Dear R.V. Shrink:
My wife and I travel full-time a bit differently than most people you write about. We have a motorhome and we live most of the year in National Parks. We spend more nights sleeping on the ground than in our rig because we are backpackers. We usually hike a week at a time in some of the most extraordinary landscapes on the planet.
My reason for writing is in reference to a question you had on carrying a weapon while traveling. We are not anti-gun, but now that people can carry weapons in the National Parks it makes me a bit uneasy. Not so much that they will use the weapon on us, but the fact that they may shoot and wound a large animal that we will run into next. I know you are a backpacker and I am wondering about your take on this issue.
--Not packin packer in Pocatello
I don't like it at all. I am not anti-gun but I am definitely anti-gun in the National Park backcountry. Since that legislation was shoe-horned in with the Credit Card bill, I run into many hikers packin a pop gun (45) that they think will stop a grizzly in his tracks. I always stop and say, "You know the rule, right?" They say, "There's no rule." I tell them there is. The rule is you save that last bullet for yourself because the first volley isn't going to stop that bear. I actually get a laugh when I see people who consider themselves light-weight backpackers. They measure every ounce they carry, then add two pounds of guns and ammo. I think if you are that afraid of what might eat you in the backcountry you should just stay in the front country where you may actually need a gun. They taught me about fire-superiority in the Marines. I guess that means I would have to carry a weapon in the backcountry if I was concerned I might run into bad people with good guns. I do not choose to do that. It has become a problem for the Park Service also. Front country rangers are well-trained in law enforcement. Now it is becoming necessary for the Park Service to train backcountry rangers in the same way, as more hikers are carrying weapons.
I know this will bring me a lot of comments. Just let me say, I do support the right to arm bears.
I prefer to carry bear spray. I also plan to do something most people do not do after they spend fifty bucks on a can of bear spray. I actually read the instructions. I run into so many people in Glacier National Park every year carrying expensive bear spray and they don't even know how to release the safety. I have only used my bear spray once. I accidentally shot myself in the crotch. Oh man, am I ever glad I didn't have a 45.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink