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All photos by
Tim Springer
and
Christine Baleshta


Additional Photos:

Tim Springer Photography





      I was embarrassed about being so scared. I tried to look relaxed and calm but basically I had a bad case of bearitis. I hadn't hiked much in grizzly country before so this was new for me and after all we had just seen a grizzly 30 minutes before.
   It was the middle of May, cold with snow on the ground and we were hiking back from the first meadow on Slough Creek. It had taken us a while to get to the meadow with all the drifts and mud but once there it was nice, open and peaceful. We had climbed on top of the big rock in the middle of the meadow and been looking at all the fox sign there. I was looking at where Slough Creek enters the open meadow when a large grizzly charged out of the woods ran down into the creek and looked out from the other bank. A bald eagle and some ravens immediately took flight so we knew there was a dead something down in the creek. The bear had probably been sleeping on a day bed, smelled us and went to guard his food supply.
   The feeling associated with seeing a grizzly from your car with 40 other people is truly different from the feelings one has seeing a bear from 150 yards away while you're 3 miles from your car having seen no sign of any other humans in the area. We were an appropriate distance away but still felt none too safe so we decided after a short while that it was time to sneak off towards home. As we left the griz to his meadow and his meal we did so with a new attitude I'd describe as primal fear. We did have our $40.00 bear spray with us but I always feel silly carrying it like I've got a can of Raid out to stop 350 pounds of slobbering rage but it's better than nothing and I was hiding behind it like it was a Mack truck.
   The Slough Creek trail on the way back runs through some tight woods that seem a bit spooky in the spring especially when there is no one but you on the path and there are numerous bear tracks on the trail. But I think it was when we found the mother grizzly tracks and a set of cub-of-the-year prints with them on top of the tracks we left going in that I reached my target heart rate for the day. I've always felt silly clapping and singing while hiking but that day on Slough Creek trail I didn't care who heard me or what they thought of my vocal talents my only goal was don't get eaten. Sitting here now it's seems foolish but today the outcome is certain while at the time, in my mind, it was very much up for grabs.
   The Slough Creek area is beautiful with a slowly meandering river full of trout flowing through a picturesque valley in the northern part of the park. It can get crowded(for a wilderness) in the summer months. My dad and I have gone there to fly fish and found no open water available but I'm sure later in the season that improves. The trail itself is discouraging for the first two miles due to a slight but constant elevation change but at the first meadow life gets better. I love the Slough Creek area for it's wildness, beauty and the fact that it's one of the few areas in the continental United States where you might get eaten. It's the kind of place that can take you back to a time when life was less tame and the things we think are so important now, just did't mean a thing.


Tim Springer - 2004


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