When I hitchhike around the States I feel that people in general are very scared. When I get in a car the first question was usually “Are you not scared?”. I was just thinking: “Are you?”. Then they ask me about sexual predators. Have I ever been in trouble? Everybody tells me stories about the hitchhiker killer they had in Washington, Oregon, Montana… Urban myths about the boogeyman. But they pick me up, because I am white and blond and pretty and could not possibly be dangerous. What you see on TV is just horrifying. Scaremongering on the news. Could it be that you need an epipen? Ask your doctor for this particular medication. Lawyers searching for people to join their class action suits. If you were treated with vaginal mesh and experienced problems call us. What the hell is a vaginal mesh anyway? Consume something and you won’t be so scared anymore. Buy Bear Spray! And at the end of the news program they show you a baby Panda just to even things out. Because America is still the greatest place on earth and there is certainly no discussion about that.
And it is a wonderful country. Close to Missoula Montana there is a magic place called Glacier National Park. At the Information Centre in town I ask about possible hikes and the Lady warns me about the bears in the park. I have written about bears before and they do scare me. However, the longer I stayed in Canada the less worried I got. Most Canadians are pretty relaxed about bears and maintain that only stupid people get eaten by a bear. Make of it what you want, but the Americans are very concerned about being eaten. Luckily there is something we can consume to ease our mind. The lady recommends to take some bear spray. I tell her that the Canadians think only stupid people get eaten by a bear, which makes her laugh. Since we were already laughing the nice lady tells me funny bear spray stories from her time working in the park headquarters. There was parents spraying their children with it because they thought it was repellent. A Japanese tour group faced with an actual bear sprayed their guide instead of the bear, then fled the scene and left the unconscious guide to be eaten. Luckily the bear was not interested at all. Once she saw people trying to hand-feed a bear that was roaming around the camping lot. Those are usually the ones that do get eaten. Still laughing about this I make my way to the outdoor shop because I need some pegs for my tent. When I go to pay I see the mysterious bear spray and the young man at the counter strongly urges me to buy it for only 50$. Later on I meet some people at the bar and they agree that I am probably going to die without the bear spray. Nevertheless, I hitchhike up to the National Park without the protection.
I pitch my tent at Two Medicine Lake and enjoying the rest of a beautiful sun-drenched day. The Lake is surrounded by magnificent mountains with the peak of Mount Sinopah rising in the West. The setting is spectacular with the water glistening in the late afternoon sun. It is truly a magic place. In the evening I make a fire and some grilled cheese sandwiches. Once the sun has set a million stars come out. When I look up at the night sky I see a million stars. The Blackfeet Nation traditionally used the area around Two Medicine Lake as a spot for Vision Quests. It is a time apart. A person goes out into nature to fast and pray, hoping they would receive a vision of a guardian spirit. The bear, by the way, is considered one of the most powerful animal spirits. During a Vision Quest one would hope to learn about their purpose in life. I am thinking it is also a way to learn how not to be so scared.
In the morning I hike up through the mountains to No Name Lake. It is one of those days where it is cloudy and sunny at the same time. All day I am lost in awe and wonder about the beauty that surrounds me. Out here your brain seems to have more space. I can see why the Blackfeet search for the answers in nature. Whilst hiking I use an empty Pringles can filled with stones as a rattle. Stupid people might be very quiet and run into a bear, who, startled by their presence, might eat them. I however, meet some other hikers from the Midwest, who are hiding in the bushes because they are scared of a strange animal coming towards them, that is making an unusual rattling sound. They do have their bear spray ready. Thankfully they realize that I might be a strange animal but certainly not dangerous.
The next day I meet up with a nice guy I met at the Information Centre in Missoula. I only met him because after everybody told me that I was going to be eaten by a bear I went back to the Information Centre to leave my number for potential hiking partners. So I found one right then and there and he even came equipped with bear spray. We hike up to a place called Old Man Lake. Passing through dense forest and open meadows we talk about life in the big city. People trying to find their path in a thick jungle of distractions. Hot Yoga and Vegan Food, mixed with wild cocaine parties, all whilst worrying about your career and the amount of likes on your Instagram. Out here none of it matters. My companion tells me how being in New York on September 11th has changed his life. It made him less scared. Debris from the first tower fell down right next to him. It made him want to reconnect with nature he says.
We walk through an eerie forest of dead Whitebark Pines and then we arrive at Old Man Lake. Thick cloud are billowing right over our heads shrouding the surrounding mountaintops in mystery. It is dead quiet around us and we sit in silence for a while. That’s what they do during a Vision Quest. They sit and they wait believing that we are put on this earth for a reason. And if a bear came it would be just like the debris from a the falling tower.