P1030587.JPGTHE ANSWER TO AN AGE-OLD QUESTION

Now that our ride of the Great Divide is over, the grizzly bear issue can be addressed in retrospect. Chelan Traveler readers might remember that in the months leading up to our departure date Mary and I had differing opinions on how to deal with the possibility that we might be torn to shreds by an enraged grizzly bear. The Montana section of the trail, in particular, is said to be grizzly country.

From my perspective, death or injury by grizzly attack is somewhat less likely than death by lightning strike. That is to say, I considered it one of those unfortunate but unlikely events that is best ignored.

Mary took a more pro-active approach. I think it would only be a slight exaggeration to say that she was obsessed with the danger posed by grizzlies. She Googled far and wide, reading about grisly grizzly attacks. She purchased industrial-size bear spray canisters for each of us. She purchased bear bells and scent-proof bear bags. She seriously considered buying a large caliber pistol until she learned that they cost as much as a 2-carat diamond ring and weigh as much as a sledge hammer.

All through Montana and until we broke free of the forest and onto the Wyoming prairie, she was scrupulous about hanging all our food and toiletries high in trees far from our tent.

So how many actual grizzlies did we encounter in the seven weeks we were riding the trail? Not a single one. One day just north of Grand Teton when Mary rode ahead while I was packing my coat in my pannier, she rounded a bend in the road and saw a black bear and its cub. Far from being a predator of humans, that bear scurried off into the woods at the sight of her.

But if you are thinking that my purpose in writing this story is to poke fun at Mary, think again. Just because we never saw the grizzlies doesn’t mean they weren’t there. In fact, we know they were there – lots of ’em.

And how do we know? Poo – that’s how. Piles and piles of grizzly poo, all through Montana and Idaho. And how do we know it was grizzly poo? Because grizzlies like to eat berries and these piles were always full of berry seeds. And how do we know the poo piles weren’t made by a black bear? Because they were huge! I’m talking the size of a jack-o-lantern. A run-of-the-mill pile would have filled a gallon jug. The biggest would have half-filled a wheel barrow.

One of Mary’s favorite stories from this trip is about the night we camped at Coopers Lake, about a week into our ride. Mary let down her guard and didn’t hang our food because there were no bear boxes in the campground so she figured there wasn’t any bear danger. Otherwise, the Forest Service would have provided bear boxes – right? Well, when we rode out of the campground in the morning, perhaps a mile down the road alongside a berry patch, there must have been five large poo piles in the road. Mary about left one of her own when she saw that.

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JUST BECAUSE WE DIDN’T SEE THEM DOESN’T MEAN THEY WEREN’T THERE

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