Mount Baird

A Bad Start to a Good Thing

Story and Photos by Alice Schenk

Bear spray has an expiration date. We were headed back to grizzly country to climb Mount Baird—which at 10,030 feet, is the Bonneville County High Point—so the day before our summit, last September 28, I  brought our two canisters of a spray into the house to see when they would expire. I wasn’t the least bit cautious about doing this. Bad idea.

I couldn’t find a date on one of the canisters, so I stuck it back in the holster. I strapped the top band over the canister, which had the safety lock on, but nevertheless, orange-colored spray went all over the kitchen table, all over my shirt, onto the chairs, the floor, the walls, even into an open drawer. It got on my hands and legs, and it soaked through my shirt onto my arms. Gagging, my eyes burning, I ran out of the house.

But I had to go back in and clean up. Should I call Poison Control? In a mental mess, I went back inside but couldn’t stay long, as the spray was chokingly strong. Thus I instituted an open-door policy that day. Every. Single. Door. Wide. Open. And most of the windows, too.

As I went in and out, I tracked bear spray with me.  When I threw some orange-speckled paper away that had been in the open drawer, without thinking I licked a finger to separate the paper. Yep, bear spray on my tongue. Incidentally, bear spray is very effective for taking down humans, too. I coughed for more than a week as residual particles hung around inside our home.

Commiserating with me, one of my friends said, “I just can’t bear it.”  Another: “I know someday you’ll grin and bear this particular incident.”  A third: “Almost unbearable.”  And finally: “Did Wayne give you a bear hug to make you feel better?”

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