Well, I'm back from Montana, and did not get eaten by a bear! I did, however, get spit on by a deer, a fact which seems to have elicited the most interest and bewilderment.
So here's the story.
On the second day of our trip we headed to Glacier National Park, which was obviously gorgeous, all craggy cliff faces and green forests and majestic waterfalls and bouncing mountain goats.
One problem: we accidentally visited on the 100th anniversary of the park, so we were basically stuck in a traffic jam for the entirety of our visit. We wanted to get off the road and explore, but every parking space was full and every shoulder was populated with construction equipment. At times it felt less like a natural wonderland and more like the parking lot of a suburban mall during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. And I mean, yeah, I love the Anniversary Sale, but that's not why I came to Montana.
So finally, after two hours of driving, we spotted a trailhead and my mom just sort of stopped the car. We got out, stretched our legs, and then I saw a sign that said, "CAUTION: GRIZZLY BEARS" and I started crying and got back in the car. I'd been nervous about bears for the whole trip, mostly because my brother Tona kept saying things like, "When a grizzly bear kills you, it's personal" and when we stopped to get water at Walgreens that morning my brother Devin pointed to a newspaper that said, "Grizzly Bear Eats Man."
Upon entering the park a ranger gave us a pamphlet with grizzly bear safety tips, which included making a lot of noise on the trails, especially around blind corners, so you don't surprise them. And that was pretty much it, because if a grizzly bear wants to eat you, it's going to.
My family finally coaxed/bribed me out of the car and I nervously made my way toward the trail entrance, where we came upon another sign that said, "Missing Hiker: Please Look For Body Parts."
Tona grabbed my shoulder and said, "The worst thing to do if you see a bear is to scream and run."
"Tona," I said, grabbing his shoulder, "if I see a bear I am going to scream and run."
Five minutes later we rounded the first blind corner and I saw a large brown animal in the bushes. I screamed and ran.
Turns out it was a deer. My family shook their heads at my stupidity and walked past it without incident. "Come on!" they all said. "It's just a deer!"
But my adrenaline was pumping. My life had flashed before my eyes. So had a VHS tape that my brothers and I watched on repeat when we were kids, called Dangerous Encounters. It was a collection of clips of wild animals mauling and killing people. It included a segment of a deer ramming some guy in a field until all his bones were broken.
Now Marty Stouffer's voice was on loop in my head, saying, "Deer kill hundreds of people every year."
The deer was staring at me, daring me to proceed. My family was staring at me, begging me to hurry up.
"Deer kill hundreds of people every year!" I yelled.
"That's not even true," Tona said. "Marty Stouffer doctored the statistics. That number is from deer causing car accidents."
"Marty Stouffer would never lie!"
"Fine, I'm coming," I said, and started to shuffle toward the deer. Its front feet were blocking the trail, and when I got within a couple feet it reared up, made a hissing sound and stuck out its tongue at me. Seriously. Look:
I ran back to a safe distance and pleaded with it. "Deer, dude, you've gotta work with me here!"
It ignored me and resumed snacking on leaves.
"Nona, just do it," Tona said. "It's distracted and it's a female, it's not going to hurt you."
The rest of my family had resumed their hike and were disappearing around the next corner. I counted to three, covered my face and neck, and marched down the trail. That's when the deer stomped its feet and spit on me. I felt a mist of deer saliva. I yelled a series of expletives and charged forward. The deer made a sound that I can only describe as the ungulate version of "Harumph!" and bounded across the trail into the forest.
We never saw a grizzly bear.
p.s. Fashion-related posts coming soon!