Walking sticks for self defense.

5:07 a.m. on March 2, 2019 (EST)
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I do most of my hiking alone and feel a little vulnerable, especially now that I'm not as young and strong as I once was.  Bear spray is probably the most effective defense against possible threats, but I don't have total confidence in aerosol cans, especially ones that have been sitting around a couple years, and getting it out to use it can take time that you probably don't have.  In an emergency, you are going to be fumbling around to get it out and remove the safety clip.  I wanted something that is instantly deployable, foolproof, and isn't perceived, necessarily, as a weapon.  I don't want to scare my fellow hikers.

To that end, I ordered a couple walking sticks from Knife Center and made by Cold Steel Knives, the Walkabout and the African walking stick.  Both were about $24, but the oversize shipping is quite a bit.  Both are an intimidating black that screams "weapon".  I'm going to try painting them a less scary color.  Both are a little heavy for a walking stick, but would be very effective in a fight for your life.  They are thick and sturdy.  The Walkabout is probably better as a hiking aid, but the African Walking Stick looks less like a weapon, yet is probably the more effective of the two as a weapon.  The ball on top of the African is big, too big for anyone that wears less than an XL glove to grip, and the nodes on the shaft give you a better grip on a material that is rather slippery (polypropylene). 

They are basically clubs.  A club is a formidable weapon.  You can jab with the shaft or swing like a baseball bat.  They are potentially deadly and should be treated as such.  Using them as a weapon should not be taken lightly.

6:36 a.m. on March 2, 2019 (EST)
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In all my years of hiking and backpacking I have never been anywhere close to being in a fight for my life, nor has anyone I know. If I were, it most likely would be from a mountain lion attack from behind, the odds for which I put up there with being hit by a comet, and a giant stick won't help me in an ambush animal attack in any event.

My current trekking poles weigh less than one quarter what those hiking sticks do.

9:01 a.m. on March 2, 2019 (EST)
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+1 to what JR states.  Are you really concerned about brawling with poeple you meet on the trail. Perhaps you had better select trails in a better neighborhood.

I you simply must have a cudgel, repurpose one of your handled tools or buy a replacement handle.  To go all out, get the Cold Steel sword cane (mucho expensivo!), but then you will have a real weapon (quite possibly illegal in your jurisdiction, but what price safety?)  Feel better??

The repurposed shovel handle has many other uses as well...

10:12 a.m. on March 2, 2019 (EST)
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Bear spray is light and effective.  It belongs on your waistbelt in a holster. 

11:57 a.m. on March 2, 2019 (EST)
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I agree with JR---never had to fight an animal for my life---and so I backpack weaponless---except for my brain.

Then again, I've been attacked by yellow jackets but I doubt a cudgel would've helped much.  And often high creek crossings are a fight for survival but I doubt beating the high water with a stick would've helped.

And lightning blasts are often right on top of me---maybe a big stick could be thrown up at the sky to beat it away??  Doubtful.

And deep cold is always a battle---do I spray the outside air with capsaicin????  Or do I beat my frozen icy tent with a stick????

9:07 p.m. on March 3, 2019 (EST)
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Sorry but I also find it hard to seriously respond to this scenario.

OK, let's ignore all the threats in the BC more more probable than being attacked by anything larger than a bird, and obsess for the moment on our primal fear of lions, tigers and bears.  It would be a very lucky whack - or two or three.. ..to fend off a bear (or any large animal) with a club. You probably won't get more than one swing or poke in, if that.  Consider these attacks go from totally unaware of imminent danger to full contact in under three seconds.  In that time you have to shift from relaxed hiker with walking staff, to hoisting your weapon and getting yourself into the appropriate kata - which BTW would vary depending on the angle and aspect of attack.  Really that is a lot to ask for an instantaneous reaction, occurring as adrenaline blasts through your body, reducing you to a primal mass of terrorized flesh.  Even self defense experts would have a poor chance in this circumstance.  Furthermore more consider bears swat at each other with more force than you'll ever muster, with or without a club.  And it takes them MANY swats and bites to fend off each other.  Not even a gun assures dispatching this threat, and a club - well in your dreams...  And if you thought you stood a better chance in your youth against a large animal attack - well maybe in your dreams...

Frankly I don't understand why you'd even consider venturing into the wild if you feel these "threats" are significant enough to drive you to distraction.

Ed  

PS Tipi: I was wondering how you would use that stick to deflect a plane falling out of the sky onto your head...

7:33 p.m. on March 5, 2019 (EST)
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Ed, you and Tipi may have invented a new pastime infuriating illegal drone pilots.

12:41 p.m. on March 6, 2019 (EST)
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I've never had to fight animals for my life, but I have had to fight a rather vicious pack of raccoons for my food. Literally attacked by about a half dozen of these good-sized vermin on Orcas Island. I did effectively use a wooden walking stick in defense, bear spray might also have worked, I dunno. I do wonder what it would have been like trying to spray 6 different attackers on a windy rainy evening though.

1:50 p.m. on March 6, 2019 (EST)
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Yea, raccoons are a real pain in certain areas.  Thank God bears do not come with raccoon attitude and aggressiveness.

Ed

7:36 p.m. on March 6, 2019 (EST)
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Zalman said:

I've never had to fight animals for my life, but I have had to fight a rather vicious pack of raccoons for my food. Literally attacked by about a half dozen of these good-sized vermin on Orcas Island. I did effectively use a wooden walking stick in defense, bear spray might also have worked, I dunno. I do wonder what it would have been like trying to spray 6 different attackers on a windy rainy evening though.

 It would make a great movie.  Please take a camera next time, and ask someone to film it...

1:51 p.m. on March 7, 2019 (EST)
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A while back my wife and I were finishing off a day hike, on the last stretch down to the trailhead. We saw some people 100 or so yards and they had a dog, off leash. The dog started barking and barreling towards us at to speed, looked like it meant business, and not good business. My instinct: grab the nearest, biggest stick I could find. My wife's: duck and hide behind me. Between my brandishing the stick and the owner yelling like crazy, the dog pulled up and headed back down the trail. We still laugh about it. Vive la difference!

10:17 p.m. on March 7, 2019 (EST)
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You are a nice man.  We had that happen once, and I swore the next time it happened I was going to take photos and report the SOB to the rangers.  There is no excuse for poorly trained dogs or owners on the trail

11:20 p.m. on March 7, 2019 (EST)
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It is my experience that walking sticks when presented properly, most often and in most circumstances, defuse already tense situations.  Not sure how lions, tigers and bears might react to them however.


Two of my favorite models:untitled.png


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8:29 a.m. on March 8, 2019 (EST)
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Wow, he's much bigger than this guy who took refuge in our shelter on a short trip my daughter and I did on the AT a couple of years ago:
P1000446.jpgP1000447.jpgP1000448.jpg



5:25 p.m. on March 11, 2019 (EDT)
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I've always wondered if a light hiking pole would make enough of a whoosh, when swung through the air, to put fear into an animal much like a lion trainer in a circus with his whip.

6:28 p.m. on March 11, 2019 (EDT)
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Igloo Ed said:

I've always wondered if a light hiking pole would make enough of a whoosh, when swung through the air, to put fear into an animal much like a lion trainer in a circus with his whip.

Animals in the circus at trained for many hours to respond to a lion trainer and his/her whip.  My guess is that a angry deer, moose, bear, mountain lion would not pay any attention to the whoosh of a hiking pole swung thru the air.  Rather I would hold said hiking pole, start praying your best prayer and the if attacked to try and jam in said animal either in the eyes or down it's throat.

 

From what I've seen and heard, conventional wisdom seems to indicate that if you detect a non human predator threating you or getting ready to attack that one should give the illusion of being larger.  This can be done by holding a coat/jacket/shirt that one is wearing over ones head. Holding ones back pack over ones head as well.   It is also recommended that one make as much noise and racket as possible, guns are especially useful for making noise. 

Personally I would much rather have a firearm, even if it's small fire arm to A) make noise, and B) to use at very close range if under attack.  Having and understanding proper use of pepper/bear spray is said to be an invaluable tool if the circumstances are in ones favor so that one can use it properly.

As suggested above, a walking stick will be of 0 use if one is ambushed by a mountain lion/bear/moose/elk.  One might..........might get in one good swing if said large animal is attacking at full speed.  My guess is that a walking stick would make no difference if a Moose or large elk wanted to stomp and gore you to death.

A walking stick just might prove useful if one is attacked by another human, but even then one would want martial arts training to properly use the walking stick/hiking pole in a proper defensive manner.

But, if it makes you feel safer..............and as an added bonus it aids in your hiking/backpacking pursuits then there is no argument/reason that I can see not to carry/use a hiking stick.

7:47 p.m. on March 11, 2019 (EDT)
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Lots of folks use walking sticks for the hike itself, especially crossing streams, and if you feel safer with it and it is stout enough to use as a short term defensive weapon then carry it. It would deter or disable a human or smaller animal but larger you'll likely need a prayer, spray or a firearm.

8:52 a.m. on March 25, 2019 (EDT)
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Walking sticks are handy.

If you're willing to carry the extra weight and it makes you feel better, go ahead.  Its probably just a woobie though. 

Having been the victim of direct shots of pepper spray I think its pretty cool but in the end, people carry things that suit their personality.  You are wasting your time trying to convince gun people to leave their piece behind.  Bushcraft types would rather give up black Velcro and army surplus gear than leave their full-tang mini-chette or tomahawk behind.  Dog people will always bring Rover.  I'm no better.  I have my own woobies too.

 

10:59 a.m. on March 25, 2019 (EDT)
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I've always thought that my normal 4oz carbon fiber trekking pole would make an excellent baton weapon. With the sections unlocked it even has a surprise "extends upon swinging" feature that increases its effective range in mid-strike.

7:16 p.m. on March 25, 2019 (EDT)
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Throwing rocks and sticks is suprisingly effective (it is an unfamilar act). Skurka scared off a charging brown bear with a trekking pole (literally scared the used berries out of it). https://andrewskurka.com/2012/i-scared-the-hit-out-of-a-grizzly-bear-literally/ As far as the human threat...give them your stuff and don't escalate the situation...if they are out to hurt you there is almost 100% chance they're part of your group...not sure a stick is the answer to that particular problem.

9:50 p.m. on May 12, 2019 (EDT)
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The recent attacks on the Appalachian Trail are alarming. Apparently sleeping hikers were the victims.

it is so rare that it’s swirling around the Internet.

We are responsible for our own safety out there and if walking softly with a big stick makes you safer, go for it.

12:38 a.m. on May 13, 2019 (EDT)
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Curtis Evans said:

The recent attacks on the Appalachian Trail are alarming. Apparently sleeping hikers were the victims.

it is so rare that it’s swirling around the Internet.

We are responsible for our own safety out there and if walking softly with a big stick makes you safer, go for it.

Jeez, people are such suckers for scary stories about things that go bump in the dark.  Far more people are going to die from traffic accidents occurring on their way to/from the Appalachian Trail, than the combined risk of all of the other possible dangers  that lurk out there, including machete wielding characters straight out of a Steven King novel and bear assaults.  Yet we barely bat an eye over the much more tangible, sundry dangers awaiting us every time we hit the road.  Where is the sanity?! 

Historically more people are killed by planes falling out of the sky on top of them than by psycho-killers stalking the backcountry.  If one is driven to distraction by fears over such freakish occurrences, I cannot imagine why they bother venturing out their own front door, let alone to the airport or into that imaginary primordial death trap otherwise known as the backcountry.  Let's not feed into some folks unhealthy, paranoid dispositions, it is not constructive or humane.

But I have given this some thought.  Perhaps I should hedge my odds against the dangers I confront whenever I backpack.  I have decided to conduct all future vehicle travel with my walking staff always within arm's reach.  I may, indeed, stave off a drunken or text distracted vehicle operator with an adroitly placed rap across their noggin, albeit futile as it seems.  At least I'll feel safer.  

Ed

2:21 p.m. on May 15, 2019 (EDT)
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might as well go for the halberd. looks like it can chop wood and tenderize meat, too.

two hikers were attacked along the AT in Virginia recently while fleeing a mentally unstable hiker, one died from stab wounds. 

I carry a pocket knife when i hike, but it's for food preparation and simple cutting tasks, not self-defense.  

halberd.jpg

10:18 a.m. on May 20, 2019 (EDT)
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I used to work in the field all the time.  For soils work, I usually carried either a spade or a soil auger.  Both were great in drier country for fending off snakes.  Sometimes people on hiking trails have loose dogs.  I used to have a dog around 35 pounds that like to fight, so I would fend off those dogs with hiking poles to protect them.  My current dog is a BC that gets along with other dogs really well. 

I used to have some neighbors that raised Rottweilers. They walked them in the neighborhood without a leash.  We have Welsh Corgis which is not a good combo.  I started carrying a cattle prod and miraculously all the neighborhood dogs of all breeds started being walked on a leash. 

2:07 p.m. on May 20, 2019 (EDT)
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I just engage humans in conversation.  Three minutes of my jabbering is sufficient to send them on their way. And since critters are scent oriented, just being stinky old me me suffices to drive them off.

Ed

2:04 p.m. on May 21, 2019 (EDT)
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Perspective depends on your experience.  If racoons are what you remember about animal confrontations, then a hiking staff is all you will ever need especiallyl around a place like Los Angeles.  

I used to spend a lot of time working in Wyoming, Colorado, Alaska and the N Cascades.  The conditions are a little different.  Walking sticks are all you need the majority of the time. But not all the time. 

6:16 p.m. on May 21, 2019 (EDT)
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whomeworry said:

I just engage humans in conversation.  Three minutes of my jabbering is sufficient to send them on their way. And since critters are scent oriented, just being stinky old me me suffices to drive them off.

Ed

 In that case Ed, you can hike with me anytime. Sounds like having you around would knuckle head proof any hike. Lol

9:44 p.m. on May 21, 2019 (EDT)
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John, accompanying me guarantees you get the full knucklehead experience.

Ed

6:32 a.m. on May 22, 2019 (EDT)
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LOL

same here 

7:03 a.m. on May 22, 2019 (EDT)
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Wow, gents!

I have been off forums a while, but while reading this I thought I was on BPL.

The OP was asking a serious question for him and most of what he gets is hyperbole and mockery. So much for TS being the ”kinder” place it was once touted as.

say what you will about my response here As I probably will not see it. Perhaps this is why I do not frequent the forums much anymore. 

Out.

12:09 p.m. on May 22, 2019 (EDT)
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People on this forum are smart.  When they are snarky they are more subtle about it. 

4:58 p.m. on May 22, 2019 (EDT)
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Uncle Air said:

Wow, gents!

"..The OP was asking a serious question for him and most of what he gets is hyperbole and mockery. So much for TS being the ”kinder” place it was once touted as..."

Pray tell what was the OP's question?  I don't see a request for advice, but do see he expressed a concern, and his solution to that concern.

He stated an opinion, not a request for advice.  And we in turn all offered our own opinions, what we considered as tangible threats, and how we address these concerns.  Many of us consider his solution as ineffective, that the vast majority of us feel a staff would be useless if a wild animal larger than a house cat attacked.  And we stated such, albeit with a dose of sarcastic humor.  We mock the solution, not the person.  Even the comments about raccoons, which you may consider snarkish, are sincere - and you would know this if you ever had to contend with a gaze of raccoons in your camp.  In my case I digressed with a general comment, regarding how our culture wildly obsesses over the risk of some perils, yet we take in stride other risks that are manifold times more dangerous than the hazards driving the OP's fear.  OK, me bad, and I apologize to those I offended with my over-the-top screed about air planes falling on my head while in the forest.   But sometimes candid advice comes off as brutal, and I know of no subtle way to otherwise highlight how counterproductive it is to dwell on this obsession.

Ed  

3:08 a.m. on May 28, 2019 (EDT)
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Randy, A course of action if seeking to have some form of stick  protection would be training to use whatever you decide on. The Irish shillelagh would be a place to start. Though if seeking a “defense” tool. Firearms are the ultimate trump card, though a whole bag of other matters arise with that. Best of luck in your pursuit.

8:24 p.m. on May 28, 2019 (EDT)
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This is an interesting thread, because it's related to something I've been thinking about for a while, without a real solution.

A couple years ago I was attacked by a pair of dogs. I was hiking along (on snow), and the unleashed dogs had run ahead of their people. The dogs approached me, and I thought they wanted to be friendly. Suddenly they started growling and lept at me, trying to bite me. I was very fortunate in that case that (1) the one dog who actually bit bit at my chest and didn't get a purchase (just made a slight scrape), and (2) their people came around a bend and called the dogs off.  This was in a national forest (not a national park) in the Sierra.

Again, recently, I was walking on a forest road near where I live (rural foothills of the Sierra) - and some people in an ATV (not far from a neighborhood) came along the trail, with their dogs again 2, and again unleashed and running ahead - and they started growling and snarling as they approached. I was near a large rock and quickly got to the top as they approached. Their people called the dogs off, which was a good thing, as the dogs could easily have reached me on the rock. They were very mean looking dogs.

Either of these situations could have very easily ended up with vastly more serious consequences - I could have been permanently disfigured, or in the first case, as I was several miles out in a designated wilderness, could have bled to death.

I've thought about bear spray, but (1) what are the chances that the dogs would be downwind, and (2) the first attack was so sudden I wouldn't have been ready anyway (though now I eye dogs with a wary eye whenever I see them, as they seem to find me a threat). The other issue is that even if I were able to defend myself with some kind of weapon, I'd most likely then face a new challenge, dealing with the dog's angry people.

I'm still not sure what the solution is - aside from restricting my hikes to national parks where dogs are prohibited on trails - not a very good solution considering where I live... I've read about dog defense devices which emit a sound they apparently don't like, but the reviews are really mixed. Note, I don't want to hurt a dog, though I do feel I need to (and will) do whatever it takes to defend myself if I'm attacked.

The funny thing is, I've actually considered getting a dog myself (though not a mean, vicious one) ... and decided against it only because for various reasons it turned out to be impractical.

5:27 p.m. on May 29, 2019 (EDT)
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Bill:
Threatened twice by dogs out with their masters that are away from their "territory" - very unusual.  Consider reading up on the nonverbal actions we humans perform and how they are perceived by dogs and other animals.  It is always a good precaution to eliminate unintentional messages your body language that may cause the dogs to react (e.g. direct eye contact and arm waiving are aggressive signals to dogs).

Ed  

7:18 p.m. on May 29, 2019 (EDT)
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Or maybe people could control their animals.

Being threatened by uncontrolled dogs that have been allowed to run free on trail is not unusual in the least. A sweaty smelly human who has been hiking for days through trail scat of a hundred different animals presents something overwhelming to the average house pet set free to roam a half mile ahead of an owner who couldn't care less about his dogs safety. The look on their faces is so obvious as they go from friendly, to confused, to fearful. Then they look over their shoulder for their "master" who abandoned them. Then they look back and start to growl in fear because they know they are alone in the wild with a beast they are not prepared to deal with alone... a hiker. No amount of reassurance from this strange beast will quell that fear. They need their owner.

If you need to use your poles to defend yourself against such a dog I would recommend planting one hard in the ground across your body as a shield to partially block a frontal assault. The other pole pointed up to catch an attack in flight such that the handle hits the ground. You want the handle to drive the point into the attacker as it lands on you.

Edit: Oh, I forgot to mention something important. Don't focus on the dog in front of you to the point you  miss the one(s) behind you. Even alone they'll try to get behind you, but when working in pairs you can expect the actual attack to come from the side or back.

2:57 p.m. on May 30, 2019 (EDT)
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Ed, LoneStranger - good feedback, thanks. Maybe I should have started a new thread, didn't mean to hijack the OP's topic :). 

I've thought (Ed) about the possibility that I'm doing something to trigger hostile actions. It's kind of odd, because I've hiked for decades, and both of these issues were firsts for me, both within the past 2 years. I don't think I've done anything to provoke them, but will watch this closely when I encounter dogs going forward.

It does seem (maybe my perception) that there are more dogs on trails than in the past, and more dogs that "look vicious". If this is true, maybe a sign of the times, e.g. so many people angry at the world around them. Hmmm...

LoneStranger, those are good tips regarding defense with trekking poles. Maybe I need to start using them on day hikes, whereas til now I've only used them when backpacking. It's not my preference, as I like to keep my hands free, e.g. for getting snapshots, scrambling over logs and rocks, etc. Sigh...

5:25 p.m. on May 30, 2019 (EDT)
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Fair point, but I do think the original post was a bit scattered and unrealistic about the dangers hikers actually run into the vast majority of the time. I posted a humorous response after trying to envision a hiker swinging a walking stick at another hiker because, to me, it's very hard for me to imagine.  

More seriously:

-definitely use bear spray that's within the 'use by' date.  it's a pain to buy a new can of it every year or two, but in bear country, it's a necessity. I cannot think of anyone who would recommend using a walking stick, as opposed to bear spray, to fend off a wild animal. If a bear gets close enough that you can use a walking stick to defend yourself, you are already in very serious trouble. Re: using a walking stick to hit another person, in 30+ years of taking and guiding trips, I have neither felt the need nor seen anyone else in a position to actually hit another person with a walking stick, trekking pole, or anything else.  

-As I mentioned above, a knife is a tool many hikers use for food preparation. a knife could also provide the kind of emergency self-defense against people that the original post might have been driving at. so, i suppose, could whacking someone with a trekking pole.  

5:40 p.m. on May 30, 2019 (EDT)
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Totally agree, LS, about masters needing to be mindful of their pets at all times. 

It has always annoyed me to see dogs free roaming amidst the wildlife, not  so much because of the threat they pose to humans, but the threat they pose to the critters.  I have hiked with a few guys who insist on bringing their dog on the hike, then witness poochie run amok, chasing everything.  Most of these people know they are required to leash their dog in the BC, but seem to relish flouting these kinds of regulations.  Alas we are a generation of self-entitled brats who think it is OK to engage in a given activity, legal or otherwise, based on the fact that there is no direct consequences they must deal with (says this pissy old white guy!).

Ed 

12:26 p.m. on June 4, 2019 (EDT)
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My dog is my best hiking partner and fishing partner.  She is a herding dog and does not chase wildlife.  She is my first line of defense when we have company late at night.  I put her on a leash and make her sit next to the trail when other people pass.  I follow this rule especially when horses and mules are on the trail. 

Rather than viewing myself as a self-entitled brat, I view my realtionship with my dog at a higher level, than nearly all the people in my life.  Natives always have dogs in the bush. 

12:42 p.m. on June 4, 2019 (EDT)
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iam well aware of my safety...I am not afraid of other hikers..Met worse around the world and in neighborhoods in the states....Hikers I can put distance from me to them...

9:28 p.m. on June 7, 2019 (EDT)
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For curious bears I like an air-horn. It seems that any loud noise, such as banging pots, discourages them. This also (usually) works with racoons.

Otherwise, look at a Japanese  "BO" or "JO". These are simply nice hardwood sticks also usable as walking sticks. Pick a stick that fits you. My favorite is  4' hickory with the root swell attached.

I've only had trouble with raccoons, curious bears, and an occasional dog. Too many people don't know the meaning of spay and neuter, so feral dogs are a problem locally. 

No problem to break the jaw of an aggressive loose dog.

9:39 a.m. on June 11, 2019 (EDT)
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There are a lot of subtlties when it comes to interacting with dogs.  They respond to verbal commands, but are very responsive to body language.  I have learned a lot about controlling one's energy and body language with horses and mules. With aggressive dogs, usually it is best to avoid eye contact and get small.  Walking sticks are effective in keeping them at arm's length. 

My Dad used to carry a lead horse whip in his back pocket working in the bush of Puerto Rico.  There were lots of what he called wild dogs.  When one acted aggressively he would hold out his aluminum notebook.  Sometimes they would bite down on it.  If they did not deter them, they got one thump in the head with the dog knocker.  I used to carry it on my paper route in the early morning as a kid. 

I like to carry bear spray on a holster on the pack waist belt at the ready.  Over the years I have had lots of interactions with bears.  Some black bears have been pesky and hard to get rid of.  They have followed me around a few times for several hours always showing up on my 6.  I have had the experience of a sow and two cubs sniffing me through the mosquito netting of a small tent from 18 inches.   I carry a pistol out of habit, but keep it hidden in the pocket of my pack belt. 

8:56 a.m. on June 12, 2019 (EDT)
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All good advice. On my paper route I carried a squirt gun filled with ammonia.

Bears, coyotes, cougars, and such have learned that hikers and hunters leave behind tasty treats. I had an old-timer Fish&Game safety officer tell me that all hunters have one or the other following them around. I once watched (from a distance) a party of hunters leave a messy camp. As soon as they were out of sight, a bear stood up, ambled into camp, and emptied the beer cooler.

Usually, if you leave them alone and don't scatter trash, they'll leave you alone.  Except for feral dogs who are totally unpredictable.

9:15 a.m. on June 12, 2019 (EDT)
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A long time ago we gutted a nice bull elk at 11,000 feet in Colorado.  We quarted him, took the hide off and saved the head.  We packed him up on two black mules.  I was the last one to ride out leading the two mules.  It was steep country with old downed lodgepole so I was looking behind me watching my mules.  Once I was 40 yards away from the gut pile a large boar black bear pounced on the gut pile.  He was waiting for us to leave. 

6:49 p.m. on June 13, 2019 (EDT)
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"alone and feel vulnerable."

My first trip to work on a mine site in SE Alaska on the Mainland in 1980, took place in what is now Misty Fjords National Monument.  We mostly worked in pairs doing stream surveys, collecting samples and measuring water quality.  One day I was dropped off on a salmon stream solo.  The loud drone of the helicopter fades to absolute quiet.  It is an uh-oh moment.  Bears are around and we saw them every day. 

This day I ran into a set of fresh tracks the size of a dinner plate. They were approximately 13 inches long x 10 inches wide.   Plenty of fresh scat.  The small river was lined with thick alders which I could not see into.  He had probably just left when the helicopter arrived.  I looked down at the .44 mag revolver on my hip and almost wet my pants.  From then on I carried a rifle. 

11:19 a.m. on June 18, 2019 (EDT)
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A few months later, we were much more calm around bears and learned a lot about their behavior.  I was working on the Blossom River with another guy gauging the flow with a Price meter.  I was out in the current in a good sized river, and I could see a large boar black bear moving upstream towards us from about 150 yards.  I was counting clicks and watching the bear.  He probably had never seen a human before as we were around 6 miles from the coast in the deep bush.  As he got closer around 75 yards I started yelling at him, but he could not hear us above the rapids down stream.  The wind was upstream. He just kept coming, so we left the river and he walked right past where were working.  We went back to work.  He showed up about 30 minutes later behind us on the river bank.  We gave way and crossed the river.  He fished downstream.  This went on for about 2 and a half hours.  He always showed up behind us.  I think he was stalking us, and I was very happy that were carrying firearms.

11:15 a.m. on June 19, 2019 (EDT)
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Around 6 months later, I was doing a timber survey in the delta between the Blossom and Keta Rivers.  The understory was thick with shrubs, especially Alaska currant which was about 6-7 feet tall.  It made for some reallly bad visibility.  I was working with a botanist from Los Angeles. 

We started to hear a sharp wailing cry.  It was hard to place at first, but it was close and it was loud.  Suddenly it occured to me this was the cry of a black bear cub in distress.  He had climbed a tree and was calling for mom.  The botanist wanted to change the film in his camera and take a picture.  I grabbed him by the strap on his pack and pulled him down the trail.  I knew mom was in there in the currants and would be coming on the run. I had my other hand holding the rifle with the safety off.  We got out of there fast and it was very lucky we did not have an encounter at 10 feet. That one still haunts me late at night.  

1:24 p.m. on June 19, 2019 (EDT)
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I think ppine's bear encounter stories make a very good point - awareness of potential hazards is just as important as being equipped with weaponry, o whatever sort.  folks equipped with adequate firearms have been done in by attacking bears - nothing is foolproof

3:09 p.m. on June 19, 2019 (EDT)
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Your best defense is knowledge and your brain.  Sometimes firearms make people feel safer in case all Hell breaks loose.  My cousin killed a bear in Alaska not that far outside of Anchorage that charged him.  There is not that much he could have done differently. 

12:03 a.m. on June 20, 2019 (EDT)
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During my stint as a front-country "Ranger" for the Forest Service I often encountered dogs both on and off-trail. From errant hunting dogs to over-zealous indoor spaniels. Most were friendly, and their owners alert and aware; those who weren't, were asked if their animal was under their control; I considered it the most important question, regardless of any posted regulations.

I had a keen ability to read dogs, and could usually quickly calm down an animal. I could usually determine if it was friendly or not. Once in a while an off-leash animal would get "near the line", though luckily never in an area with anyone else around.

I never issued any tickets. Didn't seem like the proper corrective action. I carried a giant can of easily-accessed bear mace, but never felt inclined to pull it.

I wonder if the hatchet I bring on my recreational trips would provide any protection in the event of a large predator attack. Never thought to try a staff.

12:19 a.m. on June 20, 2019 (EDT)
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At one point Luxurylite made the Big Survival Stick which was a carbon staff one could outfit with a giant steel spike, the cover for which is another section, which is the regular trail tip. It was reputed to be sturdy as heck, and being customizable in height it could end up being a $300 purchase.

6:02 p.m. on June 20, 2019 (EDT)
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Beware of people that love to talk about large weapons but never talk about animal behavior and how to interact with them. 

Beware of people that like to sneak around the woods and say things like "I hope we see a bear."

Beware of people that think that what works in their home country works everywhere.

10:06 p.m. on June 21, 2019 (EDT)
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Some rules that work here:

1) In a face to face with a bear, the bear wins.

2) Don't feed the bears. They don't understand "Sorry, I'm out"

3) Don't store, prepare, or eat food near where you sleep. Bears have a good sense of smell and will investigate.

4) If a bear wants your pack or tent, let him have it.

5) If a cub gives a distress cry, it is a good idea to be far far away.

6) City dogs don't belong in bear country. One yip near a cub and it will be disassembled.

7) If you see a bear, pretend you don't.  Just in case the bear didn't see you, it might be a good idea to make some noise.

8) Unless you were "raised on a mountain top in Tennessee", a gun makes you over confident.

9) You want to take a picture, the bear thinks you want to fight.

10) Keep your camp site clean and neat.

11:08 p.m. on June 23, 2019 (EDT)
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Hi Russ.  Please elaborate on number 1.

11:15 p.m. on June 29, 2019 (EDT)
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And as far as treking poles go, I've found them very useful pursueding small critters along a course. I've heard they work well in encounters with cats, as they have a tough time dealing with a point object extending into their space.

1:35 p.m. on June 30, 2019 (EDT)
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The bear has weight, reach, strength, and teeth and claws over you.That said most confrontations between bears and humans, in my experience, has been human stupidity. If a bear is stealing your picnic and you start kicking him, he will either ignore you or bite off your foot. See the signs in the Smokey Mountains park. Black Bears are pretty shy and don't like noise. Thus they mostly avoid humans during the day. But they are scavengers and will come into camp at night. Respect the bear, but don't fear him.

Personally, I've had more trouble from raccoons and feral dogs than bears.

4:31 p.m. on June 30, 2019 (EDT)
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Don't believe everything you read.  A small percentage of black bears are predatory on humans.  It is very telling where you have been spending your time if you think raccoons and feral dogs are your main problems. 

7:59 p.m. on June 30, 2019 (EDT)
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Given the number of raccoon bites, versus black bear attacks (none of my post addresses brown bears), and my own experiences with both critters, I'd say raccoons are by far more troublesome. 

I never had my camp trashed by a bear, but gazes of raccoons have turned everything upside down on several occasions.  They don't even wait for you to leave.  The typical camp raiding raccoon has no problem going up against humans, but when bears even approach such levels of courage they are relocated or euthanized.  Bears, on the other hand prefer to sneak around at night.  They typically shun human contact.  If you keep a clean camp, the only way you will know a bear visited last night is by some scat left behind or a paw print in the dirt.  In any case far more people are attacked by raccoons than bears.  And I imagine the odds of dying from a rabid raccoon are about the same as getting mauled to death by a bear.  

Haven't had any problems with K9s of any sort, however.

Ed

10:30 p.m. on June 30, 2019 (EDT)
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Hopefully we can learn from these exchanges of experiences, and learn not to extrapolate and assume everyone else's experiences have been like our own. 

I have seen hundreds of bears during the daytime.  Few of them have shown any fear of humans.  Some of them have stalked me.  A sow and her cubs sniffed me through the mosquito netting from a distance of 18 inches.  They have stolen my food and torn up packs.  They have scared pack animals.  We had a camp once in Oregon where we had visits from 4 different bears in one evening before anyone went to sleep. 

In a mining camp in Alaska we had black bears we could not get rid of.  They became more and more bold and got shot.  I have run into them at a distance of 40 yards and they did not run away.  The held their ground and stared at me. I have   run into plenty of coastal brown bears fishing that were very territorial.  There is no scaring them and running them off.  They wait for you to leave or you get a bluff charge. 

I have run into a handful of raccoons in my whole life. 

8:25 a.m. on July 1, 2019 (EDT)
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I live in a wild rural area just outside the limit city people drive to dump unwanted pups and kittens. In times past when the feral dogs started forming packs we would have a dog hunt to shoot as many as possible. Now an increased raccoon, coyote and bear population  helps out.

I share my fruit crop with a bear I've never seen. He has left lots of sign, including a couple of mangled dogs. Local bears are becoming urbanized.

11:17 a.m. on July 1, 2019 (EDT)
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Where do live Russ?  My brother lives in Oregon.  He has bear scat next to the hot tub. 

1:07 p.m. on July 1, 2019 (EDT)
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Hmm...  When I remarked black bears shun human contact, perhaps my thoughts are better phrased: they avoid unwarranted physical conflict.  Anything involving cubs is a warranted conflict; anything food related or blockage of a route are also provocative.  Inappropriate body language, such as eye contact and raised arms may be construed as a challenge, and should be avoided.  Turning tail and running is said to also precipitate undesirable reactions.  Back away from the encounter slowly.

Bears may or may not run if they see you.  But rarely will they go, hey there's a human, I think I'll mosey on over and get acquainted.  It is generally not a good thing if they do.  Make a bunch of noise and commotion to discourage their curiosity before they get any closer.  As for getting sniffed at through a bug net; yeah, very scary, but so is Bubba around dinner time, when he gets to breathing down my neck while I tend the BBQ.  Yet we both survived these encounters.  If there was food in the tent, that scenario may have played out much differently.  (Another good reason to brush your teeth before bed time.)

Most of my bear experiences occurred in the Sierra BC.  I almost always sleep out under the stars, cowboy style.  I often hear bears check out our camp, but since we put away everything, they are soon gone.  I sleep away from the cook area; the bears surly know of my location, but have never shown any interest.  I think bears in areas frequented by campers develop a route, like the mailman, except their stops are locations they learn humans like to camp.  Thus you'll receive a visit even if things are put away.  In winter the Sierra bears have a different behavior.  For some reason they will venture into the snowy high country into areas you'd never expect to see a bear, let alone at that time of the year.  I suspect they are looking for cold weather kills.  I am most leery of bears on my winter trips, as this behavior smacks of hunger and desperation.  Nevertheless they have not visited my winter camps, and I have only seen tracks and scat during that time of year.   

Ed

5:18 p.m. on July 1, 2019 (EDT)
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Bears have individual personalities, and every now and then one of them is a loose cannon. The stories are rare but do exist of a black bear that attacks someone unprovoked, someone not approaching the bear or near its cubs, someone not near food or smellables, etc. 

2:04 a.m. on July 2, 2019 (EDT)
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Bears hibernate in winter almost everywhere. Maybe not the southern Sierra.  Some bears at Lake Tahoe have figured out the garbage schedule and no longer hibernate. 

A friend of mine was hired by a local pack station near Mammoth.  One night he used a sack of grain for a pillow and one for a foot rest.  About 0300 he heard a strange sound next to his ear.  There was a bear chewing on the sack of grain under his head. 

I was camped near Crater Lake some years ago in the fall.  I was cooking bean soup on a Coleman stove.  It got dark pretty early but I did not have a lantern. I turned on a flashlight to check the soup.  There was a black bear on his hind legs on the other side of the picnic table.  I backed up and he jumped on the soup and lapped up off the table. 

I had a contract in Yosemite in 1974. We used to see several bears walking past the tram stop at night on our way to the Village.  We climbed Half Dome and spent a night in Little Yosemite Valley rolled out in our sl bags.  Bears came by several times during the night.  I was staying at Curry Cabins. Every morning the same bear was in the dumpster.  I always talked to him as I walked by.  After a couple of days Junior knew my voice and did not even look up.  This was before bear management started in Yosemite. 

A friend of mine was working near Lake Tahoe on the North Shore timber framing a fancy house.  The lots are all several acres and there are lots of rocks and den sites around.  Every day they would see the same 4 bears going by.  One morning a new bear showed up that looked kind of beat up.  My friend was watching him out of the corner of his eye for around 30 minutes.  The bear dropped his shoulder and charged right at my friend in broad daylight. It was a race to the truck.  The human won by about 20 yards.  The bear hung around for about 10 minutes and finally wandered off. 

I can keep going like this.  It is not just about food and cubs.  Some are ornery.  Some are predatory.  You do not know what order they come in.  For most people it makes sense to carry bear spray on your belt in a holster. Practice using it. 

10:25 a.m. on July 2, 2019 (EDT)
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I live in the Smokies. My experience with bears has been here, in the Cascades, and Arizona. I agree with everything ppine has said, especially about don't sleep where you cook and eat.

Bears here seem to do a light hibernation. They mostly sleep, but will wake up.  The smell of a campfire in the winter seems to be one trigger.

I've had three encounters with bears in town. Two were in Tucson where bears had apparently lost territorial disputes and wondered into town looking for water and new territory.

 The third was in downtown Knoxville. A bear relocated from the Smokey Mt. Park was making a bee line home.  It was sleeping in my mother-in-law's yard. It had traveled more than 100 miles, over 20 of which was through urban areas.

1:36 p.m. on July 2, 2019 (EDT)
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Thanks Russ.

We have dry summers here on the edge of the Sierra Nevada.  When bears go into hyperphasia and get serious about putting on weight for the winter, the woods are dry and crispy.  They sometimes head for town.  We have had them in the alfalfa which they like to graze, at the airport, in residential areas in Carson City and one young male got stuck in revolving door of a casino in downtown Reno. 

9:30 a.m. on July 9, 2019 (EDT)
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It seems now we're getting into that question of whether or not a bear is habituated, maybe better said as "the degree to which a bear is habituated," which is a skill I haven't yet perfected.

I generally assess three factors: how far into the backcountry I am, the season, and the behavior of the bruin, as far as I can determine. There aren't really any generalities I can make here, suffice to say that the braver ones seem to be the more domesticated ones.

3:50 p.m. on July 9, 2019 (EDT)
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ppine said:

"Bears hibernate in winter almost everywhere. Maybe not the southern Sierra..."

I have seen scat and tracks along much of the High Sierra crest during my ski trekking excursions.  I have experienced two visual sightings, one many years ago in Lower Dusy Basin at about 11,300'; the other just last spring, along the Parker Pass Creek at the 10,000' elevation, due west of the Mono Pass entry to Yosemite NP.  Perhaps I was wrong in identifying the scat and tracks, but the visual sightings left little doubt.  Note both sightings were near the Sierra Crest, located along direct routes from the east side, over to large, primary basins of the interior Sierra.  That may be part of the explanation for these bears' exploits, but additional contextual info may provide a more complete explanation.  

The Dusy Basin sighting was with a group, so I was not too concerned.  But I was nervous during the Parker Pass Creek sighting as I was solo on that trip.  Basically I just kept quiet and still, and perhaps was fortunate to be some distance up canyon (downwind).  

Ed

5:39 p.m. on July 9, 2019 (EDT)
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Plenty of the wildlife in North America is not habituated to humans at all.  They have never seen a human or smelled one. 

It seems to be common for bears to get up and wander around a few times during the winter, especially in milder climates like the Sierra. 

6:08 p.m. on July 9, 2019 (EDT)
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North Carolina Wildlife Resources Comission and others have studied and collared black bears in the southeast. They found that most hibernate for shorter periods but do enter a similar hibernation as other bears in colder areas. The length and date of hibernation varies which leads to a common myth down here that southeastern bears don't hibernate. Due to the variation some may not go into hibernation until January, others earlier, and then some come out as early as February. Leads to seeing bears all year round in some areas...perpetuating the idea that they don't hibernate. I'm not sure if they found some that wake periodically or not...will have to dig into that. I thought the difference between bear hibernation and smaller animals was that they didn't need to wake as they could survive the waste buildup longer than others...one of the main reasons for animals waking from hibernation. 

4:50 p.m. on July 11, 2019 (EDT)
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Interesting story this week in Canada.  A forester was working solo and entered some open forest.  He was making lots of noise to alert predators.  A black bear sow charged uphill at him.  The guy tried to use his bear spray but could not get the safety off.  Faced with upclose combat, he pulled out his grandfather's marking hatchet from the back of his vest.  He clobbered the bear and collapsed her skull.  He reported the incident to provincial authorities who dispatched the mortally wounded bear.  Wildlife officials described the attack as predatory. 

Sorry I do not have a link.  It should be easy to find. 

1:41 a.m. on July 12, 2019 (EDT)
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Fascinating reading.  I have to say, in my cautious and watchful solo hikes, the bears I've met have been perfect gents (or ladies - I must say I didn't linger to check the sex) who must have read the same books I had:  look at but not directly, talk in a calm voice, back away, etc.  They went one way and I another.  On non-solo hikes, I just got behind the guy who had insisted he come along for just such protection. 

Though there was that one time the friend whom I'd introduced to backpacking negated all the times my Eagle Scout brother told me to just shut up and go to sleep when the late night rustlings started during trips in the Smokies. When I said, as usual "OMG, it's a bear!" one late night in the Nantahalas, he unfortunately responded with "Do you think it is?"  The raccoon, mouse, turkey or whatever it was got away unscathed, but probably laughing.

But I mostly wanted to post to congratulate Ed on his perfect use of the collective noun: a gaze of raccoons.  No one who has ever watched that ring of eyes close in on a campsite could have put it any better.

2:39 p.m. on July 13, 2019 (EDT)
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Avid Hiker said:

"..the collective noun: a gaze of raccoons.  No one who has ever watched that ring of eyes close in on a campsite could have put it any better..."

Always wondered why that term, but yea, it pretty much sums up the experience.  But I would be more inclined to call it a glare of raccoons if that was the impetus.  Mob, as in mob of kangaroos, gang,as in gang of weasles, or rabble (my fav) would have been equally suggestive.  

Ed

2:49 a.m. on July 15, 2019 (EDT)
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or rabble (my fav) would have been equally suggestive

Not least for the alliteration.  A rabble of raccoons is perfect.

7:46 p.m. on July 17, 2019 (EDT)
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Fun day on the PCT near the house.  All of the through hikers were in town.  Some barely looked up as they went by.   I had a nice chat with a guy from Ohio for about half an hour.  He was waiting for his sistern and her friend to catch up as they were strung out along the trail.  The sister arrived out of breath and excited.   She had seen a bear and was taken by surprise.  We calmed her down and talked about a few things like staying together, making some noise when you travel, etc  None of them carried any bear spray.

On the way back to the trailhead I had some long grades to ascend, and now I stop sometimes for 10-15 seconds on the long uphills.  I had my dog Ruby with me and she had given alert barks before meeting the other people on the trail.  That gives me time to put a leash on her and step off the trail.  I was taking a pause with my dog, when all of a sudden I heard someone clear their throat 4 feet behind me and whiz by within 2 feet.  My dog ignored them.  I told the guy "you snuck up on me."  He said nothing.  Then I told him to "say something next time."  He was silent.  I thought it was rude.  Otherwise a great day, and I learned not to rely on my dog so much.

8:14 p.m. on July 17, 2019 (EDT)
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We had a bear pop up on us in our wilderness last Thursday as we sat in our Helinox chairs sipping freshly brewed Lychee Green tea. It was 30’ away. It is a wild area and a biologist, the only one we have ever seen in there has a couple game cams set up and has captured lions and bighorns as well as a plethora of other wildlife but never a bear. It was cool. He raised up as I saw him and I said, is that a bear. Girlfriend just said, oh my god. Before I could reach my camera he melded into the bush and headed down canyon. Lots of bear up on the higher ranges here but first one I’ve seen down in a desert canyon.

As for hiking poles, they protect my knees, ankles, feet and back. It is rough terrain and full of wild beauty.

9:25 a.m. on July 18, 2019 (EDT)
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Thanks ghostdog.  Sounds like you have found your Power Spot.

Nevada has more bighorn sheep than any other state.  I love seeing them. 

12:48 p.m. on July 18, 2019 (EDT)
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ppine said:

Thanks ghostdog.  Sounds like you have found your Power Spot.

Nevada has more bighorn sheep than any other state.  I love seeing them. 

 

Nevada also has more mountain ranges than any other stat, a wondrous place to fly over. Most of them are oriented n/s. I always wanted to do more there but Gold Butte was about it with so many places in the southwest to explore. 

4:52 p.m. on July 18, 2019 (EDT)
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Keep this quiet, but the best ranges are the three central ones a little further north,  The Toyoibes, Toquimas and the Monitors.   Jarbidge in Elko County is very interesting.  All of these ranges are relatively high over 10,000 feet and best in warm part of the year. 

You are welcome at my fire any time ghostdog. 

5:06 p.m. on July 18, 2019 (EDT)
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Decades ago I spent the night in Elko. That was a crazy little town with a kind of Wild West attitude to it on that night.We got put down in Ely once too for weather and the mountains ranges to either side that were lost in the clouds.

9:57 a.m. on July 19, 2019 (EDT)
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Elko is really fun.  Everyone is making money and out having fun at night. I have been going there since 1988 for Cowboy Poetry, but have also worked out there plenty of times.  Ely has been in trouble since the copper mines closed and they built a prison. 

The other great towns in the state are Eureka and Winnemucca.  Meet me at the Martin Hotel a Basque place.  I have worked in every county in the state multiple times.  The Nevada Outback is not for everyone thank God. 

9:57 a.m. on July 19, 2019 (EDT)
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delete

2:13 p.m. on July 19, 2019 (EDT)
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Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah...seriously cool old historic hotel, amazing stairways and rooms to rent furnished with antiques. Liked it so much we went back and stayed again. Rented mountain bikes and toured the desert ruins.

5:35 p.m. on July 19, 2019 (EDT)
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Cool.  I used to stay at the Mizpah for work.  I went to Tonopah once to deliver a presentation for the National Soil and Water Conservation Society.  I met one of my best friends there 30 years ago.  I saw him yesterday.  He collects native seed for a living. 

I pulled into a motel in Tonopah for directions a long time ago.  It smelled like curry, really good curry.  There was a sign on the back wall with familiar words in a new order:

"Love is God"  I never forgot that from 1987.

5:42 p.m. on July 19, 2019 (EDT)
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I like that...Pleasant memories 

3:23 p.m. on July 24, 2019 (EDT)
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Interesting story in the NWT outside Yellowknife at Lake Hanbury.  A couple had their food stolen, their canoe wrecked, and then they were cornered by a bear on an a small spit of land.  They were stalked by the bear for 12 hours.  They used a sat radio to call provincial widlife officials who were not that far away in Yellowknife.  Help came and ran the bear off.   They were shaken but okay. 

9:23 p.m. on July 25, 2019 (EDT)
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This week a woman at Mammoth Hot Springs CG in Yellowstone was attacked by a black bear in her tent.  She was bitten in several places but not severly injured due to the protection of her thick sleeping bag.  Park rangers set up a tent outside the campground which was destroyed by the same bear who was subsequently killled by Park Service personnnel. 

10:24 p.m. on September 25, 2019 (EDT)
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There have been 4 different grizzly attacks in Montana in the last 8 days.  There are lots of hunters in the field sneaking around in camo gear being quiet.   This trend will continue until the States of WY and MT shift from protection to management of grizz. 

November 17, 2019
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