Will this intense grizzly bear fear stop me traveling?

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A few months before we left to go on our road trip around Australia, I’d often wake in the middle of the night in a sweat.

My fears leading me to visions of crocodiles snapping my daughters up from the river bank during a moment of parental distraction.

More than likely, it was Savannah slipping out of my hand and steely gaze to gallop like a horsey down to the bank and those unseen crocodile eyes lying in wait.

Koorana Crocodile Farm - Rockhampton, Queensland

“I don’t think I can do this road trip.” I’d think to myself. This fear of the crocodiles is too much to bear. I can’t handle the thought of my children being eaten.

These visions would interrupt my day time moments as well and they didn’t stop once we departed for the trip either.

It was always in the back of my mind and the fear only increased the closer we got to the Top End.

It became so intense that while we were in Tropical North Queensland, preparing to start driving over to the Top End, I had made the decision in my mind that we’d just skip the entire top half of the country, otherwise known as Crocodile Land, home of the largest and most aggressive saltwater crocodiles in the world.

Despite the intense heat of this tropical area, there would be no swimming. Not even in the beaches as the crocs liked them just as much.

It wasn’t like I hadn’t experienced crocodiles before.

We lived in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia for six months working on a pearl farm. Crocodiles would greet us every day on our boats. They’d even lie in wait on the other side of them as we waded through knee deep water to get into the boats during the extreme low tides that took them far from our usual boarding jetty.

But, this time I was taking my daughters and the fear of those cunning creatures got the better of me.

I almost said to Craig “I really just think we should skip the Top End.”

Recognizing my fear was completely irrational, I held back and came up with a plan to appease it. I couldn’t miss out on incredible adventures just because my mind wouldn’t stop showing me the highlight reel from Jaws Crocodile Style.

My plan was simple.

Talk the girls daily about the dangers of crocodiles and to never ever go in the water or near the water’s edge. And just never slacken off the job and keep a close eye on them.

A simple yet effective plan.

Now whenever we go near a river Savannah asks me if there are crocodiles in them. She certainly didn’t horsy gallop down to any river banks.

We ended up staying in the Top End for nine months.

Nine months with those fearsome beasts and not so much as a snap. Although, we did avoid a certain river crossing where they hang out for those cars that break down halfway across! I just was not prepared to trust ourselves in that situation.

We had incredible adventures across what is my favorite region of Australia. I would have missed out on so much joy had I given into my fears.

I’m now facing them again.

This time as we prepare for our RV road trip across the USA to the Mountain states, the South West and Western States, my night dreams and daydreams are overtaken by the girls running ahead of us on the hiking trail and meeting up with a Grizzly bear.

Grizzly bear usa road trip

It brings an ache to my chest and a pain in my stomach and stops me in my track.

“I don’t think we can go to these National Parks. Or, I’m not doing any hikes unless we have a guide and a bucket of bear spray. Or is that just like the crash position on a plane, truly ineffective and just designed to make you feel better.”

The fear of those grizzlies is so intense.

Would I feel this same fear if the girls weren’t with me? I’m not sure, but the fear certainly stems around my momentary slip of attention that draws in a grizzly bear attack.

At least in the Top End of Australia you can easily avoid a croc snap by just not going on or near the rivers.

In Grizzly country, you could round the bend on a beautiful valley hike and run into one ready to ferociously defend her young. And we’re considering going to places like Yellowstone and Glacier National Park during the spring, right when the babies are a plenty.

It’s not like we haven’t experienced that.

Last year, we came across a mother black bear and her two babies while walking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I wasn’t scared one bit and delighted in standing so close watching them.

Bears Cades Cove loop road bike ride Smoky Mountains National Park

But, they weren’t grizzlies, but black bears, and there were lots of people around.

It’s the only time in my life a fear has worked really hard to stop me from traveling. I know once I get there I will love it, but the fear, at this stage is so intense and large, it could hold me back.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself right?

They plague us day and night, and many times with good reasons. My daughters getting eaten by a grizzly is good reason not to go.

But, what if we do go, and have the most incredible experiences and never see one single bear?

Even if it means hiring a guide to stay out in front and protect us, I’ll do it, if it means we can have these moments and adventures together as a family.

Note to self, do not ever watch that bear scene from the Revenant ever again!!!

Bonus video of the bears we saw in the Smoky Mountains:


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How many times in your life have you let an overwhelming fear stop you from moving towards your dream? Do you have any tips for bear safety?

11 thoughts on “Will this intense grizzly bear fear stop me traveling?”

  1. Caz, irrational fear is a joy-sapper, isn’t it? It truly is the greatest battle ever fought, the one we fight in our mind. But try to realize that the chances of you getting attacked by a grizzly are much less than many other things that could happen…car accident, tornado, air plane crash…and not to create more fear in your brain, but the chances of seeing a grizzly are probably slim and the chances of being attacked even slimmer. Deep breaths and focus on what you would miss if you let this fear stop you. And have a wonderful time!

  2. My partner is exactly the same. We just did the Gordon River cruise in Tasmania, which was awesome, except for my partners irrational fear of our son drowning. It certainly made it interesting.

  3. I live in Montana and hike in Glacier Natl. Park many times each summer. Here are my tips: (1) Hike in a group, stay together and be a little noisy. Talk and sing and let the bear know you are coming so they can get out of the way. They don’t want to see you as much as you don’t want to see them. (2) Bring bear spray. I always carry it but have never had to use it. It brings peace of mind and is effective if needed. (3) Go on a ranger led hike! They are educational and with lots of people there is no way a bear is going to stick around the area. (4) No shame in hiring a guide. There are many guide companies who would be happy to hike with you for a fee. As many times as I have hiked in Glacier over the past 20 years I have only seen two bears and they were far away. It’ll be great!

    1. Thank you so much for this!! It makes me feel so much better. I’m actually currently writing an article on hikes in Montana and have been researching Glacier. I’m in love already. If I can’t manage this fear by the time we get there I think I will hire a guide. Everything feels so much more intense when you have kids – I know how Momma Bears feel!!

  4. This was eye-opening. I knew that people were scared of flying and other fairly common travel phobias – but bears and crocodiles are new to me! Loved having an insight into this particular topic – it gave me something to think about.

  5. Katie’s advice is spot on. Also, the further north we go, the more grizzlies. When driving from Canada to Alaska, I’ve seen them (and attacking mosquitoes =) frequently and I’d not get out of my auto while alone on a road. Also, don’t be like me and drive slowly by one, with the window rolled partially down, trying to get a photo. They will charge. And autos are not foolproof. So your fear is real. Be smart. Listen to your gut. Those nightmares usually hold a shred of truth. Stick with the professionals. And with groupls larger than your family. XO

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