Friday, August 5, 2022

Day 128: Bears, Wolves and Birds of Prey!

August 26: I woke up and walked over to the grocery store to pick up a few items. Amanda was scheduled to leave today so I needed to go out with a full pack and a full load of food.

Before leaving town, however, we made a quick stop at the post office so I could mail ahead my laptop. I expected my next big trail town and zero day was ahead in Butte, so that's where my laptop was shipped off to.

We also stopped at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, where bad bears are sent instead of being euthanized. There were other animals as well like wolves, penguins and such, but really, bears are the main attraction. Grizzly is the first word in the name of the place, after all.

A grizzly bear, prowling for food under some rocks! (It was challenging for them.)

When a bear becomes a problem bear and a threat to human safety or property, they're usually put down. A lucky few, however, are sent to this facility where they're well-taken care of and contained so they are no longer a danger to life or property. It was well worth a visit.

Afterwards, we stopped at a BBQ restaurant for lunch, and finally it was time for me to hit the trail again. Amanda drove me north a half hour out of town.

Before dropping me off, she swung through the trailhead where she had spent hours waiting for me the day before just to show where she had been. Although it was perhaps a mere five minute walk from where I spent over an hour waiting for her, I had her drive me to my waiting place so I didn't have to walk the extra five minutes. =)

Then Amanda was off, back to an airport and back home. I hefted on my now-heavy pack and started down a gravel road which would connect with some real trails after several miles.

The gravel road wasn't so bad to walk on. It wasn't particularly busy, although an occasional vehicle did pass by. It was flat and easy and I clicked off the miles quickly. I shooed one small snake off the road that was basking in the sunlight--it was bound to be run over by a vehicle eventually, and I felt a little protective of the little guy.

One vehicle that drove by was a forest ranger who warned me that bears were particularly thick in this area so I should definitely take precautions with them. Good to know!

Where the trail finally left the road, I had to ford a small creek. Usually I just stomp through without taking my shoes off, but my feet still felt clean and dry--and I didn't feel like getting them wet, so I stopped to actually take them off then crossed in my Crocs before putting my shoes back on.

You can't see it here, but there's a second channel of water just out of view that I'd also have to ford.

But I hadn't gone more than a hundred steps when I reached another creek crossing! Argh!!! The creek split just out of view and I had only crossed one branch of it. If I realized that, I would have just worn the Crocs and put my shoes back on after the second ford. As it was, I felt like I invested too much time taking off my shoes and putting them back on just to have my efforts thwarted 100 steps later, so I stopped and took them off once again, grumbling the entire time. I should have just stuck with my usual policy of tromping through streams with my shoes on.

Hello, my precious feet and blindingly white legs! =)

Another couple of hours into my hike, I came to a junction of six trails radiating out in seemingly every direction and stopped to examine the map on my phone. I called it Spaghetti Junction, but that is in no way official, and the maps I had suggested three possible route options that would get me where I wanted to go. Decisions, decisions....

I sat down to eat a snack and ponder my options. While there, two guys on motorbikes arrived, guns clearly holstered but readily accessible, and said that they were surprised to see me out there in the middle of nowhere. What was I doing out here? So I told them, and they were even more surprised. 

"You know that bears are really bad out here, right?" one of them said, giving a pat on his gun.

"Yeah, a forest service ranger mentioned that."

"You have a weapon?"

"I got bear spray," I told him, patting my bear spray.

"Wow... you are brave, man. I wouldn't go out here with anything less than a high-powered gun."

So I see.... "Well, I'm hoping that I don't really need a gun or the bear spray."

"Wow... you are so brave."

I wished he would stop telling me that. It almost sounded like he was thinking, "You are so stupid," but changed to be a bit more polite.

They eventually headed off in their own direction, and after finishing my snack, I followed the route that, I hoped, would take me to Bucks Creek. But after following the route for a few minutes, I noticed that I seemed to be deviating off the trail marked on the map of my phone, so I wasn't entirely sure I was headed in the direction that I thought I was. Was the map a bit off, or was I? It's hard to be certain. Maps aren't always as precise as we like to think they are.

In any case, I continued onward, but closely followed my progress with my GPS, and eventually I found myself reconnecting with the trail on my map. I had taken the correct route, but the trail on the map wasn't entirely accurate.

Late in the afternoon, it sprinkled for a bit, but never so hard that I needed an umbrella.

And finally, a little after 7:00pm, I found a place to set up camp. I camped well off the trail--just in case any bears found themselves wandering down it during the night. Wildlife often uses trails--especially at night when people are unlikely to be on them--and if the bears really were as bad as everyone was telling me, I wanted to be well away from them.

I also made the effort to putting the food in my Ursack well away from my campsite. Better safe than sorry!

I left the bear spray near my head where I laid down--easy to grab if I needed it at a moment's notice--but that was standard operating procedure for me whenever I carried bear spray.

And thus ended another day on the trail.... I had high hopes that bears wouldn't bother me during the night. *fingers crossed*

The skies were still pretty hazy and smoky from wildfires somewhere out there....

1 comment:

Blogger said...

Yes, the Discovery Center in West Yellowstone is super worth the stop. We went in 2015 and it was so nice. Up close enough to see the bears and wolves but far enough to not be mauled!