Amy stands by the sign:
"Welcome to Sequoia
Ntl. Park" No more cows!
Curious twisted tree
bark at 11,000 feet.
water," says Amy.
Scott walks along,
drinking in all that
Wow, this scenery is great!
Need we say more?
We hit the trail somewhat later than normal after a big breakfast with my parents.
We were excited to finally enter Sequoia National Park, signaling both a trail milestone and, even more significant, the end of cattle grazing. Water was also plentiful now. It was difficult for us to trust that it would remain that way and for the entire day, and we continued to carry three liters apiece. Old habits die hard.
Soon, we ran across a ranger on his way to conduct some trail maintenance and I felt my stomach drop. The rules in Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Parks state that you must now carry a bear canister with you if you plan to backpack into the parks. Failure to obey the rules can result in a hefty fine--several hundred dollars, I thought I heard, although this may be incorrect.
We take the bear issue seriously, but the problem with the canisters is that they weigh 3 pounds, are really bulky, and don't have enough capacity to hold all our food.
We had instead chosen to carry an URSACK-brand bear device-new on the market and NOT yet approved by the USFS [This is Intel's risk-taking value at work, besides somebody has to beta test a new product. -Scott] An URSACK is a sack made out of a lightweight synthetic material. In clinical tests, (conducted with bears at the Folsom Zoo) the URSACK was supposedly bear-proof. The way it works is that the bear smells the food, hastens to the URSACK, and then if he can reach it, begins to use it as a tetherball or chew toy as he attempts to get at the food within. This brings an important question to mind-"Doesn't the food inside get crushed?" Well sure-but you can still mix it with water and make a refreshing and nutritious smoothie.
We were also hoping never to test the URSACK because we always choose a campsite far from water, don't camp in established campsites, and never cook or eat in camp. We have had 100% success by taking these precautions over the years. But now, we were confronted with a ranger, who probably wouldn't care what wonderful careful campers we were. Our day of reckoning had come. What would happen? I had rehearsed several scenarios:
A. Play stupid. We didn't know you had to carry a bear canister in the park.
B. We thought the URSACK was an approved device.
C. Fein a terrible illness and hope he is distracted.
D. Pretend we don't speak English.
And, as luck would have it, the ranger asked the fateful question: "Are you carrying an approved bear canister?" How did the scene play out? Scott told the ranger that we were carrying an URSACK. He expressed no surprise when hearing that it was not an approved device and to my horror, he elaborated that we had received an email as of late, that alerted us that in further testing, wild bears had managed to rip a seam in the URSACK and delve into the tasty contents and a recall was in progress, [Free improvement not a recall -Scott] but what could we do? We were already on the trail. (How about buying a bear canister in Lone Pine?) I stood by silently, unable to find a way to dig out of this pit, but the ranger was cool, merely stating that he didn't have a lot of faith in the URSACK, but wished us luck and went on his way. When he was out of sight, I asked Scott why he had chosen to share all the unnecessary information. His response? "Well, I wanted to be honest." (Apparently, a blatant disregard for rules doesn't bother his conscience a whit.)
We continued on, enjoying the scenery, eventually made camp, and hoped we would not test the URSACK this evening.