For years I have been deathly afraid of seeing a bear while hiking, especially in Jackson Hole and Alaska. This week I faced my fear, literally.
Bear in mind, I was hiking alone on a remote ridge an hour and a half outside of Jackson Hole on bumpy dirt roads that rattle out your fillings. The views were epic (pic below) with a full 360 degrees taking my breath away (as did the altitude and climbing straight up this mountain). I LOVE going to places no one has ever been before. I LOVE being in the silence of nature where all I can hear is the rustling of the wind on the leaves and my own heart beating.
I knew I was in bear territory and saw some fresh bear poop to prove it. Since bear poop is not uncommon on my adventurous hikes, I took note and kept going. With fear more noticeably by my side, I now had a friend for this journey. (Steve was fishing in the valley so I had some semblance of support though far from shouting distance).
After trekking for forty-five minutes I reached the end of the ridge to turn down the mountain. I came over a little ledge that I was not able to see over. Of course, that is when I saw something move about a hundred feet away. My heart stopped. A bear. No, wait. Two bears. A mama bear and her cub. Oh no! (For those of you who may not know, mama bears can be even more feisty for their young).
Time stopped as did my brain for what seemed like eternity. What do I do? Do I head back the way I came to where I saw the do do? Is that from these bears or were there more? What is my fastest way to Steve? Through trees? Ugh. More bears could be sleeping in there since it was the heat of the day. Or, I could maneuver my way through rugged terrain to a field of sage brush. The sage brush is low to the ground so it would be easier to see my demise approaching.
I took a deep breath. Paused. Evaluated my options and ultimately trusted my first instinct. I chose to maneuver my way through the sage brush keeping my eye on the bears as long as I could walking. Essentially I walked sideways down the mountain to keep one eye on the bears and one on the path I was creating to get down the mountain. I was also making lots of noise to alert any other bears I was near by.
This is when my shoelace became untied. Not once. Twice!!! I thought, this is how horror movies go! The girl bends over to tie her shoelace and gets attacked. Or, she starts running from the bear and trips on her shoelace falling to her death. Amazing how both neither option had me surviving!
The moment I could not see the bears anymore my fear actually grew even though I was further away. It is funny how so many of us fear what we cannot see.
While it seemed like years to get to the valley, Steve, and the car, I got there safe and sound. As soon as I did, I let out a huge sigh. I don’t think I had breathed the entire way down. The tears started to flow with relief and, quite honestly, a lot of pride. I did it!!! I faced my fear and lived to tell about it!!!
And, with every wild adventure I have, I have to find the pearls of wisdom I want to share with you in hopes it might make your life even more shucktacular!
- Make your passion bigger than your fear. I could have stopped hiking in the most beautiful places in the world because of my fear of bears. I didn’t. I tapped in to my desire to see the world to overcome my fear. Find something you are sooooo passionate about that fear doesn’t have a chance.
- Do things on your own. I could have waited for someone to always hike with me. I didn’t. I chose to go anyway and have seen some of the most spectacular places on earth because I was not on the sidelines waiting. I often see people waiting for permission or help to go for their dreams. Stop waiting. Go for your dreams now!!!
- Never run from your fears. You never turn your back or run when you see bears (or really most animals). There is a higher likelihood they will attack you. The same is true with your fears. You can’t run from your fears. They will always be there to attack you until you face them head on. Look at your fears in the face today.
- Know your shit. You know the old saying “does a bear shit in the woods?” I can tell you they do! Because I knew what bear poop looked like I was more bear aware than had I not. Learn what you can to build your awareness, grow, and expand.
- Be adaptable. The bears were in my path to success (i.e. the car) so I created a new path. Where are you letting fear get in your way? I encourage you to pivot today!!!
- Slow down. It is important to slow down enough in life to hear what your heart already knows.
- Trust your instincts. You have so much inner wisdom that I encourage you to tap in to it even more.
- Write a success story. SO often we write the most horrific script for our life. Write one you want to read. Better yet, write one you want to live!!!
Fear is natural. Some of it is real. Most of it is in your head. The fear in your head is the ego trying to keep you safe. Safe is not how I want to live my life. How about you?
I share my bear scare with you as a hope that it hits a chord with you in some way, shape, or form. I’d love to hear what stands out the most for you. I read every reply.
With grit and grace,