Recreating a Memorable Experience

Squeak, squeak! Marmots give off a distress call often when hikers pass through. This one seemed different though. We were now about 8 miles in on our 20 mile day hike across Gunsight Pass in Glacier National Park. 

Far enough in to start flowing with the trail, keying into surrounding observations, weather, winds, contours. A well maintained trail however can dull some of these senses as the route is obvious.

I noticed the smell of freshly dug soil, rich fertile soil. Deep digging. And I noticed the marmot hole in front of me. Wonder if there is some trail work being done? I contemplate at the hole near my feet.

Then I shifted my focus upward to see the ground rising taking the form of a large animal. In the seconds of registering what was happening it felt like time slowed down. I saw a form emerge from a secondary hole not 10 feet away and on the edge of the trail. My mind put together what was happening; I was staring in the face of a surprised grizzly bear.

The dark coat contrasting blond streaks on his back, rounded ears, dished nose and distinctive hump. This animal was born to dig. He stood up pulled from the deep concentration of hole digging. I some how deposited my trekking poles on the ground and out came the bear spray flying out of the holster out to the ground in front of me.

Before I could make a sound or other thought he turned and sprinted down the hill to the edge of the denser brush. 30 feet away by now he stopped. Sideways he looked back up at me one more time I snapped a quick photo as he turned and scampered away into the brush like a dog.

Then Anne came along the trail behind me. “Bear” I stammered. Grizzly bear. Incredulously she looked at me. Concerned that there may be another possibly mother near by I told her what happened. Not scared but in a state of keen alertness.

We unholstered bear sprays safeties off and moved along up the trail to the open rocky Gunsight pass above with the image of a moment of connection with this majestic creature deeply forged into my mind.


Glacier National Park

Gunsight Pass Trail

See photos from the hike here.

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