Bicycle chains and bear spray

Now that spring has sprung, bear spray is always a must carry item when out hiking. Safety first! It’s important to be prepared, because once you are in wild country, anything could happen. (But why bicycle chains, PC? Have you joined a ’50s motorcycle gang, switching plaid for leather? Read on if you are interested, but no, this isn’t a tale of ruckus and rumbles…)

Good place for a short hike

Last weekend, we enjoyed a short hike with friends and family around the outskirts of Canmore. The hike was short for a number of reasons. The biggest reason was the way certain members in the party celebrated our reunion after quite some time being apart. Mrs PC’s twin brother, and his best buddy, hadn’t been out to Alberta before, so they made up for lost time by trying as many local craft beers in one Friday evening as is (in)humanly possible. We didn’t even try to keep up. If you were unable to get hold of a pint of Last Best IPA last week, well, now you know why.

Plenty of trees

So, a few sore heads slowed down our small band of happy hikers. Other reasons for dallying? The pre-teen, M, was on his bike because “walking with old people is boring” and his mother, S, was on her bike because a season of snowboarding had worn out her knees. M. kept disappearing onto side trails, and his mother would head off, find him, and shepherd him back to the main group. Her other son, teenager A, is an avid photographer, enthusiastic to the point where he has to take a picture of everything. Not necessarily a problem, but there are a lot of trees out there. This might have slowed our progress just a little. A’s father, Mr. S, enjoyed exhorting him to “come on A, keep up, there’s another tree over here!” Didn’t work.

Like me, Mr. S is bear aware, and he carries a canister of bear spray on his belt. You never know…although the chances of an encounter were greatly reduced that day by the heartfelt and voluble pleas of the youngest child wanting to know if we could go home now. No.

Why go home?

Mr and Mrs S live with their two boys quite close to Canmore Nordic Centre, so hiking and biking trails are almost right outside their door, and just above the town. We wandered along forgiving trails, admiring the views across the Bow Valley, the fresh new leaf growth, and feeling apologetic toward the single elk we did encounter. To be honest, I think the elk was ok, had probably seen and heard worse, and in fact looked rather unimpressed. It allowed A to take a photograph or two, and then sauntered off into deeper woods.

Unimpressed – and grainy

All was well with the world, the fresh air working its soothing magic on those that needed soothing, the younger boy was beginning to understand no means no, and enjoy being out on his bike in beautiful country. Not that he’d ever admit it. The weather was rather cool, skies were overcast, with more than a hint of rain in the air, but not enough to dampen spirits. Then, near disaster struck! The chain on Mrs S’s bike came off! That wasn’t the disaster though. It was the fact she didn’t want to get her brand new gloves greasy putting the chain back on. Truthfully, they were lovely gloves, and perhaps the grease would not have washed off.


Never afraid to help in an emergency, and because my gloves are a filthy disgrace at the best of times, I turned the bike over, reset the chain, and was about to guide it back on, but it seemed we all had to inspect the work. Fair enough. Mrs PC’s twin bent over the back wheel, his buddy along for the weekend bent over the back wheel, I bent over the back wheel, Mrs PC bent over the back wheel, S bent over the back wheel – it was her bicycle after all – and Mr. S bent over the back wheel. Quite a crowd! A didn’t bend over the back wheel – he was taking photos of all the adults bending over the back wheel. I hope he had a wide lens, and I hope he isn’t on FaceBook.

IMG_20160430_154940Anyway, happy that the work was sound, S bent down slightly further and reached across to turn the pedal. PSSSSHT! Huh? What was that? Too many beers the night before? We looked up at each other, a slight frown on faces as we searched for the guilty party.  Then we all staggered back as we inhaled. Yes, it was that bad. No, not that. S had set off his can of bear spray! Fortunately, the cloud avoided a direct hit on all who were gathered, and apart from some of us feeling a touch asthmatic, the only damage was to the back of S’s jacket and jeans. I’ve never seen people leap like gazelles before, but the explosive jump away was quite something.

It was one of those situations where you had to be there to really see the funny side of such a narrow escape, but can you imagine the headlines? Tourists shoot themselves with bear spray just outside of town. No bears were present.

IMG_20160430_140854We laughed until we cried, mostly with relief, and that’s when the closest to real damage happened – S rubbed away a tear or two and discovered he had bear spray on his hands…

I’m very happy to report S is fine now, after much eye irrigation, and there were no lasting side effects. He does still carry bear spray when hiking, no longer on his belt but in a side pocket of his hiking pants. Mrs S wears old gloves when out cycling.

IMG_20160430_155306 - Version 2So there you have it. No rumbles, perhaps a bit of a ruckus, and we’re all a little more careful about where we hang our bear spray canister. Thanks for reading! Please feel free to comment or share a story, and have a wonderful weekend!

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I am a would be outdoorsman - that is if I had more time, skills and knowledge. When I can, I love being outdoors, just camping, hiking, snowboarding, xc skiing, snowshoeing, paddling a canoe or trying something new. What I lack in ability, I make up for in enthusiasm and having a go. I'd never really survive for long out there in the wild, but I enjoy pretending I could if I had to...

17 thoughts on “Bicycle chains and bear spray”

  1. Maybe there should be a warning on that can of Bear Spray … Beware of private parts. 🙂 What fun and what a great post, felt like I was there with you, though maybe it was better I wasn’t. 🙂


      1. Yeah, I think so. My weekend’s going well. It’s 11.30 in the morning here, the sun is shining and I’ve just baked two cakes for the weekend. Not a bad start! 🙂 Hope you have a great one.


  2. Your post are always so enjoyable. The bear spray made me laugh harder than it should have. Have a beautiful weekend!


  3. Have been on several outings with folks that did not know how to use the outdoors properly. My husband and I enjoy our solitary trips better. You could have written a book about this one trip into the wilderness. Oh my, what an adventure. We have black and brown bears here in Arkansas – who are only somewhat dangerous if they have cubs. I am not a true Arkie, I just married an Arkie. In Arkansas they call Bears – Bars. Ha Windows are Winders, Narrow roads are Naro. Quite funny actually. Loved your photos and you are an excellent story teller – loved this tale. lol


    1. Haha, oh yes, carry bear spray, just be careful where and how!
      I hope you and your sister have fun in and around Canmore, it’s a wonderful place to be in and around.


  4. It was a few years ago since I hiked with a whole group of people. Your post made me laugh, and realize, yes..that’s how it is. It’s always something 🙂 I enjoyed your post, and the photos are marvelous! Sounds like you had a great time!


  5. I think that any bears in the area would have laughed their privates off if they had observed these antics even from a distance. I would have too! Luckily the beautiful mountain scenes offer a sobering balance. Most importantly, glad you guys had a wonderful outing!


    1. This one definitely falls into the “almost outdoorsman” files. Sober reflection made us realize we got away with it, and we were happy there was nobody around to bear (ouch) witness…
      Here’s hoping you have a great weekend back in rivertop country!


  6. OMG pc, you had me laughing pretty hard on this one. You built it up so well with the different characters, the beer drinking, new gloves, sullen teenager, photographer. And then everyone bent over the back wheel, the absurdities of hiking with a motley crew…and the bear spray goes off, OMG, and then it’s on his hands and then in his eyes. Really fun story. Thanks so much.


  7. A great story! In Finland they at least used to teach kids in the school how to act if you encounter a bear (always make noise when walking in the nature, if you see a bear, slowly back away, DON’T RUN). I’ve encountered a bear in the nature twice, both times in Finland, and it was even more scared of me than I was of it. I always carry bear spray in my side pocket when hiking.

    When we bought our first bear spray canister, we decided to test on an open field how it actually works. We were super careful to be above the wind and to not to get it in our eyes. All went well, expect we sprayed the can empty. At least we know how to use it in an emergency.


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