Today we hiked 9.7 miles from chief mountain to Elizabeth lake foot. Fairly uneventful until we got to camp. We had a Grizzly Bear in camp just down the trail from our tent site. The bear was digging right next to the trail blocking the way for some other weekend backpackers trying to get back to there tent site. The three of us and 5 others that were in camp went to look at the bear when it decided to begin walking towards us. We all began backing up slowly while shouting at the bear. I took my bear spray out of the holster and took the safety off for only the second time in my life. We all continued backing away as the bear approached slowly and reached the cooking area of the camp ground. We all yelled at the bear but he still curiously approached us and the cooking area. It wasn’t until I began banging on the steel bear boxes that the bear ran away and left our camp. I thought this excitement would lead to a very sleepless night, but it didn’t. I slept like a baby, a baby with bear spray next to him in the tent, but a baby all the same. The view from Elizabeth Lake was amazing. I have camped in this site 3 times before but I will never get sick of it. From the site I could see 5 mountain goats moving around on a nearly sheer rock wall that borders Elizabeth Lake on its west side. I could camp here every night and be happy. Especially if our curious Grizzly Bear wasn’t visiting me.
Started off as a fairly uneventful day no bear sightings in camp. The climb up red gap pass began gradually and slowly became more challenging, mostly because of the storm that began to pound us as we got above tree line. By the time we got to the top of the pass we were being rocked with 60 mph wind gusts and sideways snow. My hands were so cold since stupidly I have not brought gloves that I lost all dexterity in my hands. On the way up the pass I saw one bighorn sheep that was tucked into some small bushes. The rest of the day can be summed up with two words “Hey Bear”. We saw tons of bear signs and went through many perfect areas for them but never came across another bear. Perhaps because of my never ending serenade of “Hey Bear”. In all we did 18.8 miles to the Swift Current Motor Lodge where we had a small feast and got the last room available rather then sleep in the campground during the ongoing sleet, snow, and rain. Ahhh a warm shower and a cold beer.
We awoke and began packing up our bags in Many Glacier for the days hike to St Mary’s. The weather was dramatically better then the rain, sleet, and snow of yesterday. We were grateful for that considering we would be going over another pass today ( Piegan Pass). The day began with a flat walk around Swift Current Lake and a slow climb to the valley just below Piegan Pass. We were making a lot of noise while hiking today as it became evident very quickly that a few Bears had been using the trail recently, including some grizzly cubs. We never saw any of the fury menaces but none the less our guard was up. The climb up Piegan Pass was beautiful, lighter winds then the past couple days, blue skies, and plenty of amazing scenery. Snakebite and I spotted wolverine tracks in a snowfield on the way up and a very friendly marmot near the top. Crunchmaster was already at the top when we arrived and had a mountain goat and kit pay him a close visit while he waited for us. On the climb down the south side of the pass we had a few sketchy patches of snow to cross and I was very thankful to have my ice axe with me for them incase I did slip and needed to self arrest. While waiting my turn to cross one of the snowfields I spotted a mother Grizzly with two spring cubs below us. They were quite a ways away thankfully and were fun to watch for a moment or two. Once below the snowfields we hiked thru a bit of firm snow and followed the trail to the Going to the Sun road. I was able to secure us a ride to St Mary’s campground before Crunchmaster and Snakebite even got to the road, amazing luck. We were going to stay the night at the campground and in the morning change our permits to allow us to have alittle bit shorter days going through the rest of the park rather then the 26 mile day we had planned for day 4. Our plans would take a dramatic turn.
News spread like wildfire through the thru hiking community and through the hikers that were in Glacier National Park. The trail was closed. A mountain lion had killed an elk in the middle of the trail in an area of the park where there were no detours and no way around it. To make things even worse another part of the trail was closed due to a Grizzly Bear that had become a nuisance to hikers. It was now time to make some tough decisions. Wait up to a week in St Mary’s to see if the trail would reopen where the kill had happened, walk a highway for almost 40 miles, or hitch to East Glacier and wait for the post office to open on Monday to get our supplies and head into the Bob Marshall Wilderness. After a lot of grumpiness and indecision we decided to get a room for a couple nights in East Glacier and head into the Bob with the hopes of hitching back up to Glacier and finishing the other part of the trail after completing the Bob and getting to the town of Lincoln. The last thing I want to do is miss one of the most beautiful parts of this trail. Fingers crossed this works out for us. Now it’s time to lighten our packs alittle by getting rid of ice axes, micro spikes and some other unnecessary gear and head into the grizzly laden Bob Marshall Wilderness.