Saturday, December 23, 2006

Grizzly encounters

I often see bears when hiking both in National Parks and in other areas. Seeing a black bear, of whatever color, is thrilling and enjoyable but seeing a grizzly is much more exciting. I carry pepper spray when hiking in grizzly territory and make noise but I still hike alone and I've seen grizzlies a few times, mostly at a good distance. I've twice encountered grizzlies at less than 100 yards when hiking and while I treasure the memory, at the time I mainly wanted to get to a safe area. Both encounters were during the day, in bright sunshine.

The first close grizzly encounter I had was in Glacier National Park on the Oldman Lake trail. Shortly before, I met a couple of hikers who warned me of the grizzly but said she was not close to the trail and other people were near. I readied my pepper spray and continued. When I saw her and 2 cubs of the year about 100 feet away, she was clearly agitated, moving back and forth and huffing. I rapidly turned around and went back down the trail, looking over my shoulder as I walked, thinking "don't run and don't fall". She didn't charge or follow and I decided not to continue on the trail that day even after I met other hikers who planned to continue. I could have walked with them but was too spooked, spooked enough that when I saw another grizzly much further away, I rapidly left the area.

My next grizzly encounter was in Yellowstone National Park on Swan Lake Flat about 1/2 mile from the trailhead. I had done a loop trail through the hoodoos and over Snowy Pass and was returning to the trailhead near Golden Gate. As I came around a hillside, I saw 2 grizzlies trotting toward me about 70 feet away. I walked toward the nearest climbable tree while watching the grizzlies (female and 2 year old) and getting my pepper spray ready. The bears soon saw me and stopped, then they moved slightly away. I found a better tree and watched them and put new film in my camera. Of course I had taken the last picture on the roll earlier in the hike. I spent about 10 minutes watching and taking pictures before moving on. Obviously I wasn't as frightened this time, probably because the bears were not aggressive. I was amused that I could watch cars on the main road go by at the same time I watched the bears who were not visible from the road.



At 24/12/06 06:06, Anonymous Tom said...

You gave excellent bear advice to your readers. Avoiding any grizzly, especially a sow with cubs is the ONLY smart thing to do. Great blog!

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