Duck-and-Cover or a Stop-Drop-and-Roll, I unbuckled my pack, fluidly grabbed for my pepper spray and my walking sticks that were clipped to the side of my pack and prepared myself for one of two things – a drop pack and run or a stand and fight.
30 yards out and closing. There was no where for me to go… 20 yards… The trail was too steep to jump out of the way so I stood my ground… 10 yards…I started bashing my walking sticks together as hard and as angrily as I could and out from my mouth I released the most deep and authoritative shout. Growling from my vocal cords I shouted “Bear! Bear! Bear!”, smashing my walking sticks together like a warrior getting psyched for a fight. The bear, just a few feet in front of me darted down slope into the thick brush and disappeared.
I stood on the trail alone and silently contemplated what just happened. Was I really going to try and fight a bear? Man, I’m crazy. I thought about my little can of pepper spray and my walking sticks that somehow gave me confidence. However, I knew well before my encounter that that little can of spray wasn’t designed for bears and those walking sticks that big old bear would use to pick remnants of me out of his teeth. What was I thinking. I stood there for a few more minutes listening to the woods and reflecting. Then I slowly continued down the trail feeling like there was nothing up ahead that I couldn’t face.