As of late…

Things have been a bit busy, crazy, hectic, ridiculous…

I have been home for only 22 days since the 10th of April…and I’ve taken 7 different trips…most for work, 1 to Salt Lake to see Liam and Rory’s new restaurant, and 1 to Savannah, GA for a wedding.  It has been hectic, but also very good.  I’m really loving my job, teaching Wilderness Medicine Courses.  The locations have been fun, the people I work with have been great and the work is constantly challenging and the students are inspiring!  My travel is not done yet…in fact, tomorrow I’m headed for the Bay area to teach a re-certification course, and then lead a backpacking trip for Big City Mountaineers in Yosemite!

Here are some moments from the last couple months!

I worked a 10 day course in San Francisco.

It’s hard to complain when this is what your office looks like!

While I’m gone, Woody texts me photos of our ridiculous dog! (Who sleeps like this!?!)

I had an extra day and drove around exploring…Golden Gate Park, Sutro Baths, China Beach, and Ocean Beach!

I had some beautiful weather!

Cleo found a peacock in our neighbor’s yard.

I taught two courses in Portland…

Some rain, some sun, very pretty!

Super fun to see Avery & Eloise and spend some time with Ciaran and Kate!  Looking forward to my next course in the area!

Judy and Laura came for a visit…we packed in quite a bit into two days!  LACMA!

Woody’s favorite piece of art…

We took a quick weekend trip to Salt Lake City to see for ourselves, Liam, Rory and Andrew’s new venture, Avenues Proper.  I am so proud of my brothers!  From an inkling of an idea a ways back…to an open and functioning restaurant and brewery – amazing!

Looking forward to my next trip!

We managed to make it up to Heber to see the horses!

And of course, we watched as much Game of Thrones as we possibly could and played a lot of Excite Truck – a special request of Liam!

Neither of us had seen Utah’s new Museum of Natural History.

Call me impressed!

The views are gorgeous!

A trip to Salt Lake would not be complete without a stop here…

and of course the Mole Sampler!

Back to southern California…and I headed to Lake Cachuma to teach a weekend course.  It’s halfway between Santa Barbara and Los Olivos!

I squeezed in a pre-birthday dinner with this lady!  Love her…and love me some chicken and waffles (Liam – your version is better!).

Next, we were off to Savannah, GA for the wedding of our friends Jon & Sara.

Saw some thunderhead’s building up over the middle of the country.

Explored the moss-covered trees and parks in the historic district!

Spotted a mode of transportation that NEEDS to be in my future.  I’ll be driving the scooter and Woody will ride shotgun!

Lots of fun catching up with friends from Harvard!

And ogling the crazy super-yachts and sailboats docked on the river!

These two are so cute and so in love…and they share the same birthday…Valentine’s Day.  I think I just threw up in my mouth.  Just kidding…I love ’em!

The ceremony was perfect and the basil gimlets were delightful!

On our flight home, Woody sat across the aisle from Ernie Hudson – one of the original Ghostbusters!  This is my stealthy photo!

Flying back from Savannah was the start of too much time in airports…which included Savannah, Houston, LAX, Burbank, SFO and Chico…all within 24 hours.  SFO is where I spent 13 unplanned hours…after multiple flight delays and a cancelation…I finally arrived at my hotel in Chico at 3:15 am.

Don’t worry I managed to get almost 3 hours of sleep before I was up again and getting ready to teach 30 students for 10 days straight!

My co-instructor and I made a point to go on the Brewery tour at Sierra Nevada.

They have an impressive facility, which they’ve built over the years!

They have (one of?) the largest privately owned solar arrays in the country…and plenty of sun!

The tour ended with a tasting, many of the beers I had not tried before!

Then there was more teaching.  We employ very creative teaching techniques…here, my co-instructor Liam is acting out a patient with cardiac issues as I run through a patient assessment!

Also…it was hot!  (did I mention this?)  It was REALLY hot!

Also, really beautiful!

I arrived home…for 5 hours…and found some presents waiting for me!!!

Love the clutch!  Thanks Giselle!

And then I opened the clutch to find this…

“For those of you wondering where my beard went: fret not it is still around, just not on my face. Liz has it.”

-Mark Fischer via Facebook

Home for a couple hours…and then I was off to drive north of Malibu, where I taught a weekend WFA course at a camp near Leo Carillo State Beach.  I was making a phone call and turned around to see this little guy.  Actually, he wasn’t so little!

More teaching!

I got back Sunday…cumpled into bed exhausted and spent Monday putting my life back together as my time at home is short once again.  Monday night we put my latest birthday present from Woody, a baking steel (kind of like a pizza stone but made of pure steel) to the test and had two delicious pizzas!

Tuesday was a blur…and this morning, WOody and I were up before 5 am to get him to the airport with his Watermaster raft and all his fishing gear for a week of fishing near the Henry’s fork of the Snake river.

I returned home after a stop for some coffee and took Cleo for her morning walk.

June Gloom has set in full force…but who can complain when your trees shower the sidewalks with purple flowers!

Back on the road tomorrow…home at the end of June with hopefully some more photos and an adventure or two to share!

Happy Summer!

It’s Wednesday…

And we are well into the month of March. Where does the time go? I’m afraid I’ll blink and it will be April!

This week I’m…

  • Prepping for my next WFR course in San Francisco…
  • Playing travel agent and locking down flights for a bunch of trips coming up (both work and personal)…
  • Enjoying the 80 degree weather we’re having…
  • Realizing the house needs a thorough cleaning…
  • Enjoying this video…
  • Hoping to find a day to head back up to Mt. Baldy, now as an official Patroller Candidate…
  • Attending a baby shower
  • Am thinking this might just have to be made…

    • Trying to catch up on missed episodes of Revenge (guilty pleasure)…
    • Going to see some Western Swing on Friday evening – Cow Bop is playing at Viva Cantina in Burbank…
    • Sending Woody off to Berkeley to give a talk, and to Palo Alto for some more beam time…
    • and I can’t seem to get enough of this little gem either…

How is your week going?

Snapshots and a bit more…

So far 2013 has been pretty great!

I started a new job (teaching wilderness medicine courses) which is working out great!  My first course was in Berkeley and I had the privilege of teaching with a friend from college!

My students were an interesting mix and even wrote a limerick about me on the last day of class!

After Berkeley, it was on to Utah to (hopefully) get in a few days of skiing, see my family and meet up with Woody who gave a talk at the U!

The weather did its best to keep us from skiing…freezing rain storm, weird inversion, crazy fog, horrible air quality…so while woody was busy, I did my best to keep busy!

Liam and Rory and their partner Andrew are deep in the midst of recipe testing, construction, beer brewing, contractor and architect meetings in preparation of opening their gastropub in the Aves – they’re hoping to open in April!  Check them out on facebook, there has been quite a bit of buzz about them already, as evidenced here.

Work got crazy for Woody and he had to head back to Pasadena a couple of days early, but my last day in town, Wynne, Liam and I headed up to Alta for my first day of skiing in a couple of years.  (which, by the way, is a totally depressing fact!)

I’ve got to admit…I surprised myself.  I pretty much thought my legs would crumble to pieces after a couple runs…but they held up well.  Although it was INCREDIBLY windy, it was snowing and it just kept snowing more and more…so much that it was hard to finally decide to call it a day.  Great snow…great skiing…and I only really crashed hard once.  We expected a bit of a slog down canyon (Sunday evening, the OR show ended, Sundance Film Festival ended, Alt Summit ended, roads were bad, everyone stayed later since the skiing was soooo good).  However…none of us expected this…

We left the parking lot at 3:45 pm.

We arrived home at 7:35 pm.

The drive is just about 20 miles.

We averaged 5 miles an hour.

It was AWFUL!

For me the next morning meant a 5:00 am wake up so I could get to the airport for a 7:30 am flight back to Pasadena.  It continued snowing all night long, and while I made the (silly) assumption that the roads might be vaguely plowed…and by roads I mean Interstate 80…by 5:30 in the morning…I was proved wrong.

Between snowy slick roads, dragging luggage through piles of slush, overheated airports and the general unpleasantness of travelers before the crack of dawn…my morning was less than stellar!  Let’s just say I was pleased to be returning to mid-70 degree weather!

Back in Pasadena, Cleo and I got into a fairly regular schedule.

We’ve spotted some unusual things…

This is about a 10 inch long lizard tale artfully placed on our front stoop.  I have yet to see the tail-less lizard lurking around.

A few of our mornings have been quite cold!  (I can hear the laughter of those in places like Minnesota, Utah and the east coast!)  Yes, that is ice on the top of the car.

And frost on the grass!

But…it’s still California!

Woody took off on a field trip to Death Valley with students for the weekend and I had a whirlwind Saturday that involved about 140 miles of driving.  Carrie happened to be in town for a conference the whole week and had a bit of time Saturday morning before she flew out of Orange County.  I drove down to Irvine and met up with her for some breakfast and exploring at this place…which we stumbled upon.  It was very non-orange county and was a bit of a gem!

I think it is where hipsters go to recharge their flannel-clothed-beard-wearing-yoga-loving-craft-inspired-woodgrain-addicted-batteries.  The photos on yelp explain it all.  Old Vine Cafe provided a delicious (if not huge) breakfast!  And as usual, Carrie and I never remember to get a photo of the two of us.  After dropping her at the airport, I headed towards San Pedro to explore this place and partake in a blogger crafting event in the spirit of Valentine’s Day.

Fun to make some new crafts, meet some bloggers in person whom I know through their online photos and writing.  After I finished my crafting…it was time to drive to the Hollywood/Beverly Hills area to pick up two bottles of wine Woody and I bought for some friends at a wine event the week before.

LA has so much to explore…it’s nice to get out and see some new places!

And of course, get stuck in some traffic as well.

Sunday brought another storm, and since I hauled all of my ski stuff back to SoCal from Utah, it was time to attempt skiing in Southern California.  I had high hopes…

You can spot the snowy peaks after about 35 minutes heading west on the freeway.

About 14 miles from the exit up a very windy road…you reach Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts.  This is about as far as I got…actually, I parked, had time to put on all of my gear and as I was reaching for my skis from the top of the car, one of the parking attendants drove by in a truck mentioning that the winds were blowing so hard up top…they were closing for the day.

Plans thwarted!

All was not lost…as I was just about out of the foothills, I kid you not…a BOBCAT ran across the road in front of my car about 30 feet away!  My jaw dropped and I actually said it out loud in the car…”I just saw a bobcat run across the road!”  It looked just like this…except running!

Thanks to Mr. Bobcat – all was not lost!

Since I have chunks of time in between the courses I teach, I have been trying to get out as much as possible and explore new areas of LA county.  Jennie and I both had a Wednesday afternoon free…so we took Cleo for a hike in Eaton Canyon.  It’s a beautiful area…very popular…and on the weekends very crowded.  It’s a quick 3 mile round trip hike up to the waterfalls and much of it is shaded.  The afternoon was made even better when we topped it off with a stop for some frozen yogurt!

Valentine’s Day came and went.  Woody and I made Gruyere Fondue and started watching season 1 of The Wire…again.

Cleo has been enjoying the sun…Her tongue sticking out is too much in this pic!

With our chilly nights, she has also made it a habit (Woody has been a bad influence) to snuggle under the covers early in the morning until we can’t hit snooze on our alarm clocks anymore.

Fast forward to yesterday, it was time for Mt. Baldy: Round Two!

There are a couple of things to note about the image above.

1.  There is not a lot of snow on the ground – therefore, you have to take Chair #1 up to “The Notch” in order to even get to any terrain that would be mildly ski-able.

2.  I count approximately 15 cars visible – another area is out of view…so on the high-end, let’s estimate that there are 70 cars in the parking lot.  Total!  And not all of those are cars of skiers and snowboarders.  Mt. Baldy is very popular for scenic rides to the Notch, and there is a tubing area as well.

3.  It was cold – about 25 degrees.

4.  Those are some rickety chairs…also chair #1 takes approximately 25 minutes.

At this point I still wasn’t quite sure what I had gotten myself into.

At the top of the lift, it was more than a little unclear as to where the other lifts were.  Not a whole lot of signage and no obvious flow of skiers.  Only two lifts with actual ski-able runs were running, and 1 is really a short connector chair to get you back up to the notch from the gully where chair #3 is.

This little place is a lot like Alta, in that, everything is open…runs are not defined by trees…only defined by the amount of snow.  If they had a 3 foot base, you could ski anywhere and it would be amazing.  I headed off to skier’s left to catch what was left of the 10 inches of new snow from the storm that is now plowing towards the east coast.  I’m glad I did, although I skied over my fair share of willows trying to poke through the snow and at least a few rocks…and there were definitely some icy patches.

Apparently, the ski patrol (most of which is volunteer) all have crampons and ice axes in their lockers as there is a good chance that somebody gets themselves into a place that they can’t get out of…and just skiing out to them to assist is not really an option.

It was a lot like skiing at Alta is like in early November.  Thin is a bit of an understatement.  The views are incredible, the two groomed runs were really pleasant, and the complete lack of yahoos is unheard of for Southern California!  The view above is looking back towards the LA basin and the view below is looking out towards Victorville…basically you can see a good third of the way to Vegas.

I skied more than I thought I would…answered a lot of questions about “why I was cross-country skiing down the mountain?”…and decided to call it a day, knowing that it would be about an hour and a half before I got home with the 30 minute lift ride and traffic back to Pasadena.

So when I came up, I had to put my skis on right before getting on the lift…and coming down, you have to take your skis off…then they load them on to the chair behind you and hope the chair doesn’t swing so much that your skis slide right off.    The liftee was flummoxed by my tele skis…they don’t lock together and the center bar of the chair makes it difficult to hold your own skis.  Finally a sunbeaten older patroller came to the rescue and taught the liftee how to do it.  Riding down a chairlift with no skis on was a new experience as well!

All in all, it was a good day.  I’m glad I went and I might even look into getting onto their volunteer patrol.  I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the next storm and see if I can get more than 2 days of skiing in this winter!


Now you are up to date!

Phew…that was a long one!

So it’s 2013…

Turns out (shocking, I know) I took a lot of photos during 2012…perhaps too many.  Some made it up here, but at least 80% did not.  I found a neat little app (memovy) that will time-lapse photos from your phone and add a little music to it as well.

(also, I mistakenly titled it 2013…when it should really say 2012…but I can’t change it now…so deal)

Here’s a quick recap of 2012…

We traveled to…

  • Monterey, CA
  • Colorado
  • Utah
  • Portland
  • South Africa
  • San Francisco
  • Mammoth
  • Jackson, WY
  • Yellowstone
  • Arizona
  • Idaho
  • Sonoma
  • DC
  • Santa Barbara
  • Princeton, NJ
  • Georgia
  • Lander, WY
  • and probably a few other places I’ve forgotten.


  • Attended two college graduations
  • Threw a joint 60th birthday party
  • Celebrated from afar another 60th birthday
  • Went wine tasting (three times)
  • Went on at least 2 fishing trips
  • Quit a job
  • Then got a job with NOLS (bucket list)
  • Cooked a lot of good food
  • Completed a Triathlon
  • Lost 10 pounds
  • Had papers published
  • Breathed new life into our 12-year-old Subaru (According to our checkbook, it should last another 12 years now)
  • Reconnected with a friend from high school
  • Reconnected with at least 5 friends from college
  • Watched our nieces and nephew grow up (way too fast)
  • Visited family
  • Had family visit us
  • Drove MANY miles
  • Worked hard
  • Threw a Christmas party
  • Had friends visit us
  • and I’m sure there is more…

Here’s to an even better 2013 filled with more adventures, road trips, friends and family!

5 Good Things…Fall Edition!

1.  It ACTUALLY feels like fall this morning…although the sun is trying to come out and ruin it.

2.  Walking Woody to work with Cleo and enjoying said previously mentioned fall weather…and walking home with a hot coffee!

3.  Having lunch with my old boss and catching up on all the latest from my previous job…which is even better…because I get to relish the fact (privately) that I don’t have to deal with any of that drama!

4.  Looking forward to a weekend spent in Santa Barbara county tasting some wine with friends!

5.  It’s finally cooled off enough that we slept with the windows wide open last night and the fan on high.  This also means that Cleo will let us sleep in a bit more as she comes under the covers early in the morning and enjoys sleeping all snuggled and cozy under the blankets.


This guy…

…just an orphaned 234 lb. walrus who has a new home at the New York Aquarium.  He’s awkward and cute!

If only time would slow down…

I’d have enough of it to update this little blog more often.  Sometimes, I get hung up on trying to recap everything that I’ve been doing…and when there is not enough time to do that…I just ignore it altogether.  So…here’s what’s been going on around here…

We did some fishing in and around Mammoth Lakes…

and when someone else is doing the majority of the ‘catching’…a cold one tastes mighty fine…

Cleo joined us on the trip and got in on the action with some swimming for birds!

Can’t get enough of the Sierras!

More on that trip in a future post…

Next up…Monterey, CA!

Thanks to Woody’s intellectual prowess…we get the bonus of a trip to Monterey in September for the next four years thanks to a Packard Fellowship for the annual meeting.  He has business to attend to during this meeting…but I just enjoyed the trip…especially the part about before-hours access to the Monterey Bay Aquarium!

Not a bad view from the hotel…

Woody gave his talk on the first morning, which worked out well and he could relax a bit after that.

Plenty of otters in the bay…I spent hours watching and photographing.  It was actually hard to look out at the ocean and not see at least one!

The weekend is busy with talks given by the fellows but there was also plenty of time to socialize and get to know the attendees.  We were lucky to have a good friend/colleague of ours from another University to hang out with at the lunches and dinners!

Seals, sea lions, cormorants, herons, kayakers…

We were treated to a fog free weekend – just beautiful!

Look closely…that is an entire raft of otters…pretty much a party out there in the kelp beds!

Sunrise over the bay

Just to top it off…we shared a flight back to LAX with a certain famous person.  Many would know him as McDreamy…and although Woody now thinks I’m a stalker for knowing who he is and being a bit starstruck…it was a quick reminder that celebrities are real people (at least some of them) who fly commercial airlines.  Even better than the sighting, was the very tipsy woman across the aisle on the plane who drunk-whispered (as in I’m sure the whole plane heard her) “Is that guy up there famous or something…?”  He looks so familiar…what’s his name…I could be seeing things…I’ve had a little too much sun today and a…lot…of…wine…”  Priceless!

Alright this post has gotten a bit longer than intended…so…here’s part one.  Part two including a recap of our Teton trip and some other recent adventures/mishaps coming soon!

Bears – A Fascination & A Fear

Bears intrigue me.

{taken at Anan Bear Observatory in Southeast Alaska}

My affinity for bears has been growing since my first encounters with black bears in the mountains west of Pikes Peak as an 11-year-old camper at Sanborn.  There was a dump for camp trash, and a frequent evening activity with your cabinside was to hop in a camp van, drive the few miles down the road to the dump at dusk and hope you might spot some bears scavenging through the trash.  Sometimes it was a mother with three cubs, sometimes just 1 or 2 bears…but I was hooked.  Bears were different, there seemed to be qualities that I just couldn’t nail down that made them stand out from the other wildlife I encountered (elk, coyotes, deer, beavers, and even cougars).  I probably wasted at least 2-3 rolls of 110 mm film on blurry bears and trash using this camera.


In college, I took a class called ‘Writing from Wild Sense of Place’ and we spent a good portion of the class backpacking in the rocky mountains.  When not on the trail, we were writing quite a bit and reading Edward Abbey, Terry Tempest Williams, Rick Bass and what became my favorite ‘The Grizzly Years’ by Doug Peacock.  Up until that point, writing about nature had been quiet and mostly historical; I always felt detached from the natural world that was being written about, as if it had changed in the space of time between when it was written and when I read it.  The Grizzly Years changed that for me.  It was palpable and relate-able.  It was about humanity and nature, war and solace, feeling out-of-place and finding connections all at the same time.

In 2004, I was offered a chance to work in Alaska as a guide for an at-risk youth program leading 46 day expeditions in the inside passage which included ocean canoeing, backpacking, glacier travel and canoeing the Stikine river.  It was an opportunity I could not turn down.  However, it was not without risk.  The course areas were remote, the students were at-risk, the environment was tough and the brown and black bear populations were high.

{Taken at Anan Bear Observatory}

 And then it happened, a student on course was bitten by a brown bear.  He survived the attack and was flown out by helicopter, with no lasting damage, but I was brought in to relieve the staff who were there when it happened.  I spent 5 days with that group, helping to process what had happened and ease them back into the expedition.  All seemed to be going well until the last evening I was to be with the group.

{dorsal fin of a humpback whale in the distance, Etolin Island on the left)

We were camped on a horseshoe-shaped beach on Etolin Island (the plan was to circumnavigate the island by canoe) in mid-April.  Etolin Island is unique in that it is home to elk.  Eight elk were transplanted in 1986 for the purposes of sport game hunting, have now  flourished and also provided a previously non-existent food source for coastal brown bears in the region.  Earlier in the day we had seen humpback whales as we rounded the southern tip of the island and had also spotted a wolf on an outcrop of rock.  We had finished dinner and were sitting around a campfire going through our evening routine while enjoying the waning evening light and watching the tide retreat.  The group consisted of 16 and 17-year-old boys who were apt to mess with each other; so proclamations of ‘there’s a bear over there’ had been common since the attack.  However, when one boy said it as we discussed the next day’s schedule…you could tell by the look on his face that he was not joking around, and in fact there was a very large brown bear who had walked out of the forest toward waterline and was beginning to dig for clams.  The three other guides and myself stood up and readied our bear spray, attempted to keep the group calm and got out the flare gun and the air horns.  The bear seemed not to notice us at first and continued searching for foods in the dusky light, we hollered a bit at the bear to get its attention and see if it would run back into the woods – nope, nothing.  Our head guide shot the flare gun towards the bear and it startled a bit and did retreat to the forest, however, it headed straight towards the line of tarps where each of the boys would sleep that evening, just inside the treeline.

The fear that washed over me, when I glanced across the receding water and saw a very large brown bear no more than 150-200 yards away…was primal, compelling and almost overwhelming.  My fight or flight response had certainly kicked in, and just like the boys in the group…my gut was telling me it was not willing to fight.  Adrenaline pumped through my veins, my legs became weak, I shivered vaguely and my voice wavered – of course all of this happening as I tried to retain some level of confidence and an inkling of respect from the teens.  Did I not mention that I was the only female on the trip?

What hit me hardest was the lack of control I had and the reality of how small and minuscule we are in the natural world.

Immediately and very seriously, the group began stating that they refused to sleep in their tarps or even go anywhere close to where they had stashed their dry bags. We discussed our options and decided that due to the prior events, the prudent thing to do would be to pack up all of our gear and paddle just across a channel to a small island offshore.  This required going into the very dark edge of the forest and taking down each student’s tarp (already set up), packing their things into their dry bag, tossing it onto the beach and getting our 7 canoes completely packed and ready to paddle.

But from a dark place of fear and anxiety and minds running wild with things that go bump in the night, are covered in fur and have very long claws…came the most peaceful paddle I’ve ever experienced.  The group operated as a well-oiled machine and by the time the last dry bag was thrown out from the edge of the woods, the boats were packed, spray skirts were tied, paddles were in hand and we were ready to launch.  The icing on the proverbial cake of the evening was the bio-luminescence visible with every paddle stroke.  The moon was out, the group was tired, the water was calm and we had avoided the known and real danger of a brown bear in our campsite.  I don’t think we paddled for more than an hour, but that paddle seemed to swallow the night.  We arrived well past midnight on another pebbly beach, anchored the canoes on high ground, grabbed our sleeping bags and tarps and slept side-by-side like a tray full of burritos.  (Please believe that I was not so naive to think that our new island was lacking in bears…only that it was not the place we had come from.)

Grizzly bears have been all over the news this last year, especially last summer with two bear-caused fatalities in Yellowstone National Park.  The most recent issue of Outside magazine also contains an article reviewing the events of last summer involving grizzly bears in the lower 48. recently published an article by Jessica Grose, detailing the investigation into the fatalities that took place in July and August of 2011.  I highly recommend reading the entire article as it details both attacks and goes into detail regarding the investigation that followed.  Although there was no conclusive evidence indicating that both attacks were committed by the same bear, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team found that the Wapiti Sow who attacked the hikers in July did feast on the hiker who was killed in August.  An easy assumption to make is that it was in fact the same bear who killed both men.  Regardless, she was trapped and euthanized and her cubs will spend their life in captivity.

We fished throughout Yellowstone the second week of September and did not see any bears.  This is fine with me.  I think my attraction shifted into fear after living and working in Alaska.  Regardless of how many bears I saw, I knew there were many more who saw me.

{taken on the western slope of Mt. Edziza, British Columbia}

I’ve come across very fresh tracks, seen steaming piles of berry filled scat, and heard plenty of noises to know that I’ve been closer than I would like to think to brown bears.  I’ve had hairs on the back of my neck stand up, I’ve had gut feelings that I should leave the area…and I have never been attacked or even charged.  The fear I feel is guttural,  it is primal and it is not something I can control.  I carry bear spray and wear a bear bell in an effort to make plenty of noise…but this does not negate the fear and the anticipation of what is possible.

This is hugely frustrating to my husband – my frequent hiking and fishing companion as he interprets my caution  and fear as unreasonable.  To his credit, he has done everything he can to make me feel more confident in the backcountry.  We both carry bear spray on our hip, are conscious about making noise and are well aware of our surroundings. And although he has grumbled about doing it, he has succumbed to my intuition when I have suggested that I think we should head to a different creek because I heard a noise, or it feels ‘bear-ish’.  He has even suggested that I carry a firearm when we fish in certain locations.  I am also very aware that part of the attraction to fishing and hiking in the backcountry is the solitude that it affords and being humbled by the largess of it all.  I, apparently want it all.  The wilderness, the quiet, the chance interactions and sightings of life and a world like it was 100 years ago…but I also want the guarantee of safety, and a mind clear of sneaking feelings of being watched.  And just as the saying goes…one can’t have its cake and eat it too.

The bottom line is that this will not keep me from doing things I love in remote places.  All that I have read and all that I have learned won’t stop me from paying attention to gut feelings and intuition, but hopefully it will have made me more prepared to manage the (unreasonable) emotions and handle any encounter (close or at a distance) that I may (be lucky enough to) have.

As “wilderness” continues to find a way into the urban world…as evidenced here and here, the basis of all thoughts, opinions and emotions surrounding bears and wild animals is a deep love and respect for them.  We do not live in a Disneyland or a zoo with fences and glass, nor should we.  I firmly believe that access to wild places is important, but I would hope to not put our access as humans above the survival of others.

Get out there, appreciate the wilds of our earth before they are gone, be safe, knowledgeable, prepared and, of course, humble!