It wasn’t until the third hike of our week in Yellowstone that we found the dreaded bear frequenting area sign planted in the dirt at the trailhead. I sighed. Every time I see this sign I’m not only frustrated that it gives absolutely no useful information, I’m left with a vague feeling of impending doom. Startling as it is, I actually prefer Yellowstone’s new bear sign, the ominous one:
Are You Prepared to Avoid One?
I prefer it because it tells me what to do to be prepared:
- Be alert
- Make noise
- Carry bear spray
- Avoid hiking alone
- Do not run
Then, it follows those with what to do in specific situations:
- During a surprise encounter—slowly back away
- If the bear charges—stand your ground & use your bear spray
- If the bear charges during a surprise encounter—play dead
- If a bear persistently stalks you then attacks you—fight back
- If a bear attacks you in your tent—fight back
Watching for a Bear vs. Being Prepared
As scary as all of these things are, it’s the final statement on this sign that tempts me to retreat to the safety of my vehicle. There is no guarantee of your safety in bear country. When it comes to safety, I’m a fan. In games and in life, I’m risk averse—so much so that our insurance agent has mentioned it to my husband. That has to be extreme.
But here’s the thing: A little intentional observation revealed to me that every one of Yellowstone’s bear signs ends with the same message. There is no guarantee of your safety in bear country. They’d all be saying the same thing all along. This last one though? It told me what to do about it. And I was grateful.
I’d been hiking in Yellowstone for decades, always worried but never actually prepared to meet a bear. And we were always watching for bears. From the vehicle, we watched because it was from there that we wanted to see one. On the trail, we watched because it was there we did not. But there’s a difference between watching for a bear and being prepared to see one.
There is No Guarantee of Your Safety
What’s true on the trail is true in life. We’re called to be prepared. We’re warned that we have an enemy—prowling like a lion on the hunt. Like bears, that lion is there, whether we notice him or not. It’s our job not only to be aware, but to know what to do. It’s a tall order.
But there’s good news: (When it comes to walking by faith, there’s always good news.) We’ve been given an entire book filled with truth and techniques we need to know to be prepared for an attack. And there’s even better news: Out on the trail there is no insurance, no guarantee of our safety in bear country—at least in the way that we often pray for. What there is, though, on the trail and in life, is assurance of our safety—in that God is with us and for us, in control, and able to do all that he pleases. We are never out of his sight—or his hands.
🧭 Ponder this: Yellowstone has taught me a lot about walking by faith in everyday life. What created place helps you learn more about walking by faith?
🧭 If you’d like to focus on being spiritually prepared, I made a pdf printable just for you. Click here for access.🧭 This is the final post in the Are You Prepared? series. Click to read parts one, two, three, four, fiveand six.
take heart & happy trails ~ Natalie 🥾
p.s. Whether we actual go there or visit in the pages of a book, Yellowstone has plenty to teach about what it means to walk by faith. Sign up to come along and receive news about Natalie’s Yellowstone book-in-progress, tips for traveling in Yellowstone, or tales from Yellowstone’s trail for walking by faith. Let’s go to Yellowstone!