I’ve done a few more wilderness hikes since this one, but thought I’d make all the mistakes at once, so you don’t have to.

1. Be “bear aware!” This means knowing that bears can smell food five miles away. Maybe ten. Some say twenty. I heard a bear will walk fifty miles for bacon. If there’s a bear in eastern Idaho, you may or may not be safe in Western Washington.

2. When packing food to put in your bear-proof canister, be sure to double-seal the little baggie full of salad drenched in fabulous sweet onion teriyaki dressing so it doesn’t spill.

3. You probably won’t meet a bear, but you never know. Singing helps drive them away. Bears are repelled by DAY-OH! DAY-AY-AY OH! Then again, there’s a rumor that bears love the Beatle song “Honey Pie.” Do not sing it in case this is true. In fact, unless you’re a good singer, it’s possible your voice could trigger the predatory instincts of any nearby animal. It’s also said that bear bells remind them of dinner.

4. When washing the sweet onion teriyaki dressing off your hands because the bag leaked all over, be grateful for wet leaves on a nearby bush to wipe your hands on. Never mind that by doing that, you just dressed the bush like a salad.

5. Never, ever run from a bear! Even if it has that hangry look in its eye from not eating for a few months. Instead, talk to it like it’s your ex-boss who hit on you like he was a colony of E. coli and you were a side of room-temperature Omaha beef. It’s okay to sternly inform the bear that its authoritarian tendencies are offensive. But it’s also good to remember that carrying three dollars in quarters and dimes miles up a trail to your tent site where you can’t spend it on laundry will slow you down in case you need to run.

6. Remember that bears are omnivores, which means they like salad as well as meat. And you just wiped your fragrant sticky hands on those wet leaves next to your f***ing tent, which happens to be the color and shape of a large crouton.

7. Stop worrying that you dropped your sweaty handkerchief somewhere on the trail like a two-ton bread crumb pointing straight to your tent.

8. Always bring a charging battery so you can forget about bears while alone in your tent at night reading a Kindle novel on your phone. Common sense would say to avoid suspense books like “Mark of the Grizzly,” but you didn’t do that, did you, donut-brain? You try to laugh about that, but it comes out deep and throaty, like the sound a dog makes just before it throws up, a nervous sound that bears are probably highly attracted to.

9. Since you forgot the f***ing connector cord for the f***ing battery and couldn’t hook up your f***ing cell phone and now it’s dead and thoughts of bears are tumbling around in your brain like underpants in a dryer without ClingFree, maybe try making up calming stories in your head, you stupid slagmagnet. How about a Disney-esque tale of 101 dachshunds running through a field of flowers? Away from motherf***ing bears. Try to stay awake so you don’t have nightmares about bears sniffing the outside of your tent like it’s one of those triangular Toblerone chocolate boxes while they wonder if it’s cherry or caramel filled.

10. Pay no attention to the sound of mice rustling in leaves outside your tent at 3:00 am. Not one iota of attention will you give it. Oh bugger, that’s an awfully big mouse…


  1. The skyline trail. A crossover from the Quinalt to the Elkwa. Fantastic hike but it was the blueberries that brought them all together. Wondrous really.

  2. Funny and thanks for that. All troo too. Ricky and I went on a backpacking trip one Labor Day (blueberry season in the high country) and we saw 34 bears. All of them were uninterested in us, except that one bear who was wearing a radio collar…..

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