Entering Grizzly Country! Is that your kind of vacation?
Summer is on the wane…Did you take that vacation I recommended in my last newsletter?
Did you enjoy the time away from the normal routine, and stress of daily life? Did you rejuvenate your spirit, unleash your creativity, and allow that joyful smile to re-emerge?
Going to ‘grizzly country’ was how my husband and I spent a few add-on days to a business trip to eastern Washington. A mini-vacation of 4 nights camping and hiking in Glacier National Park.
Our first hike was the 13+ mile Quartz Lake loop in the North Fork area of Glacier. This is a more remote area of the park, only accessible via rocky dirt roads. You only go here if you really want to get away from it all.
I knew Glacier had the largest concentration of grizzly bears in the lower 48. We had seen one scamper across the road on our previous day's drive. So the warning sign was definitely not ignored!
Forget the jingle bells. The best way to reduce your chance of bear-to-human engagement is to make a lot of noise. If it hears you coming, the bear will ‘generally’ move away (so “they” say).
So we talked...boy, did we talk...and LOUDLY.
- We used Edward De Bono's Six Thinking Hats to analyze household move options
- Talked a little politics (that would scare any wild animal away!)
- Shared war stories of our Army days
- Even broke into a few Jody Calls
- Recalled theme songs from old TV shows ("This is the story. Of a man named Brady…")
- Church hymns and band marches
- Interspersed with periodic “Woot! Woot!” And Hootin’ and Hollerin’.
We were well-rewarded along the way with beautiful clear reflective lakes, sweeping vistas, and gray-green mountains still dotted with patches of snow, despite the 98 degree temperatures.
And—thank goodness--we had no reason to expend our hefty can of bear spray. The bears obviously didn't want to get anywhere near such a rowdy bunch of humans.
The focus was what was most difficult for me. It was a hyper-vigilant focus. Not the inner-peace, appreciative-observer focus I often seek while hiking.
Our Glacier hikes were very externally focused--very much ‘on point’ with what was around us. But in a danger-aware way, not an appreciative-beauty way.
The reptilian/ mammalian part of my brain--the part that is tuned to protection--was totally on overload. Hyper-vigilant awareness on what I could see and hear to the front, the rear, the left, the right.
No energy left to focus on inner peace or creativity. It was all about fight-flight-freeze if the bear situation rose up in front of us.
All this, despite the fact that chances of actually running into a bear are infinitesimally small.
At the end of 13+ miles, a feeling of absolute exhilaration—and of utter exhaustion from being ‘hyper-focused’ for 7 hours.
Far from being energized, my mind was blank. I couldn't write in my journal that night. I tried to read, but the words were getting muddled in my brain, not understanding.
A sustained hyper-vigilance to the perceived dangers around us wreaks havoc with our neuro-bio system.
- Chemicals of cortisol, noradrenaline, and adrenaline are released.
- Blood and energy pushes towards our extremities in case we have to fight-flight-freeze.
- Energy is re-directed away from our higher brain functions like complex decision making and creativity into a reactive response mode.
To your best potential,
One hyper-vigilant day can be exhilarating. But over weeks and months, what do conditions of sustained hyper-vigilance do to our ability to focus on something besides the 'danger' around us?
How often does “Entering Grizzly Country” show up in your own life?
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