Teton Wilderness

The Fading Affect: Sandbagging the Teton Wilderness

“Stop. Those are bears,” I say sternly, trying to keep my calm while motioning toward the two brown masses 50 yards to our left. 

The pair of animals lumbers to their feet, humps on their backs and dished faces on full display—distinct features of adult grizzly bears. The four of us group together tightly in order to appear as large as we can, each taking out a can of bear spray and slowly backing away. The two beasts sniff the air and begin to circle one another. They know we’re here. For the first time, I’m thankful for our big packs—full of skiing, camping and packrafting gear. Oars are strapped alongside A-framed skis and jackets draped on top, a moving façade known as a “bear crow.” For a moment, I debate ditching the packs in order to be more agile, but immediately doubt any of us could outrun several hundred pounds of muscles and teeth. 

A split second later my doubts are confirmed. The bears break into a full sprint, first parallel to our group and then veering directly at us. Watching the massive animals open up their strides is both beautiful and horrifying. The lightweight bear spray can in my right hand doesn’t seem sufficient—a garden hose against a forest fire. Holy shit, I think to myself, I’m going to get us all killed on the first morning of the trip

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