It was a long afternoon.
Normally in the upper left hand corner of my post is a beautiful landscape, like this one.
So why am I posting a fuzzy picture of two brown lumps on my blog? Anyone who has been backpacking with me in the last year knows that I have only one fear in life and that is coming upon mama grizzly bear and baby bear on a hiking trail alone in the wilderness. Well, gang, here it is.
Let me tell you the whole story from the beginning. I was down in the dumps because I couldn't be back in Maryland with the Mountain Club doing my very best to give Lisa and Karen a run for their money at HAM tomorrow. It killed me to have to give up my spot in the "event" in order to come out west on this trip. I thought to myself this morning that I hope I was able to have something really spectacular happen to make up for my absence.
Today was Grand Teton day, I got started late. As I was driving from Jackson to the park I decided I was hungry so I ate a package of salmon. I wanted to drink the salmon juice in the package and aimed incorrectly and the smelly juice spilled all over my shirt. I changed my shirt but I still stunk like a salmon cannery. I drove around the park and took some pictures. I knew the trails would be covered with snow so I didn't expect to get far. I got into an argument with the ranger at the VC so I wasn't able to get any good hiking information there. I decided I would just find the steepest trail in the park and go as far as I could. I found the Lupine Meadows Trailhead and set forth trying to climb Grand Teton in the snow. The area has only been open for 4 days this year so I didn't expect to get far.
I got about 2.5 miles up, about 1500 feet of elevation change but there was a lot of snow so I aborted the mission and decided to descend. I met a guy named Rex(see pic) on the way down. We had a funny conversation about me stinking of salmon. He said he saw a black bear on a trail once and screamed "Bear" continually to frighten him off. Rex continued up and I continued down. I took a nice picture of a badger-like mammal(see pic) and then I came upon a turkey-like bird(see pic). I got real close to the turkey-bird and the bird didn't seem frightened. It was watching something else on the trail. Curious, I looked around. The trail was about to switchback, on the lower trail was a big-assed bear about 100 feet way from me. I thought, "Neat, a bear, I hope it doesn't have a baby bear with it." I looked around again, there was baby bear.
I thought again, "Oh Shit". I backed up and hid behind a tree. My apologies for the fuzzy pictures but there was no way in hell I was getting closer to the two of them. There were two tiny problems with the situation. The bears were standing directly on the hiking trail which I needed to use to get down off the mountain. The second problem was my Eau de Salmon.
The bears hung out for a few minutes eating plants and drinking from the stream. Me and turkey-bird stood still watching. I snapped as many pictures as I could fiddling with my camera praying the flash wouldn't go off. I got maybe three good ones as there were more than a few bushes in the way. The bears decided to go down the trail into a dark grove of trees. Unfortunately, I needed to go down the same trail into the same grove of trees. I waited about 10 minutes and decided to try Rex's bear scream approach. So I start screaming, "Bear, Bear, Bear". Things were going well the first 50 feet into the dark grove of trees. But as I walked slowly and screamed "Bear" really loud at one point I heard a heck of a loud noise, branches breaking, things scurrying and a glimpse of bear ass running in the opposite direction from me about 20 feet away. Out of all the grizzly bears available, I get the one that needs a hearing aid.
Oddly enough, I did not experience an adrenaline rush. I guess I have had so many close calls lately with rattlers and East Baltimore hoodlums that a startled grizzly bear and her cub is now a walk in the park(literally) for me. I handle all of these difficult situations the same way. I hold my head held high and walk confidently away as if I own the place. This approach worked well, I have never hiked so fast back up a trail in my life, you hamsters would be proud.
Then I sat down and thought about what to do and hoped that Rex was going to come down the mountain soon. Hiking down the trail with another person would up my chances of survival by 50%. Rex eventually came down the mountain and we hiked down the trail together. Rex was upset because he didn't get to see the grizzly bears. Rex and I are both living in our minivans so we got to contrast and compare notes.
When I told Ranger John about my adventure and after he quit laughing he said, "Babe, I think you need to buy a can of bear spray." Gotta love him. At least I didn't end up like these guys did earlier in the week.
Tomorrow I go to Yellowstone. I am no longer afraid of grizzly bears.