Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Bears, a Convoluted Theory

While strolling around Morain Lake just outside of the villages of Banff and Lake Louise, we came across a side path seriously guarded by an intense and fit Canada Park Warden (am I inventing this position? She had a uniform, badge, and hat so I'll go with that title). Next to her was this sign. Standing off to one side was a group of hikers, three in total, loudly discussing their hopefully-soon trek up the trail into the woods. The written rule in Canada's national parks is that hikers have to comprise a minimum group of 4 prior to heading off onto the ursine trails. Due to time constraints and a group-fear fueled by our self-delusion that we exuded odors of edibility, the eight of us, though large enough by a factor of two to take on these bear trails, opted to not head up the tasty human morsel trail.

That didn't prevent yours truly, in bear-thought mode since we came out West, to start inventing scenarios as to how the Canadian National Park service came up with the ideal number of Four. I'm sure the Chinese National Park Service would have opted for another number as Four is not the number one would want to be grouped in when hiking in China's national forests. Although, the bears there are not close to Grizzly size and pandas (yes...they are not bears) would not be mistaking hikers for shoots of bamboo. So, Four. Was it a trial and error situation wherein groups of one, two, three, and four were sent up various Grizzly Bear infested mountains and then interviewed when (and if) they came back as to the grizzliness of their Grizzly encounters? Were the weights, sex, and tastiness of the hikers taken into consideration for the group size? What, as Mr. Gaffigan opines, were their thespian skills? And the Group of Four? Does this ideal group size mean minimal attacks or NO attacks/encounters? What if someone in the group was feeling particularly frisky, adventurous, or demented?

Before we headed off into the Canadian wilds, I hope we would have asked for some published test results or at least some smelly carcass we could haul with us to dump as soon as a bear approached. Save for one short bear sighting form the safety of a ton and a half car, our vacation was filled with the giddy anticipation of spotting (and then running/playing dead/talking softly/other tricks allegedly know to work) a bear. We maintained a minimal bear quorum of five, cheating on the long side of things. Our conversations were loud, thorny topic-ed, and packed with laughter, all human cacaphony guaranteed to run off any wildlife. Except for magpies and crows, 2 animals sounding similar shrill calls to ourselves.

All through our vacation, whenever we were on the trails, even when chances of bear encounters were nil, I was humming this little ditty (Quicksilver Messenger Service's "Bears"). One never knows when a well-hummed lyric could sooth the savage beast and my East Coast Sensibilities (or lack of sensibility, as opined by several Montanans) inclined me to hum. Loudly. And with a cowbell. Din-din is on the way and it'll be singin'.

Quicksilver Messenger Service: "Bears" lyrics-
"Quicksilver Messenger Service - Bears Lyrics:

(Crazy Laughter)

When walking between the lines and the squares,
Be careful that you don't step on the bears.


There are bears on the stairs, often in pairs,
And they're very hard to get along with.

(sniff, Sniff Sniff)

There are bears in the gutter, so be careful not to utter,
A sound that will disturb.


There's something about honey, makes a bear kinda funny,
especially when it's time to eat.

(Sniffs.... SHHHH.....

There's a bear

(crazy Laughter

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