The good news is that I have, as of today, developed a deep empathy for bears – not necessarily when they are futilely hunting out more huckleberry bushes, but definitely if they encounter a human and get a faceful of bear spray.
I know how it feels.
Let me explain. I drove with Abby to Syringa, lured to the trail by the the promise of NO SNOW and hiking in actual hiking boots rather than snowshoes.
We parked in the lot. I opened the hatchback and started putting on my backpack. Suddenly I hear a “whoosh/pssst” and everything starts to burn. I turn around to look at my pack which is half on my back. It seems that the safety cap on my bear spray had come off and I had depressed the button while putting on my pack.
I disentangled myself and walked away trying to breathe. My lungs actually hurt, dammit. And my nose burned. And my left hand, which was covered in red crap, burned a lot.
I went back to my pack, sorted out the safety, grabbed an old towel, wiped down the canister and my hand as best I could, released the hound and off we went.
For most of the hike one part or another of my anatomy was burning. And my nose was running.
That said, the trail was, as promised, snow-free. Abby and I hiked up the switchback to the viewpoint and kept going above the lookout bench past the big rock. – Then to the end of the trail to the beach. Then we headed back. At the beach, I found a hand sanitizer dispenser in the outhouse – used it liberally on my left hand.
We hiked back up the lookout for lunch and then back to the car.
So – we ended up with 300 metres elevation, 10K and three hours. Nice little walk. Super for Abby.
I tossed everything I was wearing into the laundry and thought all was well. Then I tossed myself into a hot bath (did I mention I briefly touched my eye on the drive home? Not a good idea! That spray stuff lingers!). In the bath, my left hand started burning again. Got out of the bath and for the past half hour,- wow! Burn! So now I know how long it lingers.
It’s almost gone now. So all is well.
I hope I never have to use this stuff on a wild animal. I fear I might feel way too sorry for them to even deploy it.