Respect the Bear

Day three in Glacier National Park on the 4th of July, and we were ready for another hike. We had heard that bear sightings were up, so we tried to be cautious about where we hiked. We wanted to explore Avalanche Lake, but being both a holiday weekend and right after the Going-to-the-Sun Road had opened, the parking lots at the trailhead were packed and the crowds would have been oppressive. We decided to try a less popular but still beautiful hike. On our first attempt – a trail that circled the backside of Lake McDonald – we met a family that told us they had just seen a bear on the trail. OK, next option. We then tried a route that would go over a ridge to Fish Lake. It was fine until we got into a dense forested area with no evidence of recent human activity on the trail. I chickened out – I did not want to surprise a bear on the trail – or be surprised by one.So we cruised back over to the Avalanche Lake trailhead and found a parking spot. The main crush of tourists had left and we were able to hike within sight of a few other hikers, but not so many as to make it a crowd. It was beautiful. The lower portion of the trail is ADA compliant with many wide level foot bridges and paths. As you work your way farther into the trail, appropriately named the Trail of Cedars, there are well designed pathways and steps made of natural materials. You cruise through forested areas with open floors full of ferns and lush undergrowth where the sun dappled though the canopy of leaves. A rushing stream cascades over a boulder-filled bed and birds chirp just out of sight. Along the path to the lake we saw a young buck, undisturbed by our presence as he munched on moss and foliage. The view of the lake – after a two-mile hike ascending about 500 feet – was well worth the effort. We counted six waterfalls off the mountain sides above the lake – there may have been more. The calm waters reflected the mountains surrounding the lake and the glorious blue sky above. Wildlife, including a chipmunk and a Stellers Jay, had little regard for the presence of humans at their lake and went about their business in close proximity to us. And, on our return trip to the trailhead, we spotted a bear. One of the other nearby hikers commented that it was probably a young black bear – luckily he or she was old enough not to be followed around by mama bear. We kept still and allowed it to wander on through the wood at a safe distance past us. A very fitting ending to our time in Glacier National Park.

Young Black Bear
Young Black Bear
Steller's Jay
Steller’s Jay


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