Updated: Oct 24, 2021
Dwight Schrute, as impersonated by Jim Halpert, insists that Black Bears are the best bears, while Dwight himself tries in vain to insist that there are at least two schools of thought on this. But what we can say without debate is that Brown Bears are the scariest. A.K.A. Grizzly Bear or Ursus arctos horribilis which I think says it all, even if you don't speak latin.
These legendary beasts would probably prefer we simply left them alone, but if you do cross their path, or if you happen to be in between them and a picnic in your campground cooler, they will not hesitate to eviscerate you. They are famously ill-tempered and tend to take a disembowel-first-ask-questions-later type of approach to their social interactions.
Hence, in their few remaining habitats of the west which include Yellowstone and Glacier National Park, the park rangers are very clear with hikers about the dangers. In short, if you don't have bear spray, stay in the gift shop. Lori and I may not pride ourselves on backcountry training and caution, but we try not to be idiots. We bring ample water, we bring extra clothes, and a first aid kit. And we do own bear spray, albeit a bit out of code. However, on one fine day in Glacier, we found ourselves eager to do a hike that we had not expected to do. Hence, no bear spray.
But it was a beautiful day and we didn't want to miss out. So after a short debate, we began up the trail past the ominous trail signs warning us of the danger. The small handful of other hikers we saw either had their bear spray on their belts, or actually held it in their hands, fingers on triggers. Lori, ever the pragmatist, suggested we reconsider. I considered again. Then I grabbed a small, sharpened stick and we proceeded on up the trail. I also took the precautionary step of smearing mineral (zinc) sunscreen all over my face and body. This does two things. A) it protects you from the sun. B) if a bear starts eating you, it tastes like when you accidentally get Chapstick in your mouth. Yuk. So hopefully, they then spit you out. What’s left of you at any rate.
We hiked for several miles, jumping every time the smallest squirrel or bird made a sound in the underbrush. We attempted to shadow other hikers a quarter-mile back or so on the theory that they would encounter the bear first and either spook it or make it full. And, I kept my idiotic stick at the ready, except when we passed other hikers at which point it became an utter embarrassment, so I would try to drop it to my side.
It was a nice hike, if not exactly relaxing. Do what I say, not what I do. Bear spray.