Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Adventures with Annabelle in the Land of the Grand Tetons – “Did you taste the bear spray?”

“Then our sons in their youth

    will be like well-nurtured plants,

and our daughters will be like pillars

    carved to adorn a palace."

  -Psalm 144:12 (NIV)

Before Annabelle was born, many supposed baby experts willingly offered advice on every child-raising topic imaginable, even individuals who had no kids. And honestly, some of the commentaries were rather negative. It made me question why those moms and dads had children if they considered raising kids such a miserable experience. I often heard the term “ball and chain,” like my life was over because we had Annabelle. In some ways, it seems like my life journey is now beginning because of our newly formed family moments together.  

I could never have imagined how warm and fuzzy this child would make me feel just by seeing her smile light up a room. Annabelle relies on Lisa and me for every need and sometimes every movement as she learns to crawl. Something about that dependence makes you love a child more than one could ever begin to expect when pregnancy looms. This love factor cannot be conceived from ideas conjured in one’s own mind. They can only be experienced in the surreal nature of actually being parents moving forward, serving every single need of the child in real-time. Perhaps, as Christians, we gain a small perspective of how much God loves us as His children by having our own kids. 

Lisa, Annabelle, and I recently traveled to eastern Idaho, the opposite side of the Grand Tetons mountain range from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. While we previously visited the towns of Driggs and Victor two years ago, the presence of Annabelle and her contentment to be outside made the experience even more special than before. We ventured by the lakes and extraordinary vistas of the Grand Tetons National Park. We also stood in awe of the erupting geysers of Yellowstone, including Old Faithful, which was both Lisa and Annabelle’s first time visiting this specific national park. It was magical because I was present with both of them, not solely traveling alone as I previously did in another lifetime long ago.

Parents hope to set a standard of what children should do and certainly what they should not do, especially pertaining to nature. In Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and many other states that include large areas of remote wilderness, bear spray supposedly plays a paramount role in the defense of grizzly bears. In my travels, I have quickly found there is a lucrative business in selling this tool for the claimed benefit of the animal's survival. Local stores and the national parks mark up the canisters price to approximately $50 with only a spray duration of seven seconds, hence the product can only be used one time. One cannot travel with this item on a plane, therefore you have to buy a new bear spray every time you visit these natural areas. While it is not legally mandatory to carry bear spray, the environmental community certainly stresses this carry-only policy with the overwhelming pressure to be a good nature trail steward.

So, Lisa and I had our canister of sinister grizzly defense, and of course, after trekking multiple miles in the wilderness, seeing wildlife of all types, never needed to utilize the bear spray for any real reason. I possessed the novel idea that we should observe how this actual tool works in live-action. Why freely donate another bear spray so someone else could find out they did not need it as well? I suggested we spray it in an open area away from crowds and commercial structures. In a field within walking distance from our Airbnb, I pulled off the safety trigger and let it go. For a short-lived period, a small pink spray of about six feet shot forward. I stood there, motionless. Lisa and I looked at each other like, “Is that it?”

Slowly, a small draft of wind pulled the mist toward our direction as our lungs filled with pepper spray residue. We were both coughing profusely, running towards the door of the log cabin house we rented as if our residence would shelter us after the fact.

I shouted in angst, “I cannot breathe.”

Lisa howled in reply, “I cannot smell anything but this rampant puke stench.”

I continued, “My eyes are burning. Should I rub my eyes? Should I not rub them?”

The national park ranger clinics on bear spray never caution against self-infliction that you could hurt both yourself and a bear (or be in the shape where you can no longer get away from the bear with coughing bronchitis)! After I held my own eyes open under the water in the shower for twenty minutes, I felt relief from the uncomfortable, stinging sensations. Lisa eventually no longer tasted Cajun pepper incense that filled in her own mouth and nasal cavity.  

Thankfully, Annabelle was taking a nap inside without witnessing the stupidity of her parents as expert nature experientialists. In fact, Annabelle has acclimated to the Great Outdoors quite impressively. She constantly falls asleep in our Osprey backpack baby carrier, even on strenuous hikes, which makes me kind of envious. I wish someone would carry me to these native beautiful areas. Literally, at the pinnacle of summiting a mountain with an incredible view of the Tetons, she fell asleep in Lisa’s arms while sitting down. The height of dropping cliffs, riding an open chair ski lift, or thinned air of 10,000-foot peaks did not seem to faze this kid. It was almost her version of normal, whereas many other parents we know prefer to sit at home. I would say that is not our own preferred way of living.

We prefer adventures to experience new memories with our child, locally or traveling. Annabelle is not the reason we choose not to live or stay at home or never see our close friends. If anything, she is the reason we desire to introduce her to those we cherish being around us most. As parents, I hope we continue to share the beautiful, blessed experiences this world has to offer with our beautiful child. Apparently, even better things have yet to come, just hopefully not involving self-initiated bear spray attacks.

Here are some of the latest Annabelle photos, including our most recent trip together as a family.

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories #story #narrative #inspiration #JamesCartee #nationalpark #Yellowstone #GrandTetons #mountains


  1. Really enjoyed this James! Beautiful photos!

    1. Thank you, Tim. I always enjoy having you as my number one writing supporters, especially of these new blog posts. I appreciate your support. -JC3