Start: 8:20 am
End: 5:00 pm
Camp: Fifty Mountain Campground
Others here: Travis, Brook, Gabriela, Jeff, Toph, ?, 2 others (no thru hikers)
Distance: 20 mi
Elevation: 6,661 ft
My penultimate day on the trail was one to remember. Breathtaking scenery and, may I say harrowing; no, that’s too strong, a tension filled encounter with a grizzly. If I were permitted to use such a word it would seem much more exciting.
Lina came back from Waterton to the Many Glacier Campsite last night, so I had breakfast with her this morning. Well a convenience store breakfast burrito, biscuit, and cappuccino anyway. We said goodbye and I headed up toward Swiftcurrent pass. There was ice on the trail starting out which makes me glad that I am not any later.
Early on, I met Nol from boulder, formerly from a ranch just north of Waterton park. We hiked up to the pass together for the company and since this valley is prime grizzly habitat. Near the top, I got a bit ahead and went just a little off trail to check out one of those places in a snow field where running water makes a sort of cave. As I was walking back to the trail, a grizzly came running up toward the snow field in my general direction. I made my presence known with a few shouts which caused him to slow, look my way, and then high tail it up the slope and out of view. It was gone before Nol came along. We hiked the rest of the way to the pass and he turned back toward his car at Many Glacier. I went about two minutes down the other side of the pass, rounded some trees, and spied the same bear digging right under the trail some 20 yards ahead. He was really going to town and didn’t seem to see me. I backed up, went to the top of the pass, and waited a few minutes while I had a snack and some water. Then I went back toward where I had seen him while making all kinds of racket. He was so intent on his now very large hole that he still took no notice of me. I backed up again, and made a wide circuit above him. Well not quite as far up as I had planned, maybe only 50 yards. This time he took notice and stopped digging long enough to look up at me. I took a few snapshots since I didn’t feel threatened and then moved on. Even so, when a grizzly looks directly at you from that close, it’s more than a little uncomfortable and a good idea to move calmly away. Just as I made my way back down to the trail, I saw two guys go by and yelled to them about the bear. I tried several times to get their attention, but they didn’t seem to hear me. Thankfully, they saw him in time to stop and back away. Of course after three others in their party came along they did everything wrong. I told them about my route around, but they took out cameras instead and crept closer. I told them I was moving on and parted with a “keep safe”.
By the way, the views coming up Swiftcurrent Pass were some of the best yet. Along the other side was also very nice …. and no more bears. Before going down to the campsite, I took a short trail up to the Sue Lake overlook; magnificent! I would have liked to stay there the rest of the afternoon, but the cold wind drove me off. Watching the wind currents at the lake 500 feet below cause the rippling waters to dance was a moving experience.
I know this is my last night on the trail, but somehow it feels just like any other night; a normal night in my life. I guess that I’m not allowing myself to think beyond this night.