Image © Roger Hayden - all rights reserved
One Day I Met A Bear...
My Introduction to Grizzly Bears: Absaroka Mountains, 1974
By Louisa Willcox
If I had been moving any faster I would have plowed into the grizzly bear. By the time I stopped, I could have touched the bear’s soaked forehead. Braking with the downhill momentum of my eighty pound pack, I fell backward and down on my butt. The student on my tail bumped into the mountain of my pack. The bear chose the logical response: he wheeled, crashed through a creek, and vanished in the darkening woods.
Keystone Cops encountering a grizzly bear. We were supposed to be the experts in the mountains, certified “mountaineers”. Yet who was the expert here?
These kinds of bear encounters happen more than they should. Person does stupid thing, or bear does not hear or smell person due to crosswind or sound of stream, and both get closer than either is comfortable. Bear responds wisely and graciously almost all the time. Splits.
In the many years I worked at the National Outdoor Leadership School as a mountaineering instructor in the Rockies, Yellowstone, Alaska and other areas, it was a point of pride to be able to carry 80 pounds on your back. (In your macho 20’s, you don’t think of the surgeries you will need later). This was before the recent revolution of ultra-light gear. The downside of such heavy packs is that you become more zombie like, less observant, so more apt to disturb the wild animals you were there to see.
NOLS was famous for the long trails of head-down, weighted, military files through the mountains. It was amazing that we saw anything.
Now, grizzled and slowed by years, we search the woods for a glimpse of a rare bear disappearing from sight.