i was of the first people at Logan Pass, I always want to start my hikes early. On this hike, I was afraid to be so early and have the odds to run into a bear increase, so once I was ready to start hiking I stayed in my car and waited for groups of people to go in front of me. Two groups fit the profile, a couple and another group of three guys. Once I left the car, the group of three stopped just before the start of the trail and I had no choice but to pass them. It was now me behind the couple. Within half a mile, even with some effort to slow down, I passed them. Now I was in front (later in the day I would run into the real first group on the trail, about 4 miles ahead at this point). I have decided to clip my bear spray onto my backpack with one of those faux climbing gear clips. I would have to reach back or, the intended idea, drop the backpack and unclip the canister ….. thinking that I would have plenty of time if I ran into a bear, which in my mind would be seeing a bear at a distance. Well ……………….
About 2 miles into the trail, maybe less, I was approaching a corner and at this point I was relying on the noise that the couple behind me was making. They were like 50 yards behind me at this point. I can’t definitely say who saw the bear first, because to this day I think I heard the couple behind me yell “bear” before I saw the bear. What I did see was a bear (who the earlier group told me was a grizzly) walking towards me, using the trail. I saw a light colored region of hair on his chest on the shape of a V, like a V neck sweater. I immediately reached for unclip the bear spray canister and ……………. I couldn’t unclip it. The bear was coming towards me at a brisk pace, not menacing at all, and I didn’t want to take my eyes off him, so I didn’t have time to drop the backpack and attempt to unclip the canister. Mind you, all of this took in total of 10-20 seconds, which went in slow motion, giving me the time to think in slow motion too.
At this point the group of three was reaching the couple, which were still yelling “bear”, which I never did. At this point, the bear insisting that it had the right of way on the trail, I gave up on reaching for the bear canister and started to say “hey! Hey!” to the bear, to no effect. At a distance of 20 yards (that is how close it got), I raised my hands all the way up and made myself big, you would think I was Gandalf stopping that demon at the end of the first Lord of the Rings movie. I think I may have taken a step forward and yelled “stop” at him. I can’t be sure, the adrenaline was fully flowing at this point. The bear NEVER stopped his pace moving forward, so what gave ? Well, at 15 yards with me raising my arms and standing my ground, the bear moved to the high ground off the trail. At this point, it would be important to explain that part of the trail is carved on the slope of the mountain and I would say that it is like a 30 degree incline ………… therefore I could not leave the trail or give the bear right of way. Enough of an incline that if you walked off the trail you would definitely would start rolling and eventually break your leg against a tree on the down slope. Back to business, the bear walked up the trail, like 20 feet from me. At this point I turned to the couple and told them that the bear left the trail and pointed to them where he was. Well, once the obstacle (me) was bypassed, the bear came back to the trail and the adventure started for the couple and the three guys. I heard “bear hey hey bear” and I started back on the trail to see what happened.
Well, the bear saw that many people and left the trail for good.
Remember the first people that I mentioned were on the trail for a couple of miles ahead of me ? I reached them eventually and they asked if I saw the grizzly eating berries (that is how I know it was definitely a grizzly). This bear was using the trail for at least 2 miles. Past the encounter I saw his footprints all over the trail, but never occurred to me to take pictures.
Now, for the perspective of the group behind me. At one point, when the trail slips to Granite Park Chalet and up the Grinnel Glacier Viewpoint, I was resting before going up the trail to the viewpoint. The group of three guys reached me and the first thing that one of them told me is to ask me if I was ok. It didn’t dawn on me why they would ask, but then I did the math …………. The bear was about 15-20 yards from me at the closest point before he left the trail, but the trailing group was like 50 yards away from me. From their perspective, those 15-20 yards were something like 5 yards. I would assume at one point they would have thought that the bear was literally on top of me (which in my mind he was) and would look very scary from their point of view.
Yes, now I have my bear canister clipped to the side of my pants. I don’t need to unclip it to actually deploy it. And I hike more confident that I will not act in a panic when I see a bear. It’s all in well when you plan what you will do and how you will not panic and not run, but when the actual event takes place, will you ? Well, I did, I was calm (at some point annoyed that the bear was not leaving the trail) and did what I think was the proper thing to do, stand my ground in an area where I definitely had NO other way to leave the trail. Ok, except my stupid effort that failed to unclip the bear spray. I wonder if I unclipped it in time, would I have used it ? Well, the peaceful way that the bear and me parted company, I was happy I didn’t have to.