Nothing Says “Summer Vacation”
Like Bear Spray


I am going on my first summer vacation in years. I don’t mean since the pandemic started – I haven’t slipped sunscreen and flip-flops into my carry-on in nearly a decade.

Blame it on being busy or life getting in the way, but for the last several years my summer adventures have happened in my backyard, aka staycations.

Don’t get me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed lounging around in my pajamas for one week every summer. In fact, that’s what summer vacation has always been about, only instead of napping in a lawn chair on my deck, summer vacations past were always spent lolling on the beach with my toes in the sand.

This summer vacation will be a little different. My husband and I are headed to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. There will be no lolling. We will be hiking difficult terrain, crossing rocky rivers, and maybe even white-water rafting.

This will be a long road trip with no baggage limits, but my goal is still to pack light. I want to be well organized and only take the necessities, so I turned to the internet for packing advice. I found several lists touted as “the ultimate Yellowstone packing list.” They were all about the same: sunscreen, mosquito repellent, bear spray.

Bear spray? “What are we thinking?” I wondered, “Why would we willingly drive 20-plus hours to hide from bears?” Bear spray topped most of the “essentials” lists, which tells me it’s not a matter of if we will encounter a bear, but when.

Doesn’t that just scream summer fun?

None of the lists I found included flip-flops, either. I will be trading mine in for hiking boots, along with smart wool socks and anti-chafe stick to help keep blisters at bay. That’s important because it is much harder to run from a bear when your feet are covered in blisters.

The Ultimate Yellowstone Packers also highly recommend warm clothing because it can get chilly at night.

So where is the “summer” in this summer vacation?

Technically, it will be a vacation taken during the summer and there is really nothing carved in stone that says summer vacations have to be beachy, although Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello might disagree.

Also, summer vacations my family took when I was a child were always road trips. I won’t be fighting with my sister in the back seat, but I can annoy my husband with sing-alongs, frequent pit stops and games of “I Spy.”

I can also throw together a nice summer playlist for our long car ride and our hikes. I wonder if bears prefer reggae or calypso…




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