[cdt-l] Pepper Spray?

Jonathan Ley jonathan at phlumf.com
Mon Apr 2 15:32:43 CDT 2007

I usually don't jump into these things, but...

Regarding fear... this is not about irrational fear, but just being smart
and not overconfident. I've never been in a serious car accident, but I
still wear a seat belt. Am I governed by fear? I've never had a major bike
accident, but I wear a helmet when I ride. Fear? I also rope-up when
climbing on a crevassed glacier. I've never fallen into a crevasse. Am I
just too fearful? Those ropes, carabiners, and harnesses are heavy! But, I
still carry them, know how to use them, and would be a fool not to. We all
have to weigh the pros and cons of our choices. Is an 8oz can of bear spray
really that much of a burden? Does it increase your overall risk of an
accident? Maybe it's not a good solution for you, but that doesn't mean
everyone else must reach the same conclusion. For me, 8oz is not much

On making noise... What exactly do you do when you're hiking into a 30mph
wind? In bushes next to a raging stream? Both of these things are somewhat
common on the CDT. Making noise is a good idea, but not the solution to
every situation. 

On keeping a clean camp... I'd still like to know how you know how clean the
previous occupants of your camp were. In Glacier and Yellowstone, you're
camping where everyone else has... 

On hiking "experience"... In a typical year, let's say that 40 thru-hikers
go through northern Montana and Yellowstone, maybe 300 miles of Grizzly
territory. That's 12,000 miles; an order of magnitude more than anyone on
this list is claiming. Even that isn't really enough to try to extrapolate
some kind of real knowledge about the bigger picture. Have you seen the
movie Grizzly Man? Sure, he was a bit of a loon, but he really thought he
knew what he was doing, and for quite a while, his experience had proved him
right... Then, after spending thousands of hours living among grizzlies, he
got eaten. That only needs to happen once. You don't get to "learn from your
experience" in that case.

On the efficacy of bear spray... The jury is still out on this one. Sure,
you can miss, the wind can blow it away, you might just end up enraging the
bear... but until something better comes along, it seems to be the best
compromise available.

Bear spray is not a preventative measure, such as making noise, hanging
food, keeping a clean camp... You can't compare them. It is an item of last
resort, when those other things have failed.

So, don't carry bear spray if you don't want to, that's your choice on your
own hike - makes no difference to me. But, don't think that people who do
are paranoid fools either. 


-----Original Message-----
From: cdt-l-bounces at backcountry.net [mailto:cdt-l-bounces at backcountry.net]
On Behalf Of Ginny & Jim Owen
Sent: Monday, April 02, 2007 10:52 AM
To: cdt-l at backcountry.net
Subject: Re: [cdt-l] Pepper Spray?

Nitro wrote:
>   He ended up at the Pearly Gates and when he confronted St. Peter and 
>asked why he died, after all he had faith, St. Peter said "I sent people to

>warn you and a boat and a helicopter to save you, what more do you want?"

lol!! That story's older than you are. But it's not an illustration of 
"faith" but rather "lack of common sense."

>   Is it possible that those who have faith carry pepper spray and those 
>who have hubris don't?

Nope.  Have you ever watched Lynne Wheldon's lightweight video? His basic 
premise is that the things we carry indicate what our fears are.  We carry 
too much food because we fear hunger;  we carry too much clothing because we

fear being cold, etc.

Likewise, we carry a GPS because we fear being "lost" and we carry bear 
spray because we fear not only bears, but our own inability to deal with 
them.  That inability is based in fear and ignorance.  Ignorance is curable 
-  fear is a personal problem.  For my part, I refuse to allow fear to rule 
my life or actions.  Not that I don't feel fear at times - I've been shot at

too many times to kid myself about that. Fear has its utility - it keeps you

sharp and makes you pay attention, it improves your heart rate, reaction 
time, etc and generally prepares you to handle what you fear.  There's a 
book but I don't remember the title - deals specifically with the positive 
aspects of fear.  But I don't recall that it advocates allowing fear to 
dominate your life or actions.

Hubris - is assuming that nothing bad will ever happen to you. One form of 
faith - is the knowledge that no one gets out of this life alive.  Enoy it 
while you can, but realize that you're not guaranteed another breath or 
heartbeat.  Living with fear as a life-principle is not enjoment.

>   For the record, I hiked in Glacier last year sans pepper spray and came 
>upon a mamma bear and 2 yearlings unexpectedly.  The wind was blowing 
>toward Skittles and I, we were walking up and around a curve and the wind 
>was pretty loud.  Mamma didn't notice us and we didn't notice her until I 
>was only a few feet from her...had I wanted to I could have reached out and

>touched her.
After almost crapping my pants, I then vowed to take pepper spray in 2007 
when I thru hiked.

Do you really think pepper spray would have helped in that situation?  I 
suspect it would have been a lot more useful to be paying more attention - 
there aren't that many truly "blind curves" in Glacier.

>We'll see what I actually end up doing but I might bring it for the dogs if

>nothing else...I was bitten by a dog on the PCT and I hear there are some 
>nasty dogs in New Mexico so maybe I'll get it down there.

A hiking stick (Leki) does a lot more re: dogs than pepper spray - they 
instinctively know what a stick is - pepper spray is just something else 
you're carying as far as they're concerned.  It won't stop them from trying 
- and if you fumble it or drop it (not unlikely), then you haven't solved 
your problem, just exacerbated it.  <g>

Sam got me to thinking - we've put down something over 2500 miles in griz 
country - and a lot more in black bear country. And haven't had a problem 
since 1992 - and that problem was my fault.  I think I'll stick with what 
works for me.  YMMV

Walk softly,
(and sing loudly, even if badly),


Exercise your brain! Try Flexicon. 

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