We left Waterton Lakes National Park (Alberta) on the morning of September 19th, crossed the border and headed to the east side of Glacier National Park. As we neared the entrance to the park, from the drivers seat in The Beast, I spotted a little black bear walking in our direction on the side of the highway. With no one behind me I slowed to take a couple quick pics on the fly. I could see immediately that there was something wrong with this little guy. He was literally staggering. He was wobbling, and he was on the highway! No mother bear in sight.
I pulled the rig off to the side of the road and got out to take a closer look. John was not too happy about this, out of concern for me. As I hopped out the door I asked him to grab my coat and the bear spray (just in case momma bear came barreling out of the woods).
As I approached, and stepped between him and oncoming traffic, I watched him wobble to the left and then the right of the center line, and then land on his rump. He looked up at me, and I could see his eyes were glazed. I’m running all the possible scenarios through my mind… first of all, where is his mom? Had she been killed, and was he all alone and starving? He didn’t seem thin. Had a car already glanced him… was he hurt? He seemed in perfectly good condition. He almost seemed drunk to me. I wondered if he was ill and therefore abandoned.
I had a very strong urge to gather him up and take him to a rescue group, but I knew nothing about the area. All I knew for sure was that I could not leave him on the road. He would surely die there.
So… I dialed 911 and explained that his presence on the highway could potentially cause an accident. We already had quite a traffic jam going on this otherwise quiet highway. I tried to keep him herded to the side, but everyone was curious, and by this time others were getting out of their cars and crowding in for pictures.
The whole time I’m scanning the area, in hopes (with a twinge of fear) of seeing momma bear. 911 put me through to someone who was trying to get the game warden to the scene. So I waited… and wrangled… and wondered what was wrong with this little bear. I watched him fall on his butt numerous times.
I have no idea how long this went on, but eventually we were surrounded by tourists, and traffic was barely moving in either direction. At some point an irate woman pulled up yelling for people to get their cars out of her driveway. I didn’t blame her frankly, and was glad that my rig and tow car were well ahead of it. As she pulled off the road (the bear off to the side at this point) I went over to talk to her. She insisted the mother bear was fine, and lived in the woods behind her house. “If mother was fine, why was she not there?”, I wondered. I told her I’d made a call and was expecting a game warden, and that I couldn’t just leave him up on the highway. I did get her address so that I could call back and give the dispatch my exact location, not that we’d be hard to find with the traffic piled up.
She drove on home, and I continued wrangling. Eventually the little bear staggered down the hill along her driveway… followed by all the tourists. I had to ask them to retreat, as they were now on private property, and realized I really couldn’t go any farther myself. The woman had already gone inside, so I couldn’t explain that I’d promised to stay with the bear until the warden came. I watched the little bear stagger into the woods near the river behind her home, and then… reluctantly turned and walked back up the hill. It didn’t seem that there was anything more I could do for the little guy. He was off the road, but I had no idea if he was safe.
I agonized for days over this bear. What was his fate? Had mom found him? Did the game warden ever show up? (At this point I’m hoping not, after a friend shared this article on Facebook… Fish and Game Kills Black Bear Cub.) I couldn’t get past that he seemed more drunk than sick or hurt. I couldn’t get past that he was alone. Thoughts of him lingered for weeks. This was not my first “animal in need” encounter, in which my hands were tied. Last was a staggering and alone baby deer… in a national park. Park ranger chose to do nothing, and it would be illegal for me to interfere. I set out the next morning in the direction the little one had gone, and found it’s dead body under a bush.
A few weeks later I had a conversation with a woman at a bear sanctuary, who suggested that the bear cub may have gotten into some fermented fallen apples or something. I knew that was a very good possibility, but it didn’t explain the mother bear’s absence. I can only hope that this little guy… who came to me, leaned on me, sniffed at me… and if I’d sat on the ground… would likely have crawled in my lap… I can only hope he survived. I can almost pacify myself knowing that his chances of survival were much greater because I was there to protect him from the traffic.
We continued on and thankfully found a site at Saint Mary campground (first come-first serve at this point). Once settled in we headed back up the same highway we’d come down to enter the park at Many Glacier. (And of course I looked for MY bear cub!)
One thing to note… we found out only days before arriving at Glacier NP that Going to the Sun Road (the only through road in the entire park) would be closed for road maintenance at the summit while were were there. This would effect our plans and timing, as we could not go beyond Logan Pass (top of Going to the Sun) to the west side of the park. This meant we would have to camp on both sides of the park in order to truly DO Glacier. Since John had never been there, and it really is that spectacular, we had to visit both sides.
Not unexpectedly, the Many Glacier Lodge was closed for the season. I was disappointed because we’d been told that an extensive restoration project had taken it back to it’s original style on the interior since the last time I was there. It was impressive then, so I would love to have seen what they had done to the place.
Instead, we set out to hike to Grinnell Lake, a 3.6 mile (up and back) trail that follows along Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes before arriving at Grinnell Lake with sits at the bottom of Grinnell Glacier. Of course we’re always on the look-out for wildlife… 😁
Always on the lookout for hearts as well… 😜
After getting our fill of the scenery at Grinnell Lake we turned back, and as we were hiking through the woods near Lake Josephine a movement caught my eye. “Wait! Was that a moose?”, I said out loud. Sure enough… a big beautiful bull crossing the river! How splendid!!!
It’s hard not to be completely entranced by these mountains, as you’re literally surrounded by them. Looking up at the vastness of the landscape is quite humbling actually. I’m just a speck on this earth, but I’m an appreciative speck!
After arriving back at Saint Mary Lake, we continued on up Going to the Sun Road, to see what kind of magic sunset might bring to these mountains. As usual there were oodles of cameras and tripods planted at the one of the few (and highly photographed) observations along the lake… overlooking Wild Goose Island.
The following morning we set out early for Logan Pass…at the top of Going to the Sun road. Since there were fewer cars, we stopped yet again at the observation point over Wild Goose Island. Personally, I liked sunrise in these mountains better than sunset. Fewer people and better light.
Unfortunately the pass was pretty well socked in, but the clouds and light can change quickly and dramatically in the mountains, so we set out to hike the Hidden Lake Trail. As seems to be the norm for us, where I saw several Big Horn Sheep AND Mountain Goats last time I hiked this trail, we saw neither during this visit… at all… anywhere! And Hidden Lake… remained hidden, beneath the clouds.
And another stop along Saint Mary Lake, and Wild Goose Island…
That afternoon we headed south to the Two Medicine entrance, a part of Glacier National Park I had not visited before. First stop was Running Eagle Falls. This waterfall was renamed in honor of the only woman of the Blackfeet Nation who experienced a four-day vision quest (in the mountains high above these falls). She went on to lead many successful war parties, and was known as a great warrior in the early 1700s. Her name was Pitamakan (meaning running eagle), and is said to be the only woman to earn a man’s name… Running Eagle. Here’s a more in-depth story of… Running Eagle. Worth the read.
The cool thing about these falls, also known as Trick Falls, is that in the spring… the water is running so hard the falls come over the top (higher than you can see in this picture), hiding the lower falls seen here. And for the less experienced hikers out there… this one is just a short “nature trail”… round trip about .6 miles on flat terrain.
We also took in the Aster Falls Trail (about 2.6 miles, 196′ elevation gain), and were rewarded with another pretty waterfall at the end.
As luck would have it, we spotted this hungry Black Bear gorging along the roadside on our way out of Two Medicine.
Cute huh? More of Glacier National Park to come. An incredible waterfall hike on the east side, and then we relocate to the west side and start the discoveries all over again.
Note- I’m mid-migration in an attempt to regain control of my blog site, so there may be some technical glitches along the way. Once done I’ve got a lot of work to do… replacing missing images, getting those email notification running again, and more %@#& I don’t want to dwell on here. Hopefully we’ll be back on track soon!