It was our first day at Glacier National Park. We had arrived at the crack of dawn (well, ok, 8:30, but it felt like dawn), circled the campground like vultures and scored a sweet campsite. Some of the sites are just parking spots on the side of the road, but we managed to find a big pull through site with a nice outdoor space and a bit of view through the treetops up to the sky and tree covered slope beyond. We set up the trailer, cleaned the dust off the solar panels from that awful Tally Lake dirt road, ate lunch and read the park brochure they handed us at the entrance.
Figuring the visitor’s center would be a good place to start exploring, we jump on our bikes and head for the bike path. On the signpost is a bear warning sign. Hmmm, wonder what that’s all about.
Arriving at the visitor’s center, we happen upon a ranger doing a presentation on wildlife encounters. Hey, I wanted to listen to this one. Little did I know I would really be needing it.
The ranger tells us to stay 100 yards away from bears and explained that the yellow sign on the path means a bear has been spotted in the area. In fact about 15 minutes ago a bear was seen on the very same bike path we had just ridden down. He told us the best thing to do is make noise when you are moving through bear areas. You don’t want to surprise them. A bear bell isn’t enough, you need to talk loudly or clap. Bears usually avoid you if they hear you coming.
But what if you do see a bear? Talk softly to it, give it lots of space and watch to see what it does. Usually they will move away. The chances of being attacked are about the same as winning the Powerball (really???). Do not run because that triggers the bear’s chase response and carry bear spray just in case.
So as we ride back to camp (no bear spray in our possession yet) I’m asking Chuck, how are we supposed to see the bear 100 yards away through all these trees and curves in the path? Well, I’ll just make a lot of noise and hope for the best!
A few days later we decide to take the bike path into West Glacier, just outside the entrance to the park. We overheard the clerk at the rental place tell some folks it was a good ride and you could stop for pie at the restaurant there and I’m always up for pie :). It’s about 2.5 miles of paved path in each direction so we figured it wouldn’t be too bad for our down day recovering from a recent hike. Turns out that when it’s hot out and you have a bit of adventure along the way it can really take it out of you.
We ride the path which heads through the pines, greenery sprouting up below and sun peeking through from above. The shade feels good and even though there are a few ups and downs we’re creating our own breeze on this hot afternoon and it’s not too bad of a ride. We arrive at the entrance sign and snap our official picture. Then in West Glacier we check out the Alberta Visitor’s Center, mail off some postcards, look through a couple of little shops and decide we’re ready to head back (being good we decide against pie).
First off, there’s a steep hill climbing up from the river’s edge to the main path. Surely that should have earned me some pie! Then as we’re riding through the woods Chuck says he saw something next to the path up ahead and to keep an eye out. So my heart is pounding more as I’m looking but we see nothing and he says it must have just been a shadow. Then all of a sudden he stops and I nearly ram into him as I squeeze the brakes hard and my rear wheel flies up and my whole bike nearly tips over into a little ditch as he points to the bear about 15’ off the path from us. Back up he’s saying, and I’m trying to get my bike upright so it will go backwards without making too much commotion as the black bear is staring right at us. Hmmm, that ranger said always stay 100 yards away from bears. Now what?
Well not really remembering what the ranger said to do we are frozen and staring right at the bear totally forgetting we’re supposed to talk quietly to him and not stare directly. Another couple on bikes stops behind us. “Whatcha looking at?” she says loudly. Shhh! “A bear,” I whisper. We stay still and he moves just a few more feet into the trees. Chuck decides it’s time to take off. I see him leaving and decide he’s got the bear spray and I’d better follow!
It all happened so fast I really didn’t have time to be scared, but later as we’re talking about it is when I feel my heart start racing. Whew, that was a close one. Forget pie, I deserve a drink!
Into a tall glass squeeze several lime slices (about 1/4 lime) and drop them in the bottom. Add 10 or so mint leaves. You can add a teaspoon of raw sugar if you want. Use the end of a wooden spoon to smash and muddle it all together. Add ice cubes or frozen watermelon chunks. Fill half way with club soda and the rest of the way with filtered water. Stir and enjoy! If you have recently come face to face with a bear and need something a bit stronger, add a shot of white rum. 🙂