Calling Trail

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?

Hello, fellow hiker!

Oh, are you calling trail?

All yours. We yield trail.

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.


  1. The Army of Four on April 22, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Wowzers! That’s one mighty big dog!!!
    Play bows,

  2. jack & moo on April 18, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Thanks fur that good advice. We just heard on the news that black bears have been spotted in RI, although we don’t think we have any on the island. While not nearly as lethal, we do yield for skunks.

  3. Carol from Down Under on April 18, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Hi everyone. Wow, that is seriously amazing. The bear looks absolutely beautiful. We certainly don’t have anything like that to worry about here in Oz. We come across Kangaroos occasionally but they just hop away. Once we had Brucey with us and he went cracker wanting to chase them. Otherwise its just rabbits, sometimes foxes, snakes or lizards. Thanks heaps for the photos. Take care, no worries, love Carol.

  4. Wayne on April 18, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Black Bear/ Brown Bear/Grizzly Bear No matter where you encounter them. Let them leave the scene first.
    A good stand/stay is in order. : – )
    Watchful for any cubs is Priority, as the Sow “will attack to defend” her cub(s) when and if cry out. Even the docile one(s) !
    Out here we occasionally run across the footprints, afer we had gone past earlier that morning on a trail run, or the next morning on next trail run, where the cougar had crossed the trail, near some water hole or big puddle along the logging road! Good Pix though of the black bear, in good shape! thanks for Pix.

  5. Maxx on April 17, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Is that Winnie the Pooh? Pawsomely powerful looking!
    Be careful!
    The only bears mommy’s seen are the ones in Hokkaido, Japan. They’re enormous!


  6. Koda on April 17, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Oh my!

    The only things we have to worry about when we are scootering through the forest are possums, rabbits, hedgehogs and loose dogs!

    Ahhh to be safe in New Zealand! But its very interesting learning about your critters!


  7. Huffle Mawson on April 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Yep, I’d be letting the bear have the trail too!

  8. Michelle on April 17, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Great info.! Glad your hike was uneventful. 😉 I probably would have pee-ed my pants. 🙁

  9. Fiona on April 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Heh. Mom and Dad were mountain biking in Idaho several years ago and came out of a tree-filled descent into a flat clearing – with a black bear on the other side of the clearing (maybe 25 yards away). Luckily Mom’s brakes were squealing enough that the bear heard them, and while Mom and Dad made a hasty (well, as hasty as they could, since they were going back uphill) retreat, the bear took off the other direction.

    Around here we have bigger issues with moose and elk (mountain lions, too, but they usually aren’t interested in us and hide). This is the time of year where Mom has to check the yard before she lets us outside; no more Close Encounters of the Moose kind! Moose tend to be like black bears – usually not aggressive (unless you do many of the same thing bears see as aggressive), but when they get pissed, BOY do they! (Mom was on the porch when one charged the porch – Dad was trying to shoo it off the property and ended up making it mad – SCARY!)

    We’ve got tons of mud and mushy snow right now, so we’re on the streets – our trails aren’t quite ready. Happy hiking!

    *kissey face*
    -Fiona and Abby the Hippobottomus

  10. Lucille on April 17, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Wow, unbelievable… I know they are dangerous, but they are so nice…. Wish I could see one too…
    Thank you for the tips to follow when you are in places where you can find bears, I would not know what to do if I was in the proximity of one…!!!
    You are really living in a great area, where nature is still at its best :)!
    Ciao Lucille

  11. Carol on April 17, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    OMG, my heart would have stopped if that had been me with six dogs on a leash. How in the world did you get the herd to quiety turn around and not bark their heads off and excite the bear?

    Wow – the worst I have ever had to face in MD was a black snake that one of my dogs tried to pick up on the trail and a lose male chow chow.

    I think I would faint if I ever saw a bear.


  12. houndstooth4 on April 17, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I can just picture Morgan in alert mode now! You’re darned right we’d yield to a bear! You got a pretty good picture of the bear before you yielded the trail to him or her, though! 😉 The sign of a true blogger!

  13. Kari on April 17, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    smart move, we do that for Moose and Bear in Alaska 🙂


  14. Biloxi and Siber-sibs on April 17, 2011 at 11:50 am

    So was dat Yogi or Boo-Boo Bear?

    We don’t git to see anything cool like dat. We has bears in da area but dey don’t come close to our houses.

    Husky kisses,

  15. Carolyn on April 17, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Oh my goodness that bear is gorgeous! What a good Herd, too, to understand and follow the rules.

  16. norwood on April 17, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Huh I apply the same rules to Tula. Hee hee.

    PS- pretty cool to come across but my nutty self would get me in trouble.

  17. Lisa alias Sitka's Mom on April 17, 2011 at 9:34 am

    First of all I’d like to say how lucky you are to have such beautiful places to hike! Wish we lived there!
    That was a great article, especially for all of us that are not around local areas where we might meet up with bears. Hopefully I will remember most of the info for our great summer hiking trip to Tenn..
    I loved the 3rd paragraph!
    Have a lovely rest of your weekend & I am so glad that The Herd wears those bells.

  18. Pamela on April 17, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Really good post on how to hike politely (and safely) in bear country.

    What a blessing to share your trail with a magnificent animal.

  19. The OP Pack on April 17, 2011 at 9:31 am

    That would definitely be a good reason to do an about turn:) What a handsome bear!!! Great photos too.

    So we guess this is one of the rare occasions when sibes should submit to the rules:)

    Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

  20. Sage on April 17, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Yeow! While a bit scary, I bet it was fascinating to watch–from a distance. A FAR distance! Good photos of the bear!!

  21. Khyra on April 17, 2011 at 9:25 am

    So, did woo find their ‘pic-a-nic’ basket?


  22. KB on April 17, 2011 at 9:23 am

    That bear is looking good for early spring. Not too skinny… and s/he must have been awake for a while to be out walking around on a trail. Very cool for you to get to see that bear! I think that a bear would never mess with a herd of 6 dogs and 2 humans but it’s always better to give them their space, as you explain so well.

  23. Sammie and Avalon and Ozzie on April 17, 2011 at 9:19 am

    That is one nice sized black bear! Very exciting to see such a sight in the woods; great informative post on “what-to-do” when hiking and possibly spotting large creatures on the trail. Cool that you keep bear bells on the Herd! (Did any of the Herd bark?) Also… we’ve been concerned about you… we’ve heard that horrible tornadoes have caused an enormous amount of damage in NC. Are you okay – or were the twisters in another part of the state? Regardless, we’re thinking about you…
    Sammie, Avalon and Ozzie

  24. rottrover on April 17, 2011 at 2:13 am

    YEILD!!! — It’s the yellow sign, like an upside down triangle — Abort!! Coyotes are one thing; bears something completely different. At least from here…

    Sorry. Minor freak-out. You all handled that extremely well… We don’t really see bears on hikes. Good job!

    -Gizmo, Bart and Ruby

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