On my last day of hiking at GlacierNP I decided to hike Firebrand Pass. The trailhead for this hike resides outside of the park, at the side of the road at route 2, next to the train tracks (which you have to cross).
The trail starts at a meadow that becomes a forested area pretty soon. I was alone on the trail, it is not a common trail; I believe I ran into 2 plus 1 plus 2 people the whole day.
Once I left the forested area, I entered a more dense area of bushes to the left and right of the trail, making me more aware to yell and make noise since the brush would cover the sight of bears. I would guess that the brushes were about 4 to 5 feet high. I was really making a lot of noise that day .........
On a straight area, no corners, I am making noise when "this" happens within one second (time travels slow in these situations): I hear the sound of something moving in the bushes to my left towards me and the first sound I identify as a squirrel moving but then the sound amplifies incredibly into a trashing of the bushes. At that point I know for certain that what is trashing towards me, ending ten feet from me, is a bear that I can’t see since it is concealed by the bushes to my left. Yes, ten feet, not yards, feet !!
I immediately stop and start yelling “hey hey hey!”, an expression that conveys in my brain the puzzlement of how this could be happening. I take a step back and within that second have the bear spray out, with my fingers reading to release the safety. I am very good at having the bear spray ready to take out, from past experience.
A sensation of incredulity fills me, like thinking this has to stop, this is too close and there is no way out at all, how can this bear be so close to me? I am now yelling and taking a couple of steps back, still not seeing the bear, which fills me with dread that no matter how prepared I am, I don’t really know where it exactly is and how it is reacting to me ...... I guess that is the part that scared me, not knowing what the bear was really doing as a result of my noise.
Within ten or twenty seconds, the bear moves to a brush farther away from the trail and me, 20-30 feet? And there it happens, I hear the bear masticating its food. That is how incredibly close this asshole has come to me. Now I am at total panic, but controlled panic; I have taken a few steps back, I am making noise and I am aware of what is going on. I just can’t tell what is going to happen next.
Another jump to another section of brushes farther away from the trail gives me the exact position of the bear, now that I am alert to its exact location. It is now 20 yards away from me and I believe that my noise has annoyed it, not to run away or leave but just to find juicy berries farther away from the noisy racket.
I keep telling people that I don’t want to run into bears and I mean it. This exact thing happened to me in Grand Tetons, but in that occasion the bear (a black bear) trashed the brushes on the trail in front of me and crossed the trail IN FRONT OF ME to eat at the brushes on the other side of the trail. Then, just like this bear, he stopped to eat and completely ignore me. On that occasion, I retreated slowly and kept track of the bear by seeing the brushes being trashed. Just like then, the bear ignored me and kept eating. That part of that trial was a switchback area and after ten minutes of me waiting for the bear to progress up the hill and continue my hike, I saw a large amount of bear scat on the trail. The bear started lower on the hill, went up straight and crossed the switchbacked trail a few times, eating the abundant crop of berries and crawling all over the place. That is why I knew I was dealing with a bear at the Firebrand trail, the trashing in the bushes and then the bonus of hearing it eat its food.
I am writing this blog post after I had ANOTHER encounter with a bear a few weeks later (to be told in another blog post) and I can’t make it more clear: NO MORE BEARS, PLEASE !!!