Grinning down a bear

When I was going to graduate school, I lived in Montana in the town of Missoula. It was a great town on the west slope of the northern Rockies. I had easy access to many wonderful places to climb and hike and just be outdoors, but one of the best of all was Glacier National Park up north next to Canada. On one occasion while visiting the park, I had the chance to grin down a grizzly bear! On this visit, my best friend from high school and college, Bob Maier, was visiting. We had been up in the high country hiking and camping, and had been somewhat nervous from time to time about the aspect of meeting the park's famous inhabitants. Bears are very rare in the Cascades we were used to. We had had a great time with no encounters and were now driving the highway up the pass to the Continental Divide.

It is not unusual to cars parked by the side of the road in the park, and it usually means that somebody had spotted an animal. We saw two cars stopped like that and pulled in behind them. The people there told us that there was a female moose in the woods off to the side. Curious, we set out into the brush and woods to see. The day was wet and overcast, with that dense saturated color so common in the northwest. As we ventured in, we saw no sign of the moose and were getting disappointed. Eventually, we came to a small marshy area where we thought we could see the moose farther on in the woods. Bob got up on a wet slippery log and crossed a wet area to get a better view. Just as he made it to the farther side, I saw the "moose" raise its head to look at us. It had the distinct shape of a bear! We were in an interesting predicament, we knew better than to run, the bear was looking right at us. Bob, in any case was trapped and had to get back. All I could think of saying at the moment was "Bob, I don't think its a moose!". He renavagated the slick log and we slowly backed out of the area. Our adrenaline was racing as we finally lost sight of that grizzled gray neck.

Back on the road we were treated to the sight of a mother moose and one youngster waking across the highway! The people were happy for the sight and had no idea of what lay, 50 feet into the woods. Bob and I too enjoyed watching the moose as they disappeared into the brush on the opposite side of the road. We understood their motivation for the move. We had never got close enough to the bear to be a threat to it, therefor it probably never was a threat to us. Still, I cherish that memory of encountering such an animal in the wild.

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