Our two favorite sports, dog sledding and hiking, both have courtesy rules around sharing the trail. Essentially, if someone “calls trail,” the other party should yield the trail. A simple courtesy.
The rules of who yields to who are actually simple – whoever has the best ability to yield the trail should. The person at the wide spot steps aside. The person coming downhill steps aside for someone coming uphill (uphill is harder work and you do not want to break momentum – but the uphill hiker may also use this as a great opportunity to take a rest). Singles step aside for large groups. Humans step aside for horses. Bikes and ATV’s should yield to humans. And so on. A great list of hiking etiquette can be found here.
But in the end, it is always smarter to yield the trail if you have the ability to do so, particularly if the other party has the ability to inflict harm – intentionally or unintentionally. Thus, yesterday, when we rounded the bend of the trail and saw this, what do you think we did?
Bear safety is paramount if you are hiking. In this area, we have black bears. They are relatively docile animals so the threat level is fairly low as long as you have respect for them. Make noise while you hike (The Herd wears bear bells) and odds are you will never see a bear in the first place. Never approach a bear. Never get between a bear and its cub (the one sure way to get attacked is to be perceived as a threat to a cub). Never run from a bear (they can outrun you and might perceive your flight as an invitation). And keep your dog on a leash while out hiking as a single dog can provoke any bear and then come running to you for help with the bear in pursuit.
And never, never, never feed a bear. You might think it is cute, but you are teaching that bear that approaching humans is acceptable behavior. Sooner or later, the Park Service will have to euthanize a bear with no fear of humans because it will become a problem.
In this case, we simply backed up until we were around the curve of the trail and out of sight. Then, we just backtracked. The bear did notice us, but was mostly uninterested.