Fairley Spiritual: Avoiding family vacation bear attacks

Our family and extended family is getting ready for a week-long vacation in Glacier National Park. For those of you unfamiliar with Glacier National Park, it is supposedly a beautiful place to visit. I frankly have no idea. I’m going purely because the rest of my brothers and sisters said it was a great destination.

They picked the park, reserved the campground and circled the date. All I had to do was say yes and follow the caravan. Since I’m a middle child, it was easy for me to agree with the rest of the familiy’s plans.

I’ve always been close friends with my brothers and sisters. When I was a little boy, my mom would continually remind me that “friends will come and go, but you’ll always have your brothers and sisters. So stop hitting Jeff!”

My mom was not only good at giving advice, but also implementing it. Consequently, I am friends with all of my siblings as well as with their families. When we get together, we have lots of fun. So to be honest, I’m not that concerned about our journey’s destination. If we all stay together, we’ll have a blast. And yes, Mom, I promise not to hit Jeff, even if he keeps looking at me funny.

For the most part, I’m rather excited about our forthcoming trip, except I do have some trepidation concerning the issue of bears. It seems Glacier National Park is full of bears. Some people view the possibility of seeing a wild bear as a trip asset. I would put wild bear encounters in the liability ledger.

My younger brother, Dan, keeps informing me I don’t have to worry about the bears. Which would bring me some comfort except for the fact that he’s been repeatedly telling me to not worry about the bears. Repeatedly.

Frankly, his stories are full of so many nuanced qualifiers, they do little to dissuade my anxieties. “Don’t worry Doug, most bears only attack when they are startled!”

Great, now I have to worry about implementing a hiking technique that will have a calming effect on overly jittery bears. How do they even know startling is the cause? The startled bear stories come from people who’ve survived. Maybe the bears that eat you are actually angered that they can hear you from miles away. “If they don’t stop singing that campfire song, I’m going to eat every last one of them!”

My brother, Dan, also told me there is no known record of a bear attacking a hiking group of more than five people. Since we have a large group, this is supposed to be the prime argument which will dissuade me of all my bear attack fears. I pray to God my bear knows how to count.

I can just see all six of us on the trail, standing still as the bear slowly and meticulously numbers our party. His paw outstretched, grunting as he points to each quivering person, “One … two … three … four … five … where was I … did I just say four or five?”

I can imagine my brother, Dan, calmly whispering as the bear begins his recount. “Don’t worry everybody. There are six of us. Bears don’t attack groups larger than five people. Isn’t that right, Doug? Doug … where’s Doug?”

I’m sorry, I wouldn’t be able to wait around for the math, and who knows, our bear might be looking to break a record.

I’m probably making too big a deal about this bear thing. I’m sure our Glacier trip will be full of safe, family fun. To be honest, I’m not really that worried about getting attacked by a bear. The odds are rather low that I’ll be mauled or even maimed. Particularly because I’m pretty sure I can still outrun my younger sister, Joy.

Happy trails everyone.

“Live from Seattle with Doug Bursch” can be heard 4-6 p.m. weekdays on KGNW 820 AM. Doug Bursch also pastors Evergreen Foursquare Church. Evergreen meets at 10 a.m. Sundays at 2407 M St. SE next to Pioneer Elementary School. He can be reached at or

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