Monday, July 25, 2011

hey bear, stay away bear

Since my 4-month cross country roadtrip west 14 years ago that eventually landed me in Missoula, I've grown accustomed to hiking in bear country.  Grizzly country.  I'm comfortable with it.  My mother is not so comfortable with it....especially when she hears of the occasional run ins with bears on the national news...the ones that make these kinds of headlines.

Holli and I took a bear safety course just prior to heading onto our virgin backcountry trip in Glacier National Park years ago.  Since then I carry bear spray, and holler out a familiar greeting on the blind turns in the trail.  "Hey Bear".  It is one of those common things we share as lovers of wild places out west. 

Last week while up at the camp on Big Sky Lake, Astrid and I set out on a familiar trail near Seeley.  I hadn't been up there since Mom, Jeff and I backpacked in at Morrell Lake 7 years ago...long before (little) Astrid existed.

On our way through the gate at Big Sky Lake that morning this sign was posted:

We got to the trailhead at about 10am.  I decided that I would take the stroller in (check it out, Art!) in case Astrid got tired.  Every time I go out into bear country with Astrid (which, up until now, has been fairly limited to our backpacking trips) I do feel a bit more exposed, no matter how secure I feel with bearspray at arms length, and senses at high alert.  It's worth the trade to feel exposed... to be exposed to this:
The only challenge besides one downed tree in the trail were the many roots we had to bumble over.  Every time we got close to a section with lots of roots I would yell out "Cattle Guard"! so she could prepare for the jostling that would ensue.
Hiking with Astrid is worth the extra effort (almost every time).  I see things I might not have seen, and hear things I might not have been alerted to without her with me.  There were tons of Swainson's Thrush high up in these trees (thanks for the identification, Monica!  You were right on.)...and a wildflower yet to identify.

And there was a perspective that I didn't get before on the ritualistic phrase "Hey, Bear".  For the first twenty minutes of our hike she was looking around for the bear she thought I was talking to.  "But, Mama, I don't see a bear".  I finally agreed that we should say "Hey, Bear. Stay away bear!"  And that's what we did.

I love being dwarfed by these lanky pines and tamaracks.

Take a deep breath.  Can you smell the pines heating up?

Does anyone know the name of this flower?  It looks so familiar....

Nothing better than watching my dog's behind as she darts this way and that sniffing her way up a trail.

The perfect combination of mist and light.

lunch at the falls.

My 3 year old "window" to the world.
Here is a photo of my companions in 2004:
Mom and Jeff - September 2004

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