All photos by Same New Love
Highs and Blues! Yay! So happy-go-lucky, right?
Well, yes, this quiet hike to Flower Springs Lake in Stone Mountain Provincial Park (British Columbia, Canada) was so peaceful and fun and BEAUTIFUL. I mean, LOOK AT THIS PLACE:
But let me back up a bit. When John and I first started dating, I had not gone on any major hike that wasn’t guided, or even camped in a tent. I was not an “outdoorsy” type by any means, and thought he was crazy for actively seeking out the most secluded places possible.
But as is such in relationships, you start to get curious about the other person’s interests. He started dancing and going out, and I started looking at hiking shoes. He started writing and meditating and I started learning how to pee outside.
After years of dating and many hikes, I figured that it was time for me to flex my independence. I didn’t need him anymore! I am a WOMAN. Hear my roar! (Or something like that). I wanted to go on a hike by myself.
I mean, what’s the worst that could happen, right?
On the way back, after spending 3 blissful hours by myself at the lake pictured above, I noticed something on the top of the most nearby hill. Then I did a double take, because I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’m bad at distance estimation, especially during shock, but the grizzly bear (who was looking straight at me) wasn’t more than 100 feet away. I noticed its eyes and its hunched back (I had read all the signs and pamphlets detailing the difference between black and grizzly bears, so I knew the hunched back meant serious business) and its ready-to-fight-if-necessary look – and my heart started racing.
I’ve NEVER felt so scared, for so long, especially because, again, this was my FIRST TIME HIKING ALONE.
Alone is what you want to be to prove to yourself that you can be an independent woman in any environment. Alone is not what you want to be, however, when a grizzly bear is staring you straight in the eyes.
With ready-to-shoot bear spray in my right hand and an opened jacket held up in my left (to make me look bigger/scarier lol), I talked loudly and firmly “I’M HERE, SORRY, I COME IN PEACE, JUST PASSING THROUGH” and walked slowly out of sight.
But the panic wasn’t gone, and I kept looking over my shoulder and talking as loudly as possible. It would’ve been fine if I were close to the campsite but I was still about an hour walk back. All alone. I started to calm down after a bit, but then saw a black bear in the distance. Okay, fine, it’s pretty far away and typically a less aggressive bear, I got this – kept walking.
Finally, I felt close to the campsite, so I thought maybe I would take a short cut up a hill. BAD IDEA, cause I came across another black bear, about 1 school bus away (definitely not the recommended 8 school buses). I FREAKED and was about to lose it at this point. I blew my whistle as loud as possible, despite knowing that no one was going to hear it.
‘Okay Imani you have to make a decision and just GO’. I could either stay there and continue putting myself at risk, walk back away from the campsite and hope to see someone eventually (unlikely) or walk past the bear with the same strategy. I was more afraid than ever but recognized that was the only reasonable option.
Since I had to keep my shit together this whole time, I broke into tears immediately upon making it back to the campsite.
Although I probably will never take a hike alone in bear country again, I’m proud of myself for keeping cool in the face of a huge fear, and doing the right things in terms of bear safety.
And now I know firsthand that, although bears can be dangerous, and you really should know what to do when you encounter one, they are not these bloodthirsty animals. They’re just as afraid of us, probably more, and the best thing you can do is let them know that you’re just passing through.
If I saw them as beasts instead of respecting their power – if I screamed and cried and ran – I would have put much myself in much greater danger.
Have a wild animal encounter you’d like to share? Comment below!
Loving the old; exploring the new,