Be prepared.

The following is from my last Toastmaster’s speech.

If you’ve ever been a girl scout or a boy scout, this expression might be bringing back memories, because that’s the motto of the scouts: Be prepared. 

“Be prepared for what?”, someone once asked. “Why, for any old thing”, responded Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting.

For our purposes today, it’s not about being prepared for any old thing.  I’m referring to 3 situations in particular.

What does camping with bears, hiking Yosemite during record water levels, and turning 45 all have in common?  (besides me having experienced them all recently)

In all situations, it’s important to… BE PREPARED.

In the next few minutes, I’d like to share a few tips on how to minimize your risks, which will help to maximize your pleasure, in each of these situations, with some personal stories, and show you some items and how to use them, that I hope will be helpful.

By the end of my speech, you will know how to be prepared for any of these potentially scary situations, and hopefully be inspired to visit Yosemite.

1st:  Camping with bears.

How many of you enjoy camping? Ever have a bear visit your campsite?

Here are the most important facts to know about black bears, which is what you’re likely to see when camping in California (and 95% aren’t even black, they’re different colors such as blonde, cinnamon, brown):

  • They have a keen sense of smell –  7 times greater than a blood hound.
  • They have an excellent memory for food sources, know how to find YOUR FOOD or anything that smells or looks like food, and are only interested in YOUR FOOD.
  • They will break into tents and cars, even into cars if they see something resembling a food storage container, or smell a greasy pan.

We recently had a middle of the night visit by a huge bear to our campsite due to a neighbor’s greasy pan left in the back of their pickup truck.  What to do in the presence of a bear:  make loud noise, especially banging of pans, or sound the car alarm on remote control (which worked for us, so now I recommend keeping it near your pillow), never get near cubs, stay at least 300 ft away from any bear, report sighting to Yosemite hotline.

Important: use metal food storage lockers – bears can smell the food, but they can’t get in.  You see what can happen if you don’t.

2nd: Hiking Yosemite during record water levels.

There are many recent You Tube videos of Yosemite to see the spectacular current water levels.  Here’s a nice one where you can really hear the beautiful sounds of the rushing streams and gushing falls.


As we hiked, I was reminded of some of my favorite John Muir quotes:

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” – John Muir

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

Fun fact about John Muir:  One time he climbed a 100-foot tall Douglas fir tree during a windstorm and rode it for hours as it bent and swayed in the wind.

Most important thing right now if you hike any of the falls in Yosemite is to wear good shoes (hiking shoes or sneakers, anything with rubber soles).  When granite is wet, it’s very slippery. Otherwise, you just need the usual (layers, hat, sunscreen, camera, and water – though there’s a great fountain on the way up to Vernal Falls with delicious mountain water). I especially loved the feel of the mist spraying on my face near the top of the falls. It was truly an awe-inspiring and breathtaking experience.

3rd: turning 45

How does one best prepare for turning 45?  Or just the aging process in general after hitting an age we can’t believe we’ve reached already?

The only tips I can think of here are what I can share from my own personal experiences:  do yoga and stay active, moisturize and use sunscreen, take vitamins, keep your mind engaged by learning new skills, studying new subjects, traveling, etc, marry or have a partner with someone who truly feels like a soulmate and will be a great parent (if you want children), with whom you bring out the best in each other, who can make you laugh and always feel young, even after 16 years together. Lastly, it’s great being with someone who is such an amazing listener and gift giver, who would go back through Yosemite & to the Ahwanhee Hotel gift shop on his way home (he left the night before we did), after telling him the night before that I liked and almost bought a certain hand woven placemat with Indian designs, six of which he bought and surprised me with on my birthday the next day.

I hope you can see why it’s important to be prepared in all of these situations.

What’s 1 thing to do to avoid bears in your campsite?

How many of you are now inspired to visit Yosemite sometime in the next few months?

If so, you won’t be disappointed, especially if you make sure to… BE PREPARED.


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