Rob Taylor/If Guys Could Talk: The Girl Who Cried Wolf
July 7, 2008
Twice, I have cheated death. My first scrape occurred one July evening as a full moon illuminated Glacier National Park. Shortly after pitching tent and burrowing into sleeping bags, my wife and I almost nodded off. Almost. What sounded like a car’s ignition gradually grew louder. Then, we heard the rest of the noise: the exhale.
Jolted, I flashed the “shhh” sign and scrambled for the pepper spray. That’s when I smelled it: Bath and Body Works’ Black Raspberry Vanilla lotion, freshly applied.
There was no time to dicker over the “whys” exploding in my head. I just stared at my wife in horror.
Moments later, I stumbled across a plastic canister, threw off the cap and aimed at the heavy breathing.
“What are you doing?” she whispered.
Before I could answer, it hit me: I was clutching a can of Paul Mitchell hairspray, not bear repellent. Death was about to do us part unless the “finishing spray” was military-grade. I wanted to curse, but found myself praying instead.
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The grizzly lingered for five minutes but finally announced his departure with a snort and took the Grim Reaper with him.
We bolted for the car, locked the doors and downed a handful of Oreo cookies – just happy to be alive.
I developed a healthy respect for nature that night, but outside of Grizzly Country, I knew no fear.
After filling my wife’s head with moose tales, I cajoled her into the thickest willows of Rocky Mountain National Park a few months later. Meandering through the foliage that day, we became increasingly attuned to the rhythm of our surroundings: the chorus of mountain bluebirds, chattering squirrels and whistling pine trees. Words escaped us.
Half a mile into the willows, I stopped and pointed at the base of a shrub.
“Look,” I whispered, “a porcupine.”
Suddenly, she saw him.
“He’ll shoot! He’ll shoot!” she screamed, backpedaling and flailing her arms.
I laughed louder than I should have, then apologized. Eventually, she returned with a scowl.
“Porcupines don’t shoot. They only stick you if you touch them,” I said.
“How do you know? You’re no park ranger.”
Neither was she. After some quick math, she determined that the shooter commanded at least 25 feet of personal space. One step closer was suicide. There was no convincing her otherwise. Unless I shielded her with my body as we walked past, she was headed for the car.
We proceeded with caution (one of us on tiptoes), miraculously eluding the porcupine’s aerial assault.
The crisis subsided long enough for my wife to smile, but not much longer. Seconds later, two cow moose ” each with a calf ” emerged from the willows only 50 feet from where we stood. We inched toward them and readied the camera.
Suddenly, one cow moose charged the other.
“Take me back to the car, right now!” my wife whispered.
“Don’t worry. We’re safe.”
That’s when the sound of howling coyotes erupted somewhere behind us.
“Wolves, wolves!” she shrieked, temporarily forgetting there was a moose situation.
“Those aren’t wolves, they’re coyotes. This valley is called Coyote Valley.”
My laughter did not amuse her.
“Honey, those aren’t wolves. Even if they were, they wouldn’t …” Before I finished the sentence, the “wolves” howled again and she was gone. Thus concluded the near-death porcupine-moose-wolf experience.
We haven’t hiked below the tree line since. For now, most of our nature outings are limited to the backyard, where the ferocious garden spider is out there, somewhere … lurking.
” Everyone has a story. What’s yours? E-mail me at email@example.com.