She talked about it; she dreamed about it, she never let it go. This was how a friend of mine regarded her fear of coming across a bear when we would go hiking in the wilderness areas of Idaho. Her character is strong in all other ways. She is kind, hard working, intelligent, prosperous and loving. But when the word “bear” crosses those ears of hers, she turns to Jell-O. In other words, her life is somewhat Un-Bear-Able!
We were hiking last spring in the Coeur d’Alene mountains going for a 10 mile excursion to visit one of the beautiful alpine lakes that are plentiful through out this part of Idaho. We packed a lunch, threw on our backpacks and set off for a glorious day of exercise and becoming one with nature. My friend, however, was nervous and carried a canister of bear spray (kind of like pepper spray only for bears) with her just in case. I assured her that bears were harmless in this area. Only black bears roamed the woods here…no grizzlies I told her. Yet she was set out to believe that a bear was a bear and in her mind, they were all very very bad.
After about an hour of vigorous hiking we sat down for a minute to take a drink of our water and take in the natural beauty that surrounded us. SNAP! went a tree branch just up the trail and there it was…everything she ever imagined in her worst nightmares was in front of her. It was, you guessed it, a big black 10 foot growling snarling bear! Actually, that is how she remembers it. It was actually a small female black bear just crossing the path about 50 yards in front of us. My good friend screamed, grabbed a hold of me and started to shake. I joined in with the screaming part because the first thing you do when you come across a bear is make a lot of noise to scare it off. So I figured, what the heck, I might as well scream too to make her feel better.
Well, the bear scurried off, my friend almost fainted and I laughed till I cried. I gave her a few minutes for her heart to slow down from it’s 160 beats a minute and then I calmly and gently said to her, “You see, bears are not going to hurt you”. She calmly said to me, “We got lucky this time buster”. Well, needless to say, this experience did not help her fear of bears but only increased the intensity of her phobia.
We still go on hikes together and now my friend is more at peace in the wilderness like never before. No, she did not get over her extreme terror of bears. No, her dreams have not stopped. No, she has not made peace with this precious animal. When we returned to our city dwellings after that last hike, my dear loveable sweet caring friend immediately called up a shooting gallery, enrolled in a class to learn how to shoot a gun, and now carries a pistol on her side whenever we roam the hills and valleys of bear country (just in case, she says). My friend feels less nervous and seems to enjoy our hikes like never before. Me, I feel sorry for the poor bear.