……Within seconds an adult grizzly appeared and stopped in the middle of the trail, between us. I spoke in a calm voice and said “hey bear” The mother grizzly turned, reared up on her hind legs and let out a snarl that resonated through every bone in my body. I fumbled for the bear spray in the holster on my hip.
Our trip to Glacier National Park was on our bucket list for hiking destinations. We were on the tail-end of a RV trip through Canada and looking forward to Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. St Mary is a nice village outside the eastern entrance to Glacier. The RV park was within walking distance of the national park visitor center so we struck out on foot. It was a mostly cloudy day and the peaks in the distance were obscured by a cloud layer, but we were determined to get some hiking in. The ranger in the visitor center recommended the Piegan-Siyeh Pass Trail to get the most bang for the buck in a day hike. He mentioned awesome views and a steady 2,500-3,000 ft. climb. It was late August, so there was still plenty of daylight for the eleven mile trek.
My wife was watching for the shuttle and motioned for me to come along. Good thing too, because it was ready to pull out. The shuttle system in GNP is efficient and covers a large area. The Going-The-Sun-Road was undergoing repairs and the ride to the trail was slow. As the shuttle traversed St Mary Lake, I hoped that the trail would not be totally in the clouds. Our stop came up and we were the only ones that got off. We found the Piegan Pass trailhead sign and took a few pics – of course.
As you can see, the clouds enveloped the trail behind me. We checked our gear, I had the bear spray and my wife the bear bell. The bell was a last-minute purchase. I found this joke. Some background: The hiker was buying a bear bell and asked a store owner how to tell if he was in grizzly territory. They were discussing bear scat (poop):
…Well, what’s the difference?” asks the hiker. “I mean, what’s different between grizzly scat and black bear scat?” “The stuff that’s in it,” replies the store owner. Getting a little frustrated, the hiker asks, “OK, so what’s in grizzly bear scat that isn’t in black bear scat?” he asks, an impatient tone in his voice. “Bear bells,” replies the old man as he hands the hiker his purchases
The effectiveness of the bell is debatable. In bear country, it’s a good idea to make some noise while hiking. We definitely made noise, occasional whooping, hitting our poles together and talking in our outside voices. We did this so that we didn’t surprise a bear. They don’t want human interaction so, they typically will avoid the noise.
Making our way through the forest, I occasionally made an “aahroooh” sound just to make some noise. Funny thing, a hiker coming from the opposite direction said people behind him thought that they heard a moose bellowing. There you go, I can make moose sounds. Glad that it’s not mating season.
The weather changed to light snow, reminding us that in Glacier it is so unpredictable. The wind picked up and we added another layer of clothing. The trail came to a intersection with Piegan Pass going north west and Siyeh Pass to the east. We went east and reached the summit where the clouds broke long enough to take some photos. After a lunch break, the clouds closed in and visibility was 50 feet. The switchbacks helped us descend fairly quickly, and I could see through a break in the clouds where the trail leveled out and entered a bushy area.
Next: Hey bear! Encounter with a Grizzly in Glacier National Park – Part 2
Gear that we use:
Bear bell: Bear Bell w/ Silencer
I use a Nikon 3000 series camera and have really been pleased with it. It is easy to use and takes awesome pictures. It’s durable and has survived many hiking and camping trips. Nikon D3200 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm and 55-200mm Non-VR DX Zoom Lenses Bundle