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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