[cdt-l] Taylor & Bear Spray

RICHARD MALLERY dickebird at gmail.com
Thu Oct 4 12:19:04 CDT 2007

I almost hate to get into this conversation since I took so much heat with
my Bootheel attitude. Let me start out with the fact that I support and
appreciate all the effort of the two trail organizations. That said, I still
feel I should be able to walk were I am legally allowed, and will. Unlike
the bootheel I did not cross the Jicarea

reservation north of Cuba because they did not answer my permission letters
and I do respect their land rights. Ironically, I ended up with food
poisoning after leaving Cuba and coupled with a sleet storm in the San
Pedro, came out near Galina and found salvation and trail magic with a
family that took me home to the res, fed me and let me sleep by their
woodstove to recover.

As for Mt. Taylor I think I would still go up and over. I have no problem
treating it as sacred. I seem to remember a large complex up there (fire
tower?), a green mailbox for hiker posts, and one of the most spectacular
views in New Mexico.

Local tribe members actually helped me at the base. I had not found water
since leaving Grants that morning. I was sitting at the T77 trailhead on the
forest service road still trying to figure out where I would find Gooseberry
Spring. I heard a roar coming up the mountain and it turned out to be four
guys in a '77 T-Bird with no muffler. They had a case of beer between them.
They asked me where I was going and informed me that Gooseberry, as well as
all the other springs in the area, were dried up. I could hear them quietly
discussing whether they should offer me a beer. When they finally did I
declined thinking alcohol was not the best cure for dehydration. The driver
said, "Ya, it will probably save your Goddamned Life." On that note I said,
"Ya know, it is past my cocktail hour," and I had a beer with them. They
didn't offer me any more so I headed up the trail. I slept that night, still
with no water, about 10 minutes shy of Gooseberry Spring. I found it in the
morning flowing out of the hillside like a gushing well, so cold you could
chew it.

Believe in trail magic. Near Cabazon, I was going to pull the pin and walk
east to the highway. I could not find Barrel Spring and I had been out of
water for way too long. I was out of food, water and luck. It was a Sunday
morning and I could hear a church bell ringing. I assumed it was Cabazon and
planned on heading over to see if I could find water. Out of nowhere came
hot air balloonists from Albuquerque who were doing a First Annual Cabazon
Fly-in. Within minutes they were there and gone leaving me with not only
water, but smoked salmon from Pike's Market in Seattle, cherry tomatoes,
coke, pita bread and three kinds of exotic beer. Manna from Heaven. Now
that's what I call a sacred place. I have even thought about writing a book,
"The Best Places on the CDT to Find Free Beer." A lot of my trail magic
turned out to be free beer.

While I am posting let me bring up another subject about safety. I just
returned from a two-hundred mile loop in Glacier. Spectacular weather. One
day of snow at Triple Divide and nine days of 75 degree weather and not a
cloud in the sky. This story might help Jenny treat Jim's knees. I took the
train out and jumped off in East Glacier. The train arrives about 6:45 PM.
That only gave me 2 hours of light to get up near the park boundary to sleep
for the night. I never have bear problems in Glacier but this trip was
different. This is the first time I actually used my bear spray. The first
morning just a quarter mile from the park boundary a griz popped up in the
trail on his hind legs to check me out--dropped and ran--no problem. That
afternoon, just after getting my permit in Two Med I ran into two black bear
foraging on the trail at Old Man campground, which was closed because these
two furballs had been getting into tents and packs. After six yelling acts
they finally moved off the trail enough to squeeze by--no problem. Three
days later at Elizabeth Lake Head I was camped alone. I had something pawing
around the tent all night--I suppose deer. I got up before light to make
breakfast and I had to go down to the lake for water. I could hear something
in the nearby brush so I pulled the safety off my bear spray. There was a
trumpeter swan just off shore in the moonlight. I was watching her as I
reached down to fill my GatorAid bottle with water. I heard a pssst...I came
up to listen and everything was quiet. I bent down again and heard
pssssssssstt....It was my bear spray going off in my pocket--FIRE IN THE
HOLE. I shot myself in the crotch. Let me tell you--all that stuff about
having to wait for a bear to be right in your face before you fire is BS.
You don't have to get it in his nose and eyes. From now on I'm going for the
under carriage. My knees had been bothering me a bit and I forgot I even had
knees. I was doing an Indian War Dance Strip. I was in that lake in seconds
and it still wasn't fast enough. It ruined my Supplex pants and shirt--and
my whole day for that matter. I wrapped my clothes in a garbage bag but I
could still smell it for the rest of the trip. Moral of the story: Don't
take the safety off and stick your bear spray in your pocket. In fact, I'm
never taking mine off again unless a bruin is actually chewing on one leg.
--Keep Smilin', Dick E. Bird
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