Maybe you haven’t spent much time lately thinking about how awesome bears are. That’s OK, if that’s the way you want to live your life — but I don’t think it is.
I am sure you are familiar with bears. They live in many places in the world, and come in many colors and sizes. These are not the most important things about bears. The most important thing to know about bears is that they can kill you very easily if you piss them off. The second most important thing to know about bears is that they are adorable, in all shapes and sizes, especially when they act like humans. There is no other animal in the world that all of us want to both hug and run from at the same time. Of course, sharks are scary as shit too, but no one wants to hug a shark. In that respect, bears are kind of like a big dude at the bar — might be a fun guy to party with, but also might love to drink lots of whiskey and throw people through windows after 11 p.m.
But oh, are bears majestic. The first time I ever saw a grizzly, I was in the Tetons on a short backpacking trip, coming down the Cascade Canyon trail, when we popped around a corner and saw a cub descending a talus field. As soon as I realized it was a bear and not a giant marmot, I froze on the trail. He (or she) ambled up to a tree, looked up, and in half a second, was four feet up the tree, claws stuck in the bark. We waited for its mom to show up, and when she didn’t, we continued on our way down the trail. A few months later, my dad bought me a print of this photo Tom Mangelsen took, called Teton Teddy. I like to think it’s the same grizzly I saw.
Here’s a bear joke:
Polar bear walks into a bar. He goes up to the bartender, says, “I’ll have a …
Bartender says, “What’s with the big paws?”
Bears are so rad, I have more then once cited them as the reason I don’t eat any other animals. There is nothing more awesome than bears. I mean, in nature. Of course there are things more awesome than bears, like coffee, talking to beautiful interesting women, and several passages of A River Runs Through It and Other Stories — but that’s apples to oranges. When it comes to other things on the food chain, bears are the awesomest. Studies have shown that Brad Pitt’s character in Legends of the Fall derives 65% of his sexiness from the fact that he has a mystical bond with a bear that attacked him when he was a teenager. The other 35% comes from the fact he is Brad Pitt.
I think a lot of people buy dogs because what they really want is a pet bear, but that wouldn’t work out so well, so they get a dog. Here is a photo of my friend Shannon’s dog, who is named Bear, which I think is aspirational and appropriate.
And here is another photo of a dog named Oso, who makes his home in Portland with my friends Rick and Staj. Oso is espanol for “bear.”
Sometimes people talk about being afraid of bears in the wilderness. This is a healthy fear. Obviously no one wants to get attacked by a bear. But all things considered, it’s not a bad way to go, when you think that most of us are going to die in a hospital or something similar. If I were attacked by a bear and died, I would like on my tombstone the words “He died doing what he loved: Hanging out with a bear.”
Consider your own personal relationship with bears. Perhaps you had a teddy bear as a child. Perhaps you don’t have a teddy bear anymore, and your distance from bears has increased over the years. That’s OK. There are a number of things you can do. You can like Bears on Facebook, along with 26,000+ other people. (Fun fact: more people like Bears on Facebook than like Burritos. And burritos are pretty awesome, so what does that tell you?) You can eat at the Black Bear Diner, which, lucky for you, now has 52 locations in eight western states. Some people say the food isn’t that great there, and instead is just large. I don’t care. When I eat there, I am too busy looking at the walls, every square inch of which is covered in bear paraphernalia. If you’re at the right place at the right time, you can get your photo taken with Smokey Bear.
If nothing else, when you see friends you haven’t seen in a while, maybe consider giving them a bear hug instead of a regular hug. Because hugs are great, and maybe the only thing that can make them better is channeling the spirit of the awesomest animal in the universe.
Semi-Rad is brought to you by Outdoor Research.
P.S. Because this post contains more photos of dogs named after bears than photos of bears, here is one of myself and Sen. Mark Udall. I am on the left.