Without a Bear in Sight

This hike started out like most others, except that my hiking friends from Calgary ventured south for warmer, dryer weather. I had already climbed Table Mountain three times because it’s in my area, but I should have known with them along, it would be a whole other hill of rocks. They, of course, decided toimg_4656 take the alternate route, something I was unaware existed. Silly me, I thought that dusty, fairly well-worn trail was the way up, but they had other, more risky plans. After slogging up a field of slippery scree feeling like a drunken elephant, I arrived at a chute, a rocky ladder the others were already shimmying up. Once I had hoisted my perceived elephantness up this irregular ladder, someone bothered to mention to me, with a smirk, that I could’ve avoided the chute, that there was a way to walk up. As is often the case, there was a chimney to greet me coming off the chute. I decided to bypass this chimney in favour of the trail to the right, after watching one of our shorter guys place his leg in a most unnatural position trying to climb it.

The top was as the top usually is, people running from here to there, checking out the view from different places, snapping pictures of themselves and others. The tippy top was blustery cold which resulted in aimg_4651 hasty gulping of food and drink and a scurrying back down to find the trail. Having been up previously, I thought I knew where the trail was, but we quickly ended up back at the chimney the others had gone up without me. The two guys coming up behind me, George and Phil, egged me on, telling me they had faith I could go down this way and they would help me, so, rather than backtracking like the rest of our crew, I followed them.

We were left to navigate a series of ledges which looked more doable to me from the top than they did from the bottom. We were about half way down, with my escorts flanking me and the remaining hikers img_4655watching from the ground. At one point, Phil climbed down first and George and I sat down on the ledge he vacated. Then, they both directed me to turn around and down climb that particular section, as there would be no chance of falling forward. Turning around on a ledge can be tricky, depending on how much room you have. As I was turning, my backpack grazed the wall of the mountain and I heard a “Pssshhht” sound, like the sound a can of hairspray makes when it’s discharged. Immediately, my eyes snapped shut and the pungent, fiery taste of pepper exploded in mouth. The bear spray in the side pocket of my backpack was triggered accidently when I turned, spraying me in the eyes and face. The safety clip must have fallen off somewhere along the way leaving it cocked, ready for the next charging grizzly we encountered. It’s only by the grace of God that my butt stayed glued to that ledge after being spritzed in the face with that peppery oil. I stuttered, “Ppppppepper spray”, as my eyes began to burn and stream. “Water, I need water”, I croaked to my hiking buddy, cupping my flaming face in my hands. Fortunately for me, George, who refers to himself as a camel, hardly drinks water on a hike and he began to pour his clean, cool agua into the palms of my hands which I splashed repeatedly in my eyes. I think I said the other word for poop a couple of times. I think I might’ve even laughed about the sorry mess I was in, being not even ¼ of the way down a mountain and potentially blind.

When my vision started to return, I said, “Let’s get this thing done,” and scuttled down the rest of the way. My friends on the ground greeted me with comforting sounds and more water. I lay down, uncaring, on the tick-infested, rocky earth while they poured their precious water over my still burning peepers. My left eye was the hardest hit and the wind seemed to make it worse. My dear friend, Denise, the only other lady on the hike, covered it with some gauze and gave me her sunglasses to shield it. Thus, we began the trek back to our vehicles, with me looking like some sort of disheveled hiker/pirate, as any grooming Iimg_4658 conducted in the morning had been obliterated by the splashes and splashes. (We can’t always look as we want to look, which is why I’ve included this most unflattering picture of me, edited for your amusement.) I was pleasantly surprised I was still able to navigate the terrain effectively with the use of only one eye. My left eye continued to weep and my left cheek felt like it was melting, but I had the assurance of Jesus as I journeyed down with my friends around me, that I would be okay, that my vision wouldn’t be adversely affected, and that I was capable of getting home on my own. When we arrived back at the cars, I had another dousing of water and I seem to recall some talk of eye drops. Being in health care, I’m not accustomed to being a patient, but I’m happy to report, my friends give very good care. I did go to the emergency room that evening, after calling our health link number and consulting a registered nurse, because I found further washing caused more burning of my eyes and skin. The ER staff carried on where my friends left off.

Did you know bear spray is considered a weapon and you need to show identification to purchase it? I didn’t. My husband picked up our first can. There are holsters you can buy with covers to keep the safety clip in place until you’re ready to use it. There are also many tutorials online to show you the proper way to use bear spray in case you ever meet up with a bear in your travels. I can tell you, first hand, that if you use it properly, you should have no problem getting to safety. It works to incapacitate, not to harm.  img_4648

I would also encourage you to hike with others. A noisy group of hikers is a much better deterrent for a bear than a can of bear spray and much more affordable. Besides that, hiking with others is always safer and more enjoyable. Had I been alone, who knows what would have become of me. As it was, my friends got me out of a potentially dangerous, very spicy situation. (Everything I ate on the way home tasted like pepper.) 😀 I am forever grateful for their help and friendship. 🙂

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Posts come out when I feel like it. 😀 Scroll down to the bottom of the page to follow me or sign up to receive my posts via email. All pics in this post are mine, except for the feature pic of me taken by Keith Traber and the pics of The Chute, The Chimney, and The One-eyed Hiker by George Mach. Take a peek at my Redbubble store. Pollyeloquent.redbubble.com. Thank you for giving me some of your precious time!