Badlands and Bear Spray

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no…

Two weeks ago, Sarah asked me, “On a scale of 1–10, how concerned are you about bears?”

My initial response was “Eh, about a 4 right now but it’ll probably go up to 7 once we’re on the trip” but that night my concern levels rose to 10 after I pounded out some Google research. I wanted to be prepared if/when we come across a fuzzy ferocious monster in the wild and what I learned from Google was disheartening.

For a Grizzly encounter, you want to stand your ground. Do not run. Avoid direct eye contact. Walk away slowly if the bear isn’t approaching you. If the bear charges, stand your ground. Don’t act aggressively. Don’t yell or throw things. Get ready to use the bear spray. If you don’t have bear spray, your fate is determined by the bear. Give up and take it essentially. Okay. Surely a black bear is better…

For a Black Bear attack, stand your ground and make lots of noise (opposite of Grizzly). Don’t run. Get ready to fight. Fight? Fight a bear. Are you freaking kidding me? After reading these suggestions, I’m convinced I could not follow them. They are locked in my mind right now but I could not make my body do those specific things if I were near one of those monsters. And with 4 kids and a little ferocious dog…forget about it. Nugget, all our lives are in your hand you little beast…

At this point, I’m at an 11 on the concern scale. I need more information so I start looking at the statistics and they are encouraging. There are only around 40 bear attacks globally each year and about 11 in N. America. That’s more encouraging. Accounting for our lack of preparation and knowledge about being in the wild I’m going to assume that our odds of getting attacked are slightly higher than 1 in a billion but I’m still feeling pretty good from a data POV. I’m back down to around 8 and aggressively googling “bear spray for sale near me”.

On the other hand, our odds of contracting Coronavirus are much higher and without the help of a few solid neighbors would have been much, much higher. Our initial big stop was supposed to be Badlands, SD. As I was rocking out a front yard extrovert convo the other day, a friendly neighbor stepped up big time. I told her about the trip and about how our first big stop was the Badlands. She has family in South Dakota so was familiar. “Hey” she said, “Isn’t Sturgis happening around now? Maybe it’s later than when you guys plan to head through there.”

“What’s Sturgis?” I replied.

“It’s a big Harley Davidson rally.”

“Ahh. I better check into that.” I replied as I realized I had actually done very little planning or research about this trip. So Sturgis, which has now been covered thoroughly by CNN is a massive party for about 250,000 bikers that looks a little like…

Yeah, that’s right. The makings of a super spreader event. The organizers of Sturgis have made it very clear that masks will not be mandatory. The idea of trying to enforce masks for this group of people (or even use any word inclusive of “force”, maybe “encourage”?) is also very funny to me. They don’t even wear helmets. If you aren’t afraid of falling off a motorcycle at 60 mph without a helmet there’s no way you’re wearing a mask. Look how close together they are. Oh my god. I’m sweating just looking at their proximity to one another.

So maybe we’ll do Badlands another time. I’m sure it’s not that great anyway. We leave for the trip today and head up to Mammoth Caves in KY. Wish us luck. We’ll need it.


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