Thursday, August 21, 2008
Bears and Bells
Denali Park (5,400 miles traveled). I am so psyched….I was up before dawn. In fact, I was up several times before…going outside my camper, peering into the sky hoping for a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis that the North Country is so famous for. Nothing yet, but I still have several days to go! Today is prep day. I am actually camped just outside the park in sort of a staging area. It’s the last chance to stock up on food, water, propane, and other essentials like wine before heading into the park, which we do tomorrow morning. That’s right, I said we. My son Ben, and my husband Scott, are joining me for the Denali and Alaskan coast portion of the trip. I think they’re going to love it here…hope so. We’re planning to do a lot of hiking….so getting the backpacks organized is key for today. Some of you have emailed me after the Eureka post and asked what’s in the backpack. Here are a few pics and a list. Let me know (soon) if you think I’ve forgotten anything. Don’t know when I’ll be able to post again…but you should expect some great photos of Denali next time.
The stuff in the backpack (minus lunch)
1. Osprey Day Pack – I love this brand. It’s great for my size, distributes the weight well on my hips. Nice airflow against the back. All sorts of pockets, loops, etc. Has a waterproof cover (a must for Alaska).
2. Buck Knife – essential. This brand has been around forever, with good reason
3. Waterproof matches (duh)
4. Flashlight (another duh)
5. CamelBack Water Reservoir. This particular model is great because it has a wide mouth…easy to clean and fill. The hose, is well, convenient. I don’t have to stop and unscrew or flip open a water bottle. Fits well in a compartment on my pack.
4. First Aide stuff – just in case
5. Bug juice. Another essential here. I can honestly say I survived an attack by a swarm of vicious North Country black flies….but only barely! They are truly the thugs of the insect world. Mosquitoes are a mere annoyance compared to these horrors.
6. Chapstick & Sunblock – the sun is pretty intense, even this far north. It’s also light much longer…until about 10PM here
7. Camera, tripod. And binoculars. I have a Canon EOS D20 with a couple of different lenses and filters. One of my favorite pieces of gear on this trip. (not pictured because I’m using it for this photo!). Nikon Prostaff waterproof binocs.
8, SAT phone. Over-priced and poor quality, but better than nothing. It’s the size of a brick.
9. Bear spray. Its bear country. I’ve carried this stuff for the past week every time I go in the woods. More on bear stuff below. Thanks to Des Cika for providing me with the latest in bear spray technology.
Bear Spray, w/safety
10. Trail Mix & Power bars. Now I know people get really religious about what makes a good trail mix. Personally, I like nuts and dried fruit..period. I do NOT like chocolate in my trail mix even though I’m a fiend for the stuff normally. I have never forgotten a trip Scott and I took several years ago and our trail mix debacle. We were getting ready for a weeklong backpacking trip in the Colorado Rockies in the Estes Park. We existed for a week on freeze dried food and trail mix. A huge bag of trail mix. We made the trail mix before leaving. It had nuts, dried fruit, coconut flakes and an ample supply of chocolate chips. It was tasty, and certainly provided energy throughout the day. The problem was that after a day or so the chocolate melted and the whole thing became this giant heavy glop, that was sticky and messy. Chocolate got everywhere, including on us and our cloths…attracting more insects…you get the picture. No chocolate.
11. Walking stick. These are really great for hiking and day climbing. Mine has a couple of different bases for use in different terrain and weather conditions. It also has a built in compass. It has a bell as well (which I’ve put back on for the photo). The idea behind the bell is that it will make noise as you walk as scare off the bear(s). Others consider it a "dinner bell" for the bears.
Bears and bells
I had a conversation some years ago when I was in Montana with a story-telling, tobacco chewing (and spitting) cowboy. It was fall and I’d wanted to go horseback riding on Big Mountain. Turns out you are required to have a guide for this, so I hired one, his name was Cowboy Dave. Cowboy Dave is one of these larger than life, colorful characters who can spin a yarn a minute. He wore a big ten-gallon hat and had a huge Montana belt buckle…nearly the size of the state of Montana! He entertained me all day with one story after another. They were all made up of course. Toward the end of the day I asked about the effectiveness of bells in scaring off bears. I was planning to go hiking the next day in Glacier Park, where there are also grizzlies, and wondered if I should take some bells along. Cowboy Dave leaned back in his saddle and said (with a long drawn out cowboy drawl)…”well, do you know the difference between black bear scat and grizzly bear scat?” I thought about potential answers, and brilliantly surmised that this was not going to be about size and color…so answered, “No Cowboy Dave, I do not know the difference”. His response was simple and straightforward, “the grizzly bear scat has the bells in it” Nuff said. I should add that when I find myself hiking and worried about the bears, I just start singing. Those of you who have heard me sing know that this is enough to scare off anything.
Walking stick w/silly bear bell (bright green). I guess the bright color makes it easier to see in the bear scat.