Saturday, July 5, 2014

Grizzly #2 and Other Adventures, June 30, 2014

When we wake up, it's gorgeous and it's easier than we expect to follow out the creek - we only have to cross it three times.  Once we're out more in the open, we climb up a brushy bank and we're out onto a meadow of tundra.  It's mostly easy hiking except for a few boggy areas.  Here we have a good view of the road we're approaching, and we see a bus stop - they must be looking at an animal.  As we come over a slight rise, I see what it is: a grizzly bear.  At first glance I think it's a caribou (since that's all we've been seeing) but upon second glance, it's clear that it's a bear.  We've been hiking towards it (I wonder what the people on the bus thought).  But we quickly head away from it and up a slope that gives us better visibility.  At first the bear seems to follow us, but I think that's just because it was going in that direction anyway.  It doesn't appear to notice us at all, and soon it is far enough away that we put away the bear spray and take a look at it through the binoculars.  It appears to be digging - typical grizzly behavior.  A much less stressful encounter than our first.

We hop up on the road and cross to the north side of the park.  Suddenly the habitat is completely different.  In order to follow our creek, we must hike through marsh, periodically cross or jump over side streams (they're everywhere), and walk through thick brush.  My voice soon becomes hoarse from singing and talking loudly to alert any bears of our presence.

Our plan was to hike up this stream and to a plateau where we could have a view of the big mountains of the park, but as we hike, thick, gray, foggy rain clouds move in low over the valley and completely block any visibility of mountains.  We decide that in these conditions it's not worth going to the plateau.  Instead we find the side stream we're planning to hike out on and set up camp early.  We eat dinner in the freezing rain.  I'm frustrated and feeling that it wasn't worth hiking out this way because we haven't seen much and it's been exhausting bushwhacking.  But, it is another side of the park we haven't seen, we got to see harlequin ducks and several ptarmigan up close (and hear their funny call), and the green, lush mountains have their own sort of beauty, even if they suck to hike through.

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