We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods and backcountry and mountains and deserts…for work and for recreation. I fear the mountain lions over any other animal in the wild. They have no fear and want to eat you.
Bear spray might help, but mountain lions are stealth stalkers that like to get you from behind. I never saw the one stalking me, but I could just barely hear him/her - he was going round and round, just out of sight, of the tree I was sitting in, about 15 ft up, above the thicket and above a dry creek bed. Eventually, I didn't hear it anymore - I was hoping to bag a wild hog.
It was only as I was climbing down that I saw the multitude of animal bones in the crotches below me. I had been sitting in his favorite hunting spot. It was an excellent spot, too - I could see why he was mad that I was using it. When I saw the bones and realized what they meant, it was one of the few times in my life the hairs on the back of my next stood straight up. I walked back to camp the long way, staying in open areas.
A 357 just pisses off the bears. I worked in Alaska and the handgun of choice was a 44 mag. (Some carried a 454Cassul). If you were really serious you also carried a shotgun with 00 buckshot and slugs. A good season in Alaska was never seeing a bear-except from the helicopter.
I don't disagree that most/all handguns are insufficient to protect you from bears. But in the lower 48 it is likely that a .357 will in fact prevent injury or serious injury to a hiker from the animals we are likely to encounter.
Don't forget the correct answer to that question all gun owners ask; which gun is best, is they gun you have. I have a .357, I don't have a 44 mag.
The beauty of working in Alaska is you can tell your wife that a 44 mag is a work requirement. And there you are...the perfect excuse. Also requires a fair bit of practice to get comfortable with shooting a 44 mag.