On Sunday, Chuck and I went off on an adventure — we headed over to the backside of Livingston Peak to look for mushrooms and elk horns. We’d just crossed a ridge that bordered private land, and were talking about how goofy the Icelandic horses in the field looked with their long long manes when Chuck stopped suddenly.
About 100 feet below us, under a big fir tree, was a bear. A pretty big bear. Not a stupendously big bear, but big enough. He didn’t seem to see us, and the Icelandic horses didn’t seem too upset, so we figured he was a regular in the neighborhood. Chuck pulled out his binoculars, and because I’m a scaredy-cat, I watched the bear through the little space over his shoulder and under the binocs.
The bear was digging for something under the tree. We quietly got down closer to the ground, as slowly and silently as possible I unclipped my pack and unzipped the outer compartment where the bear spray was (astonishing how loud things can sound when you’re trying to be silent). The bear was still down there, digging around under the tree, eating small plants. Chuck kept passing me the binoculars, but I was too scared that I’d see them fill up with charging bear, so I kept handing them back.
But the bear didn’t charge. We watched him for five or ten minutes before he ambled down the drainage. From what we could tell, he was maybe three to five years old, with a beautiful grizzled coat. He didn’t have a big hump (which is why we think he was young) but he did have big claws, and Chuck said he saw through the binoculars that he had “big shiny white incisors”. He was a gorgeous, healthy bear, doing bear things, and we felt so grateful (even if I was really scared) to have had the chance to watch him for a little bit.
After the bear left, we continued hiking. We bushwhacked up through a lovely fir forest. It was much more open inside than it looked like from the outside — glade after glade, many of which were speckled with yellow Glacier Lillies. We found a very cool exposed ridge at the top, which, when we came around on the downhill side turned out to be a really spectacular cliff. On the way down we followed a creek, which met another creek, and then another one. It thunderstormed in the afternoon, and the creeks came up visibly. We saw a lot of elk and moose sign, as well as some large bear scats, but we didn’t see any other animals.
It was such a fun adventure. Bushwhacking around, looking at things, the bear, and then the kind of soaking rain we so rarely get around here. We made it back to the car, drenched, and about five minutes from being really cold, then drove home through nearly-flooded roads with the heat on high, and the car steaming up, drinking a beer and talking about what a fun day we’d had, and how lucky we are to live here.