August 2008



where you should wear your bear spray.

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 1:46 pm

August 3, around 4 pm.

I was running with my golden retriever, Charlie, in a place called the forestry trails, about 3 kilometers from Haines Junction, Yukon. The trails are mostly narrow about 1-2 meters, winding through a broad mature spruce forest. I left the narrow trail system and ran downhill onto a well traveled trail about 3 meters wide, and was heading back to my vehicle about 1 kilometer away. I was carrying a bear spray in a fanny back low on my back.

The road-trail was built many years ago, and there are good soapberry stands bordering the road. The berries have become fully ripened in the past few days. As I ran down the road I startled a blonde sow grizzly 30 feet off the road feeding on soapberries. She instantly spun and charged directly at me roaring very loudly. I froze. All I could see was a huge jumble of blonde hair hurtling my way.. I said ‘ Holy F…’. I think I jumped off the ground, completely engulfed in a helpless fear. The bear was less than 15 feet away and in full charge when Charlie suddenly appeared on the right, lunging up at the bear.

So far, this has all happened in two seconds – no more, and maybe even less. Then, miraculously, the bear skidded to a stop and immediately turned away from me and ran 90 degrees down the road after Charlie. Charlie’s perfect timing onto the scene was the first thing that saved my life. I have absolutely no doubt about this. The next few seconds are still surreal and appear fuzzy in my memory. I saw my only chance and ran to the nearest spruce tree, which was less than 10 feet away. This member of the boreal forest was the second thing that saved my life. It was 15 meters high, and fully branched right to the ground. The kind of tree you freely climbed when you were a kid – But that was more than 40 years ago for me. As I began climbing I began snapping and breaking branches in my haste and in my rusty style. Then I saw the bear stop about 40 feet down the road. She heard the branches breaking and she was instantly charging in my direction again. I continued climbing which seemed rather easier than when I looked into the branches seconds earlier. Then I saw the head of the bear appear a meter below, with only a low spruce branch separating us. As I climbed I was feeling like my climbing rate was way, way too slow to escape the bear; which I could see was now under the tree and beginning to stand. I felt I was nearly out of reach of the bear and I had this sudden, euphoric wave of unearned relief pass over me. But as I lifted my lower leg up to the next branch, I felt a sharp pinch on my right ankle. The bear snapped up and caught my achilles tendon area with a canine, but she mainly missed flesh and bone, tearing a a mouthful of wool sock, releasing my foot and giving me back my life. Strangely enough, I clearly remember saying ‘ouch!’ in surprise- though there was little pain.

I continued climbing. I was certain I was out reach of the bruin in a few seconds later. Meanwhile, Charlie barked and harassed the bear, running around the tree and dodging the bear’s advance. The bear would stop and chase the dog for a few meters, but Charlie easily avoid her. Eventually Charlie sat down on the trail and patiently waited for the bear to charge. Charlie would just up and move away when the bear got near. The bear returned to the tree, stood up and looked at me, then proceeded to run in a series of wide-arching paths through the surrounding forest and open meadow, always returning close to the tree. Charlie moved to the base of the tree, and from that moment the bear did not attempt to try to reach me. The bear continued to make these wide runs through the area, and always came back through the same pathway in the trees leading to a small opening just below my safety tree. She did not roar or make any other noise, except for her heavy breathing, and the heavy pounding of her body as she galloped below me occasionally. I remember thinking this is a beast of terrible power and speed.

After about 10 minutes of this, I decided to spray the bear as she did not seem to be losing her interest in me. As she walked back toward the tree on one of her runs, she stopped 20 feet away and looked up at me. I had the spray prepared and I aimed and released 3-4 seconds of orange cloud at her. The main cloud dissipate about 2 meters in front of the sow. She was not startled by the spray, but she was profoundly affected a few seconds later. She reeled back to snort and sniffle, then she began roaring loadly, and bawling. Within a few seconds she was running again, this time in an panic through the forest. She continually roared and snarled, and proceeded to break branches as she raced through the forest in a now familiar arc, always passing near my tree. She snapped and broke branches often. She continued in this state for another 10 minutes, and I began to worry that this area was well-travelled by people hiking, running and mountain biking. I began to worry my wife Caroline, would come looking for me as I was now late returning home.

While the sow was charging and roaring around the area, I heard two clear calls from another bear perhaps a few hundred meters away in the thick forest. I believe this was a cub of unknown age but I never saw the bear. I decided to shout at the sow loudly to prompt its departure. Up to this point, I had not said anything to the bear, complimentary or otherwise. I shouted ‘Hey you bear, get the f… out of here’ twice and I was suprised at how loud I sounded! The bear stood up and turned its head, obviously trying to locate where the strange new sound came from. Then it dropped and ran down the trail I was planning to depart on eventually, which made me more than a little uncomfortable. It returned a few seconds later and was back below me about 20 meters away in the soapberry patch I first encountered her. I shouted again, carefully choosing the same, base vocabulary. This time she ran quickly away and down a small hill into the forest where I had heard her cub earlier.

I waited in the tree expecting to hear the bear return. But after 5 minutes I had heard nothing. I very gingerly descended the tree trying not break or rustle the branch. I had my trusty bear spray in hand. I got onto the trail and walked slowly and quietly with my faithful dog Charlie at heel. I was back at my vehicle in about 10 minutes.

My wound is superficial, a compression bruise the size of a quarter along my heel. The bear’s tooth did not even break the skin. I have no pain or discomfort from this minor wound. I did self-inflict many scratches and cuts on my face, hands, legs, and arms from the spruce tree branches I was certain that I virtually.

I now feed Charlie special dinners that include what ever is on our table. And I love him even more. He was an exceptional dog, and now he is this exceptional dog that saved my life.

I strongly believe in bear spray, although I would never have been able to find it behind me and get it ready for use during the initial attack. I believe only 2-3 seconds passed from when I saw the bear reel to being nearly upon me. I also now believe that bear spray should be worn across the chest, and easily accessible if you are traveling in areas frequented by bears. It still may be useless in such an encounter but it is a better place that in a pack on your back.

I think about the absurdity of the last words that might be passing your lips in such times. You might think with all our education we could choose more proper expressions of fear.

I also believe that the bear was only doing what it instinctively knew it must do to protect its cub. For obvious reasons, I wonder about other possible outcomes. Did I manage to escape the bear’s jaws by a nanosecond advantage, or did she, in the end, change her mind and chose to not bite me severely then tear me out of the tree in a heartbeat? With a little less luck, I might still be alive, but sending this message from a hospital bed in considerably more desperate condition. More likely, I might be happily dead…

Stay safe-

comments (0)


Wanted: home criteria

Filed under: General
Posted by: Shawna @ 12:43 pm

Hello Universe,

In the interest of visualizing what I want, here it is:

– job that will pay me enough to not have to worry and pay down my student loan and be able to travel

– a job where I have some decision making power and need less than 2 signatures to make things happen

– a commute under 45 minutes by bus/car or scooter


– a yard/balcony/space where I can have a garden and 1-3 chickens (that Avi will not harass)

– a balcony for Avi (with no street access)

– a second bathroom (1/2 bathroom okay)

– a place to live that has at least 9 foot ceilings, space for a japanese soaker tub (like the kelowna ginsing farm) and oak flooring and a bright and sunny sewing room

– a place that has ‘urban energy’ and an active alternative scene and good dancing clubs

– a place that’s large enough where I can go unrecognized if I want to, but small enough that I don’t have to travel 2 hours to see friends.

– access to cafes and shops

– highspeed internet access

– a fireplace

– live near lots of friends and able to ‘drop by’ for cofeee

– abundant growing season

– cheap(er) cost of living.

– “feels like” Davie street./Downtown energy. Does this mean a big city?

– walking distance to a beach/riverfront/pond, etc. (water source on property)

– modern hippies, not ‘old-school hippies’

  Make it so!!!


“If you can imagine it, you can have it, Shawna. This is the name of the game. This is the lesson to learn. It couldn’t be any easier. Reality is not what your eyes show your mind, but what your mind creates for your eyes to see. You are not limited by logic, the past, or the world around you. You are not even of the world around you. You are supernatural, pure spirit. You came first. Magic, miracles, and luck are the consequences of understanding this, the inevitable result of dreaming and acting in spite of appearances.
You are ever so close. Simply stay the course. It won’t be very much longer.

    The Universe”


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